Book Reviews


Marketing Aesthetics: The Strategic Management of Brands, Identity and Image

Author: Bernd H. Schmitt, Alex Simonson, Tom Peters (Introduction)
Publisher Free Press, The
Publication Date: July 1997

Reviewer:Robert Morris
Based in Dallas, Robert Morris is an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and organizational growth. He is the author of almost 150 Business Nuggets and frequently conducts workshops based on material selected from them. His formal education includes graduate study at Yale, Northwestern, U.C.L.A., and Chicago universities. He has served in several senior-level corporate positions and is currently preparing to launch his own website ( Please contact him at

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The subtitle of Marketing Aesthetics correctly suggests its central purpose: To examine "the strategic management of brands, identity, and image." Co-authored by Bernd Schmitt and Alex Simonson and published by The Free Press, Marketing Aesthetics is divided into eleven interrelated parts:

  • Aesthetics: The New Marketing Paradigm
  • Creating Identity and Image through Aesthetics
  • Corporate and Brand Expressions
  • Styles
  • Themes
  • Overall Customer Impressions
  • Assesssment and Research Tools for Aesthetics Management
  • Protecting Aesthetics and Identity
  • Global Identity Management
  • Retail Spaces and Enviroment
  • Corporate and Brand Identity on the Internet
So much for the book's organization. According to the co-authors, Marketing Aesthetics has four objectives: Provide basic analyses for aesthetics and identity planning; provide a conceptual framework for managing aesthetics; familiarize managers with aesthetics strategic thinking; and improve communication between managers and designers.

Untimately, value "is provided by satisfying needs" which include the need to have a pleasing experience with what one sees, hears, tastes, touches, and smells. For example, countless research studies reveal that those environments within which productivity is greatest are those within which workers' sensory needs are met. That is to say, the aesthetics of the environment are pleasing to the senses. 

Within a marketing context, a company must find "a powerful point of differentiation through the use of aesthetics to create positive overall customer impressions that depict the multifaceted personality of the company or brand." How? The book explains how. Substantial attention is devoted to the branding phase during which a symbol is strategically created, conveys a positioning, provides tangible value, and is most effectively managed on a daily basis. "Drivers" of identity are also explained as is the procedure for cross-functional coordination and other components of what should be a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective marketing program.

During the course of Marketing Aesthetics, the co-athors examine a number of different products and companies which achieve "a powerful point of differentiation": Absolut Vodka, GAP, and Cathay Pacific Airlines (aesthetics as a strategic tool); Lucent Technologies and Continental Airlines (creating identity and image through aesthetics); IBM (corporate and brand expressions); Starbucks and Gillette (styles);  Pepperidge Farm Cookies (themes); The Four Seasons (overall customer impressions); LEGO and Bosch (comprehensive identity management); Godiva and Nike (retail spaces and environments); and Volkswagen, Netscape, and Yahoo! (corporate and brand identity on the Internet). Throughout Marketing Aesthetics, the focus is on real-world corporate experience which the co-authors carefully examine in support of their assertion that "Business processes do not provide value to customers. Core competencies do not. Even brands per se do not. Value is provided only by satisfying needs." Moreover,  "In a world in which most consumers have their basic needs satisfied, value is easily provided by satisfying customers' experiential needs -- their aesthetic needs." 

What are the most effective strategies for achieving your BRAND and IDENTITY objectives? Read Marketing Aesthetics.