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 / Winter 2006 / Issue 45(originally published by Booz & Company)


Best Business Books: Marketing

Brand Rejuvenation stresses that just because a brand is targeted at senior citizens does not mean it is an aging brand. Nor can a brand’s aging be blamed on its chronological age; rather, decrepitude is based on a brand’s perceived age. In other words, a brand ages because its target market is not refreshed over time. That means rejuvenation requires making a brand more contemporary, and the primary tool for doing that is usually advertising, although this is not an instant cure. Other options include using celebrities, “the weapons of choice when it comes to rejuvenating the brand”; cobranding; expanding distribution; and modernizing the brand’s visual identity.

But resuscitating brands should really be a last resort. Rather, companies should pursue continuous strategies to prevent the aging of a brand. This approach is less expensive and avoids potential panic. The author provides useful but sometimes confusing tools for analyzing a brand’s need for rejuvenation.

Like other branding books, this one suffers from the flaw of paying homage to the brand, not the customer. In Professor Lehu’s words, “The brand is there to serve its products, which will serve it in return.” No, no, no! The brand is there only to serve customers because, obviously, without customers, there is no brand. Moreover, little attention is paid to the Internet, which would seem an obvious tool to ensure relevancy to new generations of consumers. And the book offers no metrics, beyond one kludgy formula, to ensure accountability.

The value of Brand Rejuvenation lies in making clear the need to keep brands relevant to customers. It also reminds readers that managers must be as focused on the longevity of brands as they are on successful launches. But although this book has a few good ideas to ensure relevancy, it places most of its faith in the skills of individual brand managers. Brand Rejuvenation largely ignores the most important way to ensure sustainability: continuous interaction with customers, suppliers, and distributors, and the willingness — indeed, the need — to use their input to guarantee that the brand continues to deliver value.

Eight Weeks to a Winning Brand
Given the strategic importance of branding and the resources it requires, why can’t more companies brand? Why do so many products fail to become brands? In Why Johnny Can’t Brand, authors Bill Schley and Carl Nichols Jr. argue that branding failures result from the lack of a dominant selling idea (DSI), an update on that old sales workhorse, the unique selling proposition. A DSI, consisting of fusing a corporate or product name with a specialty in a customer’s mind, can deliver “more market share, more sales, more competitive strength, more growth, and more asset value.” And hopefully, more profitability.

Johnny outlines a process for developing a DSI: choosing a specialty to excel in, articulating that specialty briefly and memorably, and creating the visual and other building blocks that support the DSI. The final step is “Ring the bell to open the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. No reason not to think big.” Examples of DSI include Greyhound Bus Lines’ “Leave the Driving to Us,” United’s “Fly the Friendly Skies,” and Maxwell House coffee’s “Good to the Last Drop.” Supporting a DSI requires five key elements: a great name; a unique, ownable specialty; a tagline; high-impact visuals; and excellent organizational performance.

With its emphasis on being number one or number two in a category and the importance of mental “ownership” of a word or concept, Johnny is strongly based on the landmark book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout (McGraw-Hill, 1981), published more than 20 years ago. Like other die-hard loyalists of the “positioning” theory, Johnny cannot address any issue related to accountability, and customers are addressed only as receptacles for implanted words that can be “owned.” In fact, customers and profitability aren’t even listed in the book’s index. How can any book on branding be taken seriously if it has not considered the customers who support brands and the profitability that sustains them?

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