Laurence Vincent's book, "Brand Real," is all about brands and brand loyalty. At first, I was wondering how much of it would apply to me - after all, I'm more of a technical guy, and I'm not in charge of a big brand. I found that there were actually a lot of relevant take-aways from this book that I could apply in my daily life.
"Brand Real" not only helped me understand what it takes to build a good brand, it also helped me think differently about some of the brands I have a fondness for (and some that I don't), in that it has a deep discussion about why leading brands create loyalty within its customer base. In essence, this book spends a lot of time on analyzing brands that have become "sticky" based on what they do and not just whether they have a cool name or an exciting logo.
At its core, this book's discussion of "brand" reminds me of the maxim, "You become know for that which you consistently do."
Lots of case studies
I love learning by examples and through story-telling, so I was pleased to see that this book has a lot of real-world examples to illustrate some of its concepts. These stories range from the personal, such as a discussion between the author and his son illustrating how superficially we think of the notion of a "brand;" and corporate-oriented stories, such as how The Gap triggered a huge backlash amongst its customers when it tried to change its logo.
Other examples feature Apple, Starbucks, and other household names, as well as case studies about lesser-known (but perhaps even more informative) organizations like Washington Federal.
Thinking of brands as living things
One thing that stuck with me in this book was discussed in a chapter called, "Expressing the Promise." The author describes how researchers Robert McRae and Paul T. Costa, Jr. found that all people could be measured based on the degree to which they possessed 5 key characteristics:
Likewise, Vincent posits that brands can be measured along 5 similar axes - think of them as the "personality of the brand":
These attributes play a key role in measuring, defining, and even redefining your brand. In "Brand Real," Vincent discusses how to use these to develop your messaging strategy, as well as how to "test" your messages to determine whether they are congruent with how your brand behaves. Then, you can use these anchors to map what you say, what your brand does, and who you're talking to (your audience or customers) to make sure things all hang together in a credible way.
The third rail of brand
In much the same way that the third rail on a subway system provides the power that enables the train to move, Vincent talks about what it takes to connect your brand to the heart - the emotional side - of you customers, which is really the key in making a brand that customers feel passionate about (and loyal to). These are the brands that go beyond functional products and capabilities, and move into something that makes embeds itself in the lives of its customers to create strong, emotional loyalty. I think of brands like Apple, Nike, and Coca Cola when I think of this kind of brand.
I'm just touching the surface of the depth of this book, as it relates to brand. I think all of the concepts apply to anyone involved in branding and company reputation, but I was surprised at how many of the concepts can apply to our personal brands. I can see how many of these concepts could be used to improve your perceived value at work, home, organizations in which you're involved, etc.
So, if you have any interest in branding and reputation management, check out "Brand Real" -- it is well worth your time.