Book Reviews


Briefs for Building Better Brands: Tips, Parables and Insights for Market Leaders

Author: Allan Gorman
Publisher AGCD Brandspa Books
Publication Date: September 2004

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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If you are interested in getting background and material to justify your brand building program or budget or are looking for more mental reinforcement for your elevated title of Corporate Brand Czar, Gorman's Briefs isn't for you. More importantly, make very certain that no one gives your boss a copy!

We half expected this to be another book espousing the new wave of branding. But Gorman, a man who has helped more than his fair share of brands over the past 30-plus years, isn't that deluded or self-serving.

Briefs is a superbly succinct encapsulation of marketing relations between companies, products and consumers. The book is an absolute delight to read because it is clear, concise and lays out a plan of actions which can be followed in a landscape that is increasingly tough for brands.

Branding is a tough job for any organization at best. Since 1991, brands on grocery store shelves have tripled. Last year more than 140,000 trademarks were issued which are 100,000 more than in 1983. Today's consumer sees 60% more ad messages today than when the first President Bush left office.

There is an enormous challenge for each of us in this industry today. Most brand campaigns are carried out for all the wrong reasons and with unrealistic/unachievable goals. Gorman in his easy reading form does his best to scare the reader straight or help him/her set achievable objectives and avoid common marketing foibles.

While firms spend vast amounts of time, energy and money introducing new brands and defending old ones, consumers are becoming less loyal. In the "good old days," it was felt that once you had a customer you had his or her loyalty for life. But today even seemingly strong names have much power at the cash register.
Brands and Branding
Brands and Branding

Some communications people proudly note that because of branding efforts few brands still command a premium. What they fail to add is that the premium has shrunk…dramatically. They like to carry around pro-branding books like Rita Clifton's (chair of Interbrand) new book Brands and Branding which says "Well-managed brands have extraordinary economic value and are most effective and efficient creators of sustainable wealth."

Gorman on the other hand is more realistic - and in our opinion more credible -- in his approach. He points out that companies have to break with the marketing guru past of cleaver ad headlines, cool jingles, art director designs that are to die for and eyepopping websites. To help you win in today's marketplace, he emphasizes that the value of branding is shrinking and therefore firms have to approach their brand activity with greater attention, control and accountability.

Hidden between the book's covers are some excellent strategies and practical tools you can use for your organization. He delivers a lot of thought-provoking ideas that you can actually use.

When you finish reading Briefs you may come to the realization that we have overestimated the power of branding and underestimated the consumers' savvy about the products he or she purchases. Gorman explains that over time most brands become commodities. General Motors, Ford, TiVo, Nokia and thousands of other brands enjoyed their day in the spotlight but the protection they enjoyed by their brand image has disappeared.

Or as Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, has said, "Brands have run out of juice. They're dead. Now the consumer is boss. There's nowhere for brands to hide."

Well fortunately for the organizations and individuals who read, thoroughly understand and work hard at what Gorman recommends you won't have to hide but you may have a chance to survive.

In addition to being able to share his 30-plus years of experience for such a small investment, he also includes 28 secrets of George Silverman's word-of-mouth marketing, a brand IQ test and a wealth of book and websites where you can find out even more.

Briefs is not a book to read if you want to make your job easier. Gorman - assuming you read and understand what he says - will make your job tougher. He will also make it more interesting and more fun. That's because he actually gives you the tools, guidelines and ideas you can actually use on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

The first thing you'll need to do as you read Gorman's Briefs is redefining the concept of branding for yourself. Then redefine branding within your organization. Then apply the information and ideas the author puts forward in terms of your company and your products.

That may sound like a lot of "extra" work but if you don't do it your boss may pick up his or her own copy of the book and where will that leave your next set of branding program recommendations?