I recently wrote an article for the Logoworks Newsletter that is posted at the Logoworks Biz Blog. It’s my list of seven books that every small business owner should read—plus three more books I think you’ll enjoy. In case you’re interested in my recommendations, click here to read the article (and add your favorite book in the comments).
Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
But in the case of The Brandgym (by David Taylor and David Nichol), the book isn’t just a tool to be included, it is all of the tools in the box. Reading The Brandgym is a little like taking an in-depth seminar in brand management. With it as a guide, you probably don’t need to go anywhere else for ideas, principles, or to-do-lists to help you manage a brand. (You might choose to, but you won’t need to.)
The Brandgym covers eight “workouts” that will help you strengthen your brand’s foundation and focus your branding efforts on initiatives that will generate income. It’s also loaded with ideas and techniques for creating promotions that support the brand’s position and move customers to action.
Workout #4: Build Big Brand Ideas alone is worth getting the book. I found myself underlining and marking pages to come back to again later.
But what I love most about the approach taken in this book is the focus on a brand’s substance (remarkable products, growth, and the core business), not the so-called “exciting” part of branding (new design/advertising/launch). It’s a resource for serious brand managers. In fact, it’s good enough to replace many of the marketing books currently used in business schools.
If you’re looking for ways to grow a stagnant brand, or new ideas for stretching a brand into new product categories, or ways to co-ordinate your marketing activities to maximize your spending, this book is a good place to turn. If you are in the process of launching a new brand, it is an essential resource to help you succeed.
I highly recommend The Brandgym.
Full-disclosure: I was given a copy of the book by David Taylor shortly after it was published. But that doesn’t change my recommendation, it’s well worth the read.
Other Brandgym Links:
When I first started hearing about Sally Hogshead’s book, Fascinate, I was convinced she had it all wrong. Why would anyone want to fascinate potential customers when they could be engaging and selling to them? Fascinate seemed like the wrong word.
But I’m the one that was wrong.
Sally’s definition of fascinate comes from the Latin word fascinare which means “to bewitch.” When she says fascinate, she doesn’t just mean entertain, she means engage and influence the behavior of others. To quote from the book, “interest is not enough. Neither is awareness, intent to purchase, or having share-of-mind, or any of the other jargon thrown into Power Point slides…” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
This book walks the reader through seven fascination triggers (lust, mystique, alarm, prestige, power, vice, and trust) and explains how each can add interest and intrigue to your product or service—with the intention of selling more of it.
Best of all, Sally doesn’t just write about the triggers, she walks the reader through the process of identifying the right triggers, developing “badges” to make the triggers work, then gives a few tips on executing on the whole process. There’s a lot to like here (although I get the sense that working through the process with Sally in person would be a lot more effective than doing it on your own with only the book as a guide).
Interestingly, the section on developing badges reads a lot like this post about the places you can look to find a brand story. When it comes right down to it, Sally’s book has a lot to say about creating compelling stories for your brand.
It’s a book that belongs in every marketer’s tool box.
A Few Fascination Links:
• Order the book here.
• Find out what your personal fascination triggers are here.
• And check out a great Slideshare presentation here.
• I’ve written about Sally before, here, for example.
• Download a free copy of Sally’s first book, here.
A little over a year ago, Todd Sattersten sent me a copy of his (then) new book, The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You, coauthored by Jack Covert. In exchange for the book, I was supposed to provide feedback. For a variety of reasons I took a hiatus from blogging about the same time and never got around to posting my thoughts. So this is long overdue. My apologies to Todd and Jack.
As anyone who has browsed the Business section of the bookstore knows, there are far more books than anyone can possibly read. If you took all the business books published in 2007 and stacked them on top of each other, they’d easily reach the top of a nine-story building. And that’s just one year’s worth of books. What about the years since then, and the years before? How can anyone sift through that enormous pile and find the books that solve their problem or strengthen their particular weakness? That’s the challenge that Todd and Jack’s book sets out to meet.
And for the most part, The 100 Best Books fulfills its promise. Organized into 12 chapters covering subjects like leadership, strategy, management, innovation, and big ideas, each review identifies the major concepts presented in a “best” book, plus a short section recommending still more books for readers who want to go beyond the basics (this is my favorite feature of the book).
I found myself nodding in agreement with many of the recommendations, books like The Innovator’s Dilemma, Execution, Influence, Positioning, The Art of The Start, Made to Stick, and my personal favorite “business” book of all time, Orbiting the Giant Hairball. I also found myself making a list of books that I have not read yet, but need to.
The book’s only weakness is also its genius. Unlike the best business books, it doesn’t focus on and flesh out any great ideas. Instead it usefully points you to the books that do explore the ideas you want to know more about. If you want to learn more about entrepreneurship or marketing, this isn’t the book to read. But it is the book you would check to find the books to read.
On the whole, The 100 Best Books of All Time is a pretty comprehensive reading list for anyone who wants to learn more about 12 business subjects (it’s almost a do-it-yourself MBA). And while there are certainly hundreds of worthy books not included in this volume, it’s still a pretty good place to start. It can be read cover to cover, or used as a topical reference for those who want to learn more about a particular subject. It’s worth having close by as a reference for those times you need the right book to read.
Worth a recommendation. Buy it here.
This entry was originally posted on December 28, 2007 at the old Brandstory blog.
One of my favorite web logs is David Taylor’s BrandGymBlog. David’s no-nonsense approach to marketing is one that really appeals to me, so I’m a regular visitor to his site. A couple of months ago I got a copy of David’s latest book, Where’s the Sausage: Branding based on Substance not Spin. It’s a serious marketing book wrapped in a short parable.
Though I really like David’s thinking, I’m generally not a fan of business parables. Too often they use silly characters, absurd situations, and overly simple solutions that don’t always transfer well to real business situations–like this book. Books like this include a lot of “what”, but not a lot of “how”. And when I heard that WTS? was a parable, that’s what I expected to get. But then, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.
To be sure, the story isn’t high literature. But this book contains a generous helping of useful marketing ideas, ways to get insights from your customers, and smart thinking (the how in addition to the what). And the characters ring true more often than not.
It’s the story of Bob Jones, salesman at Simpton’s Sausages who is asked to spend a year as a brand consultant before being promoted to Sales Director. He’s unenthusiastic about the opportunity and immediately sees through the typical marketing BS that comes from his boss and agency contacts. Rejecting their approach to branding (and rebranding), he finds his own way as he manages the neglected sausage brand. He records his feelings several times a month (in a blog or journal) and includes much of what he is learning from his experience. The story is okay, but the real power of the book is in the chapter summaries and ideas Bob uses to rethink his product—all of which (I assume) come from the BrandGym play book.
Among the observations Bob makes:
• A brand should drive the whole business, not just the image wrapper of communication
and brand identity.
• A new logo can’t cover up the shortcomings of a poor product.
• Many brand extensions are brand ego trips offering nothing new.
• True insight doesn’t come from focus groups, it comes from immersing yourself in your
• Having little or no funds for conventional marketing can be a great stimulus for creativity.
• Communication that has only emotional sizzle and not product sausage is ‘sponsored
Add to that the simple exercises and processes that Bob takes his brand through (and that the reader can do with their own brand) and you have a decent little marketing book. Thanks David.
If you’re looking for a quick read peppered with smart thinking, you’ll like Where’s the Sausage.
More Where’s the Sausage? Links:
Other reviews of the book can be found here and here.
David’s description of the book is here.
Buy it at Amazon.
Read the BrandGym blog.
Video of Hugo Gaines (the book’s star marketing,um, expert).
Video of David talking about the book.
This entry was originally posted on June 12, 2006 at the old Brandstory blog (link available for a limited time).
“A little over a year ago, we floated a theoretical chaos scenario. It goes like this. Mainstream media, especially network TV, lose so much audience, they can no longer attract the advertising revenue they need to sustain their content, leading to still more audience defection, then more advertiser defection, and so on into the toilet, all before the on-line brave new world is ready to take over. In this past year, plenty has happened to add to the chaos. TiVo and DVR usage is rising, with Forrester Research estimating that by 2008, one in four households will be DVR’ing their favorite shows and skipping past commercials. ITunes has started selling hit TV shows for $1.99, and now all the networks are offering free streaming content on their websites. More options for us, and more jeopardy for the old model.”
Sounds like the premise for Joseph Jaffe’s recent book, Life After the 30-Second Spot, which lays out the same nightmare and about ten different alternatives to traditional, interuptive advertising.
Joe’s not the first person to argue that the 30 second spot is on life support and that consumers are about to pull the plug. Even he admits that the death of the 30 is, by now, a cliche. But it is coming. And marketers who are willing to take a few risks and try new ways to reach their audience may actually look back and agree with Joe that “there couldn’t possibly be a better time to be working in this business.”
Jaffe’s book outlines (in detail) many causes of death for the 30 second spot: fragmentation, commoditization, information overload, clutter, crappy advertising, better educated consumers, and so on. Then he lays out a few ideas for rethinking the way marketers engage consumers. My favorite quote comes from Chapter 9: Re:think Advertising: Make Advertising Relevant Again. Jaffe writes,
“There’s a rather putrid stench emanating from the world of advertising right now. And if you can’t smell it yourself, then you’re either used to it or you’ve lost your sense of smell altogether (in which case, it’s time to consider another career).”
Jaffe goes on to detail newish areas where marketers can get their message and brand in front of consumers: Internet, gaming, experiential marketing (emphasis on physical contact with the brand), search, consumer generated marketing, and more. But Jaffe doesn’t just provide his thinking on the matter. He also includes several short essays by other marketing experts to back up his thinking. Some of these extra essays are better than others, but all provide food for thought. It’s not that there’s a lot new here, but Jaffe wraps it all up very well in one place.
Clearly the jury is still out on the effectiveness of some of these avenues. Do gamers really respond to ads displayed on their PS2s? Do gift bags stimulate trial or simply eat up placement fees? Did subservient chicken or BMW films really sell anything? Some of the ideas Jaffe lays out will work better than others. But the fact remains, the 30 second spot isn’t working like it used to, so why not try something different (and hopefully effective)?
Overall, this book is a good read. I get the feeling that Jaffe’s just scratched the surface and has even more to say on the subject. If you’re looking for an overview of where advertising/marketing may be headed in the future, check out Life After the 30-Second Spot.
Full disclosure: Mr. Jaffe practices what he preaches, when it comes to consumer generated marketing. I got my copy of the book on the condition I would read and review it. I agreed, noting that if I didn’t like the book, I would say so (I’ve done that before). Mr. Jaffe had no hesitation, saying, “…all I ask is an authentic review.”
This entry was originally posted on May 31, 2006 at the old Brandstory blog (link available for a limited time).
A few weeks ago, CEO-READ put out a call for willing book reviewers. They offered to send a book to anyone who would read and review it.
I volunteered and they sent me a copy of Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite by Paul Arden. Boy do I wish I could recommend this book. But I can’t. It’s a waste of the paper it’s printed on.
You can read my review here.
Thanks to Todd and Kate for the opportunity to contribute to CEO-READ (one of my favorite blogs).
This entry was originally posted on November 11, 2005 at the original Brandstory blog (link available for a limited time). This was before it was discovered that a portion of the booklet was borrowed from another source (probably why the links no longer work). Two other changes since this post was originally written, Business 2.0 has ceased publishing and Todd has recently left CEO-READ to venture out on his own.
I’ve been meaning to write about this for a few days. This post from Todd Satterson at 800-CEO-READreminded me that I also recently received a free copy of the booklet, Swanson’s
UnWritten Rules of Management. I heard about the book about the same time it was profiled in Business 2.0, and requested a copy. Mine arrived a little over a week ago, but I didn’t have time to read it until I had an hour or two to spare at SkyHarbor in Phoenix.
This booklet is a gem. 33 snippets of advice for any business person aspiring to make a difference. My favorites bits include:
“Everything you do, no matter how menial or trivial it may seem, has your name associated with it. For that reason alone it is worth doing well.” (From Rule #8).
“Designing in quality is a lot more effective than inspecting—or testing—it in later.” (From Rule #2)
“It takes longer to write clearly and crisply. It shows respect for the time of others when you do… good ideas in hard-to-open packages wrapped with complicated bows my be overlooked.” (From Rule #14).
Great advice, clearly and crisply written. And unlike many other CEO’s books, this one is so unpretentious it takes just about 20 minutes to read. It even fits in a suit coat pocket so you can take it anywhere you go, if you feel so inclined. Check it out.
This entry was originally posted on October 9, 2005 at the original Brandstory blog (link available for a limited time).
What do Harry Houdini, Gilroy garlic, Zagats, and a hike through the red wood forests of Mount Rainier have in common? They’re all teaching moments featured in Seth Goodin’s latest book: The Big Moo (along with about 28 other interesting subjects).
This is my favorite Seth Goodin book. It’s better than Permission Marketing. Better than The Idea Virus. Better even than his most recent, All Marketers Are Liars. It’s the kind of book you can pick up for a 5-minute burst of inspiration. But be careful, this book is addicting. It’s hard to put down. You may find yourself reading it from cover to cover, then paging through it again just a few days later.
Each of the 33 chapters was written by a different “expert”. None are attributed to their author. (Although a few are pretty easy to spot, like Tom Peter’s essay, They Say I’m Extreme.). All are interesting, thought-provoking, and in many cases will challenge the way you think about your business and career.
The Big Moo is a follow-up to The Purple Cow. Each essay was written around the idea of being remarkable. As you read each chapter (some as short as a paragraph, others as long as four pages), you’ll be presented with ideas for being extra-ordinary. It’s tough to name a favorite section—there are many, like The Student Becomes the Teacher. The writer shares the advice given to him (or her?) by a mentor years before:
• Be impatient, don’t tolerate mediocrity
• Be confident in your ability—you can make a difference in the world
• Have extreme passion for your work and those you are working with
• Never compromise your integrity
• Risk is the only reward—without risk, there is no benefit
• Expect isolation, separation, and intolerance
• Take the time to know and connect with world that are vastly different from yours—your greatest discoveries reside there
• Dare to be different
The author goes on to explain how his mentor lived those ideals, eventually resigning a position at the peak of his career as a matter of principle.
Another favorite quote comes from What Do You Stand For? about Rockport Shoes’ phenomenal sales growth: “Today brands don’t have much of a choice. They can either stand for something big and important to their consumers, or they can risk being categorized as trivial.”
What remarkable thing does your company stand for. What remarkable thing do you stand for?