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Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant Hardcover – January 25, 2011

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Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant + Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles That Drive Success + Brand Portfolio Strategy: Creating Relevance, Differentiation, Energy, Leverage, and Clarity
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Brand guru Aaker (Building Strong Brands) explains how companies can keep their brand relevant through innovation and the creation of new categories or subcategories that they can "own" in the minds of consumers. While plenty of books emphasize the need for constant innovation, Aaker dives deeper; customers determine brand relevance and companies as diverse as Japanese beer maker Asahi, Xerox, IKEA, Zappos, and Apple have each carved out a unique market niche, a niche that must be protected through the creation of barriers for competitors, Aaker argues. Postmortem evaluations of epic failures like the Segway, Nabisco's Snackwells product line, and Apple's Newton digital assistant will help brand managers avoid costly and high-profile marketing missteps. Those familiar with the author's work will recognize his textbook approach. His clear prose and honest assessments will resonate with small business owners or brand managers and should be required reading for anyone with a vested interest in keeping their company on the tip of their consumers' tongues. (Jan.)
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From the Inside Flap

This ground-breaking book clearly defines the concept of brand relevance and shows what it takes to channel innovation and manage the competitive arena so that competition is reduced or eliminated.

Throughout the book, branding guru David Aaker explains how brand relevance drives market dynamics using dozens of illustrative case studies involving brands such as Asahi Beer, Prius, Whole Foods Market, Hyundai, Zappos, Wheaties Fuel, Zipcar, Muji, Cafe Steamers, GE,, and Apple. He reveals how brand teams have turned away from destructive brand preference competition by making other brands irrelevant.

Adopting Aaker's brand relevance model—in which innovative offerings form categories and subcategories—provides dramatic opportunities for brand teams with insight and the ability to lead the market. As Aaker explains, successful brand relevance competition involves four vital tasks: concept generation, concept evaluation, creating barriers to the competition and, critically, actively defining and managing the new category or subcategory. It also involves being on top of the market, the competition, and the technology so that they get the timing right, a crucial element of a successful brand relevance strategy.

Brand relevance is a threat as well as an opportunity to firms facing dynamic markets. Aaker shows how to avoid having a brand go into decline because people no longer consider it relevant.

Brands that can create and manage new categories or subcategories making competitors irrelevant will prosper while others will be mired in debilitating marketplace battles or will be losing relevance and market position.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (January 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470613580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470613580
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #326,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

My passion is understanding brands and helping firms build brands and brand portfolios. My first brand book, Managing Brand Equity defined brand equity and set forth its value to a firm and its customers. The second, Building Strong Brands, described the "brand identity" model that many firms use to manage their brands and also introduced the Brand Equity Ten measurement structure. The third, Brand Leadership extended the brand identity model and adding material on brand building programs. The fourth, Brand Portfolio Strategy, introduces models and concepts that allow a firm to sort out the complexities of brand portfolios and the priorities and relationships that define them. The fifth, Spanning Silos presents research showing the problems that product and country silos organizations pose to those who would build brands and create effective marketing and what some firms have done to create cooperation and communication to break down the silo barriers.

My latest book, not counting my autobiography, is Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant that shows success in dynamic markets involves creating offerings so innovative that they create new categories or subcategories making competitors irrelevant.

I am a part of Prophet, a global brand and marketing consulting company that is on the forefront of branding issues, professor emeritus of the Haas School at UC Berkeley, and an advisor to Denstu. I also blog on Aaker on Brands ( I live in Orinda, California near my three daughters and seven grandchildren and try to do a lot of biking and just enough golfing.

There follows the formal career summary.

David A. Aaker is the Vice-Chairman of Prophet Brand Strategy, Professor Emeritus of Marketing Strategy at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley and an advisor to Dentsu Inc. The winner of three career awards for contributions to the science of marketing (the Paul D. Converse Award), marketing strategy (the Vijay Mahajan Award) and the theory and practice of marketing (the Buck Weaver Award), he has published over 100 articles and 14 books including Strategic Market Management, Managing Brand Equity, Building Strong Brands, Brand Leadership (co-authored with Erich Joachimsthaler) Brand Portfolio Strategy, From Fargo to the World of Brands, Spanning Silos and his latest book, Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant. His books have been translated into eighteen languages with sales well over one million. Named as one of the top five most important marketing/business gurus in 2007, Professor Aaker has won awards for the best article in the California Management Review and (twice) in the Journal of Marketing. A recognized authority on brand equity and brand strategy, he has been an active consultant and speaker throughout the world and is on the Board of Directors of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Evan Miller on November 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'd like to throw some cold water on the reviews posted so far. I feel duped by the surfeit of 5-star ratings on Amazon as well as the endless litany of Praise From Important People on the book's jacket.

First, I do think there are good ideas to be found in this book. To make some real moo-lah you want to create a new category or sub-category. OK, got it. The creation of new categories is well-covered in other books, but I guess Aaker's contribution is to tout the creation of a sub-category from an existing category. Not exactly an earth-shattering revelation, but if you work at BigCo it might make the message of radical innovation more palatable.

The writing style and organization of this book are quite bad. First, the writing style. It appears that the author is capable of only one metaphor in marketing, and that is "winning the war". Everything is about "winners and losers", which seems to me at odds with the central premise of creating a new product category -- which create winners without necessarily making losers of existing players.

There is an unnecessary amount of jargon in this book. Instead of simply saying, "when other firms enter the market," he refers to "a brand preference context emerging." What?

I found a number of factual and typographical errors in the book. It becomes quickly apparent that the author is a "sales guy", not a "product guy". Every product introduction fits into a neat narrative, either succeeding wildly or being "too little, too late." There's really no depth of understanding about products or product psychology. I found it particularly troubling that he referred to IKEA furniture as "high quality.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Gibbs TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 6, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Success in business is not about winning the brand preference battle so much as the brand relevance war with an innovative offering that achieves sustainable differentiation by creating a new category or subcategory, according to David Aaker in this book. Conversely, brands often decline, not because they have lost their ability to deliver or the loyalty of their customers, but because they have become less relevant.

The book goes on to describe numerous examples of companies which have gained substantial competitive advantages by creating in the minds of potential customers a new category or subcategory of product. Examples from the field of retailing include Muji, IKEA, Zara, H&M, Best Buy, Whole Foods Market, Subway and Zappos. Examples from the automobile industry include the Toyota Prius, the Saturn, the Chrysler minivan, the Tata Nano, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Zipcar.

Creating brand relevance is a matter of framing new categories and sub-categories and influencing customers' perspectives by creating mental associations. To create new categories, an organization must be involved in finding concepts, evaluating them, using them to define new categories, and creating barriers for competitors. All is not lost if a company finds itself becoming irrelevant; the author gives plenty of examples of companies which have recovered relevance through renewed innovation.

There are numerous other books available which discuss the importance of differentiation, but none describe it quite in the same way as the present author does. Differentiation is important, but a key aspect of business success lies in communicating the differences to the target market in such a way as to excite ongoing interest. This book is a bit longer than I would have liked, but the author's advice and conclusions seem to be very pertinent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Strategy And Business Magazine on December 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The first thing a reader notices about Brand Relevance is how many of today's power brands have already made good on its central concept: Brand preference has long ceased to be a powerful driver of marketing success. Brand success, therefore, requires something more. That something, according to David Aaker, now vice chairman of Prophet, a marketing consulting firm, "is to redefine the market in such a way that the competitor is irrelevant or less relevant, possibly by making the competitor's strengths actually become weaknesses." This requires creating brand relevance by carving out a new category or subcategory for your offering that has these key characteristics: a weak or nonexistent competitor set, a distinctive definition, a value proposition, a loyal customer base, and, perhaps most importantly, barriers to competition.

In defining the characteristics that enable some brands to surge past others, Aaker brings an academic's eye to the question of why some brands transcend their markets, and the result is a book thick with examples and lessons. One of the prime examples that Aaker uses to describe brand relevance is, of course, Apple Inc., particularly its roster of "i" products. Not only are they great products in and of themselves, he writes, but they also create substantial barriers to entry that keep other brands from competing directly. Nowadays, there are plenty of smartphones besides the iPhone, MP3 players besides the iPod, and tablets besides the iPad, but Apple's products are also part of the larger iTunes ecosystem of audio, video, and apps. That's quite a barrier. As Aaker points out, each Apple innovation also builds on existing ones, to make the company a "moving target," which is a core component of ensuring that a brand is continually relevant.
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