Book Reviews


Brand Immortality: How Brands Can Live Long and Prosper

Author: Hamish Pringle, Peter Field
Publisher Kogan Page
Publication Date: January 28, 200

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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Companies and brands have taken a terrible beating over the past year as consumer groups and online communities have not only raised issues but at times viciously attacked the organizations, products and occasionally even management and employees.

While Brand Immortality is based on work done on behalf of the IPA (Institute of Practitioners of Advertising) it does more than simply promote communications agencies, it should be of interest to all communications people. 

The two authors obviously spent considerable time researching information on household name brands.  Their premise is that properly managed no brand needs to decay and die.  Pringle and Field feel that all it takes is for the right decisions, right resources and right imagination to be brought to bear and viola...brands can be continuously renewed and outlive their creators.

Our problem in reading the book was with each example they discussed we also found ourselves thinking of brands that did die.  Sometimes long, agonizing deaths.

At the same time we found ourselves looking at a number of their case histories - Nike, Apple, Virgin - and others and noting none of these brands are over 20 years old.  Twenty years isn't exactly immortality. 

The issues we have with a number of the examples they use doesn't mean we find Brand Immortality lacking but rather just to make you think for yourself.

The authors did do an excellent job of identifying the factors that are vital to a brand's long-term survival. 

To be fair to Pringle and Field, they did do extensive research - more than 1,000 case studies that were submitted to the IPA.  At the same time, the two enriched their text with comments and information from industry insiders who were actually involved in the marketing submissions. 

The book is a good marketing communications primer for people fresh to the industry and a refresher for the rest of us.  They do delve into a number of senior management areas that helps you understand why some firms do little or nothing to refresh a brand preferring to let them ride along as cash cows until they pass into oblivion.  They use these funds to position and promote the new rising stars in the organization.

It is sometimes difficult to understand how Pringle and Field can rationalize and justify the value of brand and product line extensions as valid efforts to ensure brand immortality.

While the advertising executives note that there are tremendous technological and social changes taking place that could be disruptive to the mortality of some brands, they do feel the changes provide some opportunities for the brands...they just aren't real certain what they are.

Obviously we believe their research and analysis are based on helping prove advertising.  But at the same time they do explore the implications and doors that are opening for all marketing and communications efforts.

Pringle and Field know conventional media (advertising opportunities) are changing and need to change. 

Neither they nor the IPA members have any concrete recommendations on how to effect that change and what it will mean to their brands' mortality. 

The answers are out there.  Pringle and Fields might do a second version of Brand Immortality doing some original research beyond the case study submissions by members.  Few agencies or people submit their programs/activities when they failed.