Book Reviews


Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future

Author: Patrick Hanlon
Publisher Simon & Schuster, Inc
Publication Date: January 2006

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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In today's dizzying world where micro marketing presents both a challenge and opportunity, Patrick Hanlon, founder of Thinktopia, finally did some self-analysis on his past marketing/advertising success and is sharing the information with anyone who wants to invest in their company's, their products, their personal future and success.  Best of all they are keys you can use to open success for almost any product or service and any market segment  boomers, GenX, GenY, teens, tweens.

The great thing is he has boiled down his rich experience and close review of what works and doesn't work into seven steps (he refers to them as key factors).  

It is a book worth reading by any communications person who needs to identify his or her market segment, determine how to reach the right intended audience and develop a degree of market segment stability.  

He has crystallized what works and doesn't work into a creation story, a creed, rituals, icons, sacred words, non-believers and a leader who's overcome stiff opposition.  Some readers might find Harlon's work closely parallels The Da Vinci Code because he does examine the iconic successes as well as the mundane failures in management and marketing.  

The book is extremely useful for today's marketer/communicator because we strive to capture and use consumer information.  We have to hustle to keep pace with market trends.  There is a growing need for companies and organizations to enter into partnerships and carry out periodic cobranding.

If there is a shortcoming to Primal Branding, it is that Hanlon doesn't address and take advantage of what Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, called the "long tail" which he later turned into a fantastic book.  Used in judicious combination, the two books will clearly enable you to differentiate and be relevant.  It will enable you to keep an eye on the iGeneration.  

Hanlon lightly acknowledges that people today increasingly have new "toys," new opportunities.  They have new and unique ways of communicating and spreading the word.

By developing primal branding, you are in a better position to ensure your next product, your next idea, you next movement isn't outdated in the rapid evolution of today's products and concepts.  Following his in-depth concepts you can help rise above the confusion of a myriad of choices and standards.  

The rapid proliferation of products and ideas means the learning curve is often more excessive than people want to attempt.  The increased obsolescence can lead to purchase reluctance or hesitation.  

Primal Branding gives you the guidance you need to create and nurture a community of believers by developing an attachment to the brand.

To help you break from traditional thinking, the author has coined new names for old concepts.  What he calls creed you might know as a slogan.  What he calls an icon you might refer to as a logo.  We don't think this is as much a way for him to wrap new clothes around old bodies but rather an approach to help you look at the problems, issues, challenges and opportunities with fresh eyes.

Hanlon makes you understand and agree by using known success stories.  He discusses in detail UPS's success, Lou Gerstner's IBM turnaround, Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, the Marine Corps, Virgin, Oprah and other companies, products and individuals.  You'll find yourself saying "of course" a lot but that is just Hanlon's ability to take the obvious and make it quick and easy for you to understand.  

Hundreds of articles and books have been written about the successes Google, IBM, Oprah, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and other companies/individuals have enjoyed.  The deep part of the pool is that too many people attempt to mimic those successes only the fail…miserably/expensively.  If mere copies worked we would have millions of successful companies, billions of successful products and billions of famous people.  

That isn't the way it works.

The author has developed what he believes are the seven DNA factors that when used together and in proper mixture help produce a successful brand whether it is a company, a product, a service, a personality or a cause.

If you're lazy and looking for the floor plan to success, don't bother reading Primal Branding.  The book is the beginning, not the end of the path.  It is an untraditional approach to helping you…it is obvious that Hanlon believes deeply and passionately in his seven tenets.  

The book won't work for you  and you'll probably fall asleep when you are reading it anyway  if you aren't interested in developing a brand (product, issue or personality) that people bond with and make theirs.  

If you're just launching your communications career you're ahead of the game because you don't have to unlearn or rethink your roadmap to successful branding.  If you've been in the industry for "more than a few" years, you'll probably have to read the book twice and then reread/refresh yourself with some of the author's formula points because old habits die hard.

Being different and succeeding at your job is rapidly becoming a 24 x 7 task.  Primal Branding makes the job a little easier and certainly a lot more fun.