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The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Building Successful Brands in a Digital World (Que Biz-Tech) Paperback – August 24, 2011
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“The Ad-Free Brand is very practical and extremely hands-on, perfect for that branding neophyte … high tech or otherwise.”
- Kevin Lane Keller, E. B. Osborn Professor of Marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and author of Strategic Brand Management.
“The Ad-Free Brand is the most comprehensive and thoughtful guide to positioning that I have ever read. Chris Grams’ step-by-step collaborative, community-based approach benefits brand builders everywhere, regardless of their size or sector. “
- Alina Wheeler, author of Designing Brand Identity and Brand Atlas
"The Ad-Free Brand is a field guide for how to tell a story and how to engage with your community. That is what branding is truly about. His stories are the great strength of the book. He tells countless stories from both his own experience at Red Hat and from others (including our Wikimedia strategy process) that reinforce his central premise: Building an ad-free brand is ultimately about engaging with your community."
- Eugene Eric Kim, Co-founder of Groupaya
"Chris knows that people appreciate a step-by-step guide as a starting point and so clearly lays out the process. His background? 10 years helping Red Hat become a $1B brand. Chris Grams gets it. From both my experience in a team he led and this book, he understands how to bring people together to work."
- Terri Griffith, Professor of Management, Santa Clara University and Author of The Plugged In Manager
"The Ad-Free Brand is not only an incredible book for those seeking to build brand strategies but an invaluable handbook for all practitioners desiring to build communities. Chris writes and lives his belief that ‘getting others to paint your fence’ has nothing to do with brand communities. Creating passion, engagement and dialogue is the sine quo non. Chris’s skillful storytelling matched by the depth of his experience engender both familiarity and confidence. You know he has been there. Reading this book is like having Chris sitting next to you having a conversation about your brand and your community.
A must read for all students entering the digital world of business."
- Susan Resnick West, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
“This entertaining and revealing work acts as a virtual textbook for how to build powerful communities around brands large and small, and is relevant for both new and traditional business sectors. As well as providing practical direction for using a basket of digital tools and social-media, The Ad-Free brand is also revealing in terms of how to ignite the passion of your brand advocates. This book is an essential read for anyone looking for a compass to navigate the continuously evolving digital landscape.”
- Jeremy Holden, author of Culture Shifts
“I love this book by Chris Grams because it offers depth, details, and scores of ideas for how leaders and employees can build better brands – internal and external. Grams has slathered the book with case studies, examples, diagrams, and fresh ideas that come from his experiences and from those he has collected.”
- Lisa Haneberg, author
“Chris Grams gets it. He shows you how to invest dollars into meaningful, productive relationships with a community in and around a company. To get them to share and care. To build a brand from the inside out. To give a brand a soul. The book reads like a textbook. With attitude. And honesty. And personality. You expect to get real world case studies. And step by step guides. And even homework. But you get so much more.”
- Danny Rosin, Co-founder of Brand Fuel Promotions
“Clearly we have to give up a lot of the illusion of control that goes with the Mad Men life, but as Chris shows that doesn’t mean we have to give up rigor. His step-by-step process is an essential guide for how to find the heart of you brand, harness your company culture (which really is your brand by the way) and enact your brand by building and supporting community. Very few marketers have run the full course of this journey. Chris has. Benefit from his experience.”
- Brian J. Lanahan, Vice President of Marketing at Celio Group Media
“Chris Grams makes branding into a common-sense task: figure out (precisely) what you are and want to become as an organization, then communicate it clearly. It’s the opposite of an expensive “lipstick” or “spin” approach, where ads are used to hammer a marketing message that may or may not relate to reality. The book is full of concrete, specific steps you can take to figure out what you are, put it into words, then tell the story over and over to employees and customers alike. Refreshingly practical!”
- Havoc Pennington, legendary software developer
From the Back Cover
Today you can build powerful, enduring brands at amazingly low cost – without expensive ad campaigns, huge marketing budgets, self-interested outside agencies, or deep specialized expertise! All you need are passion for your brand, low-cost digital tools, and The Ad-Free Brand.Drawing on his experience helping build Red Hat’s billion-dollar global brand, Chris Grams integrates classic brand positioning concepts with 21st century digital strategies, tools, and practices. Grams presents great new ways to uncover, communicate, and evolve your ideal brand position…embed branding in organizational culture…collaborate with your brand community…avoid costly mistakes…and much more. This step-by-step guide will lead you through the entire brand positioning process, while providing all you need to build a winning brand on a tight budget!
- Sidestep the clutter, cost, and ineffectiveness of traditional advertising
- Identify “points of difference” your customers will really value
- Develop brand positioning that “feels” true because it is true
- Dramatically reduce the cost of brand research
- Build your brand by guiding, influencing, and being -- not telling
- Quickly prototype your brand position, and apply what you learn
- Empower the brand advocates who know and love you best
- Communicate brand positioning with low-cost social and web tools
- Adapt classic positioning techniques for today’s new world
- Consistently focus first on low-cost, high-value strategies
- Evolve your brand for changing markets, customers, products, and services
More About the Author
Prior to New Kind, Chris spent 10 years at Red Hat, the world's leading supplier of open source solutions, where he played a key role in building the Red Hat brand and culture, most recently in the role of Senior Director, Brand Communications + Design. Chris blogs at Dark Matter Matters (www.darkmattermatters.com) and is the Community Guide on the Management Innovation Exchange (www.hackmanagement.com).
Before Red Hat, Chris did a 2 year tour of duty at IBM, and has also been an editor and literary agent in the book publishing industry. He currently resides in Raleigh, NC and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Top Customer Reviews
I would suggest this book for a manager "book club" discussion because I think that the information on external and internal branding will bring up many ideas and perhaps cause some healthy dissonance. It is important to think about, plan for, and then act on building great organizations and this book will walk you through the process. I love the emphasis Grams places on creating a pull culture (empowering and energizing members) versus push practices (selling, persuading). His suggestions about finding the "true" brand are worth the price of the book, alone, and is something with which a lot of organizations struggle.
This was not written to be a management book, per se, but it is through this filter that I am reviewing it (because this is my area of interest). It is a great management book! There is likely more information on external branding than the average manager needs, but it is better to have more than not enough. Management, at its core, is work of building internal brands that enable teams to do their best work together. Start with the brand, and return to the brand, and you will ensure that you are focusing on the right beliefs and practices.
If I were talking to a leader or manager who wanted to (or needed to) learn more about building a great brand, I would recommend this book without hesitation.
The author is the former Senior Director, Brand Communications + Design at Red Hat, and the open source software community philosophy permeates his thinking. Red Hat has become a remarkably successful company through its professional open-source business model. Most businesses and other organisations have completely different business models, but there is still much that can be learned from Red Hat's branding strategy.
Some key principles behind a successful ad-free brand positioning project:
* Cast your net as wide as possible
* The best ideas should win
* The people who care the most make the decision
* Value diversity
* Begin your positioning roll-out on day 1
* The size of the project should be proportional to the value of the brand
The book goes on to describe in detail how to conduct brand positioning research for an ad-free brand, how to design brand positioning, how to do an internal roll-out of brand positioning, how to do an external roll-out, and how to approach continuing engagement. The appendix provides numerous sample documents including surveys, discussion questions and a checklist, as well as a brand report card template.
Should you throw out your old branding practices and adopt the new practices advocated by the author? That depends on who feels that they "own" your brand and how passionate they are. This book makes a convincing case that there is much to be gained and little to be lost by increasing the level of consultation before making branding decisions, and it is therefore useful reading for brand managers and marketers.
The book is full of concrete, specific steps you can take to figure out what you are, put it into words, then tell the story over and over to employees and customers alike. Refreshingly practical!
Even if you don't really know what "branding" is, this book could be helpful. Maybe you can tell there's a gap between your understanding of your company and what you hear back from your employees or customers. The crisp definition and communication Grams advocates will help you clarify and communicate the vision, resulting in better execution and improved customer satisfaction.
Grams worked for many years leading branding at Red Hat, a company that separated itself from its peers largely through branding on its way to over a billion in revenue and S&P500 membership. Red Hat is a great case study illustrating the value of conscious brand management, and Grams's book is a great practical guide to show you the way.
Chris Grams gets it. From both my experience in a team he led and this book, he understands how to bring people together to work. You define what that work is. He is going to give you value about how to do that work in the modern world.... (for more see [...])
My summary is based on two things I'm going to do as a result of reading The Ad-Free Brand:
* I'm using the "Default to open" idea in my next meeting about collaboration in my own organization.
* I'm suggesting this book to a friend of mine who has built brands herself; brands you've heard of. I suspect there is something in The Ad-Free Brand for everyone, from product managers to people working on their personal brand.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Many marketing books are either too ethereal or require resources that few can access. More are written by retirees or consultants regarding a lifetime body of work. Read morePublished on February 7, 2014 by Shawn Briscoe
If you are in a position that involves promoting and advertising a business, organization, or product, The Ad-Free Brand is a great book to help you do it with strategy. Read morePublished on July 18, 2013 by M. David
Many books that challenge traditional thinking tend to be too theoretical and lack an understanding of what came before. Read morePublished on May 22, 2012 by JV
There are so many branding books out there. It's exciting and overwhelming to start searching for that silver bullet book on Amazon. But if I were you, I'd start here. Read morePublished on February 13, 2012 by Laura Hamlyn
I have used the methods described in the book professionally for many years, and this is a really good compilation of what's important in todays branding processes. Read morePublished on February 7, 2012 by Jan R. Johnsen
The Ad-Free Brand is the most comprehensive and thoughtful guide to positioning that I have ever read. Read morePublished on September 18, 2011 by Alina Wheeler
When I picked this book up, I feared I would be reading a bashing of traditional advertising and marketing with new age ways and means that made no sense in a high speed business... Read morePublished on September 17, 2011 by Daniel Rosin
Coming from the advertising world I must say I like everything about "The Ad-Free brand" by Chris Grams, except perhaps the title! Read morePublished on September 9, 2011 by Jeremy D. Holden