Book Reviews


Brand Sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound

Author: Martin Lindstrom, Foreword by Philip Kotler
Publisher Free Press, The
Publication Date: February 2005

Reviewer:Andy Marken
In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

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A few years ago Regis McKenna, long held to be a true marketing guru here in Silicon Valley, said positioning and branding were of no consequence any more because products and people changed so rapidly.  Product life cycles have shrunk to 3-6 months and people seldom stay in their same job or with the same firm more than a year. 

Regis’ contention was that in the now commodity world people bought almost solely on the basis of price rather than company/product image.

Well as is typical, we are in a new cycle.  The difference is that Lindstrom doesn’t take the expeditious short-term view.  In BRAND sense he steps back, way back and examines the long-range effects of branding.  In fact he looks at branding (and specific brands) over the past 50 years. 

The global marketing study that was conducted by Millward Brown which has been combined with his 20 years of marketing experience helped produce Lindstrom’s whack in the side of the head so the AhHa! light could go on.

Once you begin reading BRAND sense you immediately see the common sense of the importance of our five senses  touch, taste, smell, sight, sound.  The senses are the basis for the survival and evolution of every species.  From the moment a baby is first born  human or otherwise  they respond to their senses.  As we get older we still respond to the senses but we cloak this response with logical and illogical rationale. 

Lindstrom starts the book with a mind-boggling example of brand attachment, a young Aussie lad who so totally identified with Gucci that he tattooed the logo on his neck and the brand became a living, breathing friend to him.  That was until Gucci lost its way.  Then he left his friend behind and rid himself of the tattoo.

It made us think that we actually have a very real  but less fanatical  attachment with Jaguar.  We got our first Jag used  XK-150 convertible  in college. Difficult to start in Midwest winters.  Difficult to keep running.  Almost impossible to keep tuned and keep oil in it.  But it was a Jag…our Jag!

Since then we’ve owned 10 and even converted our wife from Mercedes to Jag.  We did have a two-year period where we abandon the brand.  When the air conditioning and differential go out and the company rep says, “what do you expect you do have 60,000 miles on the car,” you question the sanity of your loyalty.  But when the retro look of the XK8s were introduced we were sucked back and the loyalty/love returned!

To explain and reinforce the importance of BRAND sense, Lindstrom presents a series of specific and detailed case studies.  He also analyzes which of the senses are most important in branding specific categories of products and services. 

We were surprised that he believes that sight plays a supporting role to the other senses.  He points out that smell which is often overlooked is the most evocative and the one that creates the strongest impression.  This is probably why auto manufacturers spray the interiors of their cars with new car scent.  It is certainly the scent our wife requests the car wash people use for her car each time she has it cleaned and detailed. 

Over the past 50 years, brands and brand sense have evolved and changed.  We went through the USP (unique selling proposition) period.  Then there we evolved to ESP (emotional selling proposition).  Next we had OSP (organizational selling proposition).  We soon passed into the BSP (brand selling proposition phase. 

Today we are in what Lindstrom identifies as the MSP (me selling proposition).  This is because businesses have been forced to abandon mass production because we live in the era of mass customization, Lindstrom notes that companies no longer own their brand but the consumer owns the brand. 

In addition to lively, interesting case study and recommendation reading, BRAND sense is crammed with charts, action points and enough data to satisfy almost any researcher. 

In addition to giving you a good foundation in understanding the importance of branding and brand ownership, Lindstrom also gives you insights into what he believes the future holds for those of us that have to create, develop and expand brand loyalty.  In today’s chaotic, troubled world Lindstrom explains that people want a stake in the ground.  They want something they can believe in. 

He calls this new form of positioning HSP (holistic selling proposition)  that gives consumers a footing in the past (tradition) while adopting some religious characteristics that enable you to spread the word holistically.  Developing and refining that HSP for your products and services will enable you to fine tune your messages that embody shape, symbol, ritual and tradition. 

Today’s marketplace is already crowded and it is going to get worse instead of better. BRAND sense is an excellent roadmap to help you guide your firm’s products and services into the future.  It’s also a very informative and enjoyable book to read.