Author: Bill Schley and Carl Nichols
Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover
Year Published: 2005
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When it comes to branding, most companies talk the talk, but they miss the heart of what branding is – creating “a workable, believable, #1 position in the minds of your targets.” Sure, everyone strives to be “top of mind” to their target audience but their marketing materials are a jumbled mess of me-too’s and corporate jargon that means nothing to their audience. Why Johnny Can’t Brand – named after the 1955 bestseller on education reform, Why Johnny Can’t Read – points out the flawed thinking with most corporate “branding” initiatives and how to create a meaningful brand.
The book is broken into two parts: strategy and execution. It spends 12 chapters explaining what branding is and what makes a successful brand and another 5 more on implementing your brand around a Dominant Selling Idea (another name for Unique Selling Point). The goal is to have a workable branding strategy within 8 weeks. The book’s authors are partners at international brand consulting firm, david, inc, and have worked on such brands as Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, so they bring excellent insight to the branding process.
Why do most brand initiatives fail? The authors cite three main reasons:
- For many companies, marketing and selling are afterthoughts. They create what they consider to be great products without looking into whether anyone actually needs them.
- When it comes to selling the product, people “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” which often translates to over-hyped products that disappoint. In other words, if your product stinks, no amount of marketing will make it sell.
- Branding and positioning require a strong commitment to not being everything to everyone – and that means risk. Successful brands differentiate themselves from others.
Anything can be a brand if is has an exclusive name that is associated with an excusive idea of value – or in other words, brands must stand for something meaningful. Think Google, Nike shoes, McDonalds, North Korea, Abraham Lincoln, George W. Bush, MLB, Captain Kirk, Florida sunshine, Perdue chicken, the American flag, Harvard, Christianity, Rachael Ray or the Beatles. When you think of each of these brands, you think of specific (positive or negative) ideas and emotions.
Branding is about finding a specific IDEA that you stand for, finding a way to own that idea in a credible way, and ultimately building total trust that you will always deliver. It’s about your walk – well before your talk. You make physical, material adjustments to your product, service, and market conduct as necessary to align with that idea. Then you tell the world.
The book spends considerable time walking you through how to choose a company name, how to differentiate yourself, and how to choose a tagline. The theory behind this is based in Al Reis and Jack Trout’s Positioning philosophy.
In the second part of the book, the authors provide a fast-track, 8 week framework for developing your name, Dominant Selling Idea and brand story so that you’re ready to tell the world.
The book is primarily focused on product marketing. Service marketers will probably find that the book lacks examples for how to develop a “personal” brand around your strengths and services.
Branding is one of the most hyped and overused words in marketing. This book provides a back-to-basics approach to understanding what branding is, why it will help your company succeed, and how to build a strong brand. It is a great reference to companies about to launch a product or technology. Service marketers will probably find that the book lacks examples for how to develop a “personal” brand around your strengths and services.