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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2009
I was pretty disappointed by this book. After all the hype, who would have thought that there was a review bubble! So, the first chapter or so is pretty decent. The case for a 'brand bubble' is presented effectively. After that, the book seemed to lose traction. The authors gave interesting examples, but the principles behind these examples seemed ambiguous as best. Most of the text consisted of platitudes and fluff. Also, it read like an extended advertisement for Young & Rubicam. Finally, the whole idea of 'energy' was unconvincing. If you're interested in brand management, you might want to check this book out of your local library. Otherwise, I'd skip it.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2009
(First of all, I do not want to give 3 stars for the sake of it but I try to be honest and hope you read my review with an open mind, thank you)

"There's another bubble hiding in our economy"

"The Brand Bubble" by John Gerzema and Ed Lebar is to remind and warn everyone that the current economy crisis might not be the last one in present days. Brands, around the world, have been inflated perceptually and financially. With the new era of technology, customers are surrounded with blogs, news, reviews, discussions, recommendations, and they are within an arm reach; this is the so-called ConsumerLand by the authors. Big brands are not invincible anymore. Brands that survive, thrive, and flourish need "energy". This book tells you the meaning and importance of "energy" and how can you foster it.

Contents

Part 1: Introduction

Chapter 1: Tulipmania and Inflated Brands
The first chapter tells you the current state of brands and how they were inflated mainly by the hands of Wall Street. Brands are less trusted, less liked, less salient, and more often perceived as low quality but the value of the brands, or the intangible assets of the company measured by the stock market, is still on the way up.

Chapter 2: Can You Say "Irresistable"?
The authors state that the new dimension that drives the brand is "energy", and the new four pillars of brand are Energized Differentiation, Relevance, Esteem, and Knowledge. There is an interesting grid of BrandAsset Valuator© or BAV which has Y-axis as Brand Strength and X-axis as Brand Stature. You can take a look at TheBrandBubble.com.

Chapter 3: Wall Street, Meet Main Street
The point of the chapter is that consumers are more sophisticated and act more like investors that they seek future benefits, want to maximise returns, accumulate information and knowledge, watch for movement, and demand transparency and accountability.

Chapter 4: The Postmodern Craving for Creativity
Creativity is a must, full stop.

Chapter 5: Welcome to ConsumerLand
The Internet and more specifically social media changes the way consumers behave

Part 2: Application
In this part, each chapter is the stage of brand development. In each chapter, the authors will explain the contents and end the chapters with 1.) Obstacle to beat back 2.) The law of energy, 3.) The new rule of brand management and 4.) Case study. I will write brief explanations without going into too much detail.

Chapter 6: Stage One-Exploration: Performing an Energy Audit
The chapter starts with and anatomy of BAV and, into details, "Energized Differentiation". The author stressed the word "Energized" by defining it as Vision, Invention, and Dynamism (VID) and how sample brands are ranked on the sprectrum.

Chapter 7: Stage Two-Distillation: Identifying the Energy Core
Gerzema and Lebar's "Energy Core" is equivalent to Jim Collins' "Core Ideology" with a slight tweak. If you have not read Jim Collins, it is the heart of an organisation, it's how to company is, have been, and will be built.

Chapter 8: Stage Three-Ignition: Creating an Energized Value Chain
"In ignition, the enterprise takes the fuel from its Energy Core and uses it to drive the brand forward." And every function can contribute to the ignition of the brand.

Chapter 9: Stage Four-Fusion: Becoming an Energy-Driven Enterprise
Fusion is when the new practices are becoming the culture of an organisation or "brand as culture". The examples of Energy-driven enterprises are Google, Whole Foods, and Nordstrom.
Chapter 10: Stage Five-Renewal: Active Listening and Constant Refreshing of Brand Meaning

The authors tell you that brands need to evolve and keep changing over the time. "Tactics are strategy, strategy is tactics"

...

In the next part, I'll compare this book to the ideal book, a book that is easy to understand, distinct, practical, credible, insightful, and provides great reading experience.

Ease of Understanding: 5/10: This book is on an abstract subject, branding, and the authors did not make it clearer. The first part, introduction, is explained nicely; and that's where the 5/10 are from. However, the author fails to elaborate the second part, application. The contents (of the second part) are not linked together beautifully. You might wonder why this "Obstacle to beat back", "The law of energy", "The new rule of management", or case study is in this chapter. And what does it really mean? What it has to do with the chapter? Why isn't it there, instead?

Distinction: 6/10: Like I mentioned earlier, the first part is written with interesting data and BAV is fascinating. There are analysis, valuation, speculation and it is a blend of marketing, management, economics, finance, etc (Ed Lebar is the former professor of economics). The second part is pretty much like other mainstream business books. The essence of the Energy Core is already defined numerous times under different names by different authors. However, the case studies are not bland; Lego, Virgin, Xerox, Mumbai Tiffin Box, and Uniqlo.

Practicality: 4/10: I had high hope in the second part, application but it did not turn out to be very practical. There is no solid step, those five stages are mere guidelines and example of successful organisations.

I'll give an example of Stage Three-Ignition, the authors tell us that Energy Core can be from any part of the organisation; Leadership, Finance, R&D, Business Model, Sales, Manufacturing, Operations, Distribution, IT and CRM, and HR. Each of these has different examples which is great. Now, the obstacle to beat back is "Management's focus is primarily on today's profitability" and the author suggested that we must look for the long-term because most of marketing (in typical companies) is just selling. Then, the chapter moves on to The Third Law of Energy: "A brand is not a place, it's a direction"; they state that brands must be verbs and positioning can no longer be static. And the new rule of brand management is "Drive the brand back through the organization"; there came Xerox case study.

The application is more like "that's the way it is".

Credibility: 7/10: The book has lots of solid and sound examples and case studies. They look very sensible and credible. However, the only drawback is BrandAsset Valuator© (BAV) because the book relies significantly on this model. Although we know the concept and basic anatomy of BAV such as VID (Vision, Invention, and Dynamism), we do not know how they are ranked and the math behind it.

Insight: 9/10: I will state again that the book has lots of examples, data, researches. Most issues are explained sufficiently (albiet not always clearly). And the greatest value of this book is cases, examples, and how they are analysed.

Reading Experience: 5/10: In the very first chapters, the book looks extremely promising but the excitement fades away due to the abstractness of the latter chapters. I do not like to compare with other books but at times, you will feel that this book is much like Jim Collins' "Good to Great" and "Built to Last". The good point of this book is that it is newer and sounds more fun (branding vs corporate management) but the drawback is that chapters are not tied together like those two books mentioned.

Overall: 6.0/10: I desperately want to like this book because it has what it takes to be great; great examples and case studies, very insightful researches, and interesting analysis. However, this book fails to synchronise the contents and stories. And it does not offer good-enough practical guidelines to readers. I will be looking forward to the next book by Gerzema and Lebar. I would say buy this book but do not have your expectation too high.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The authors lay out credible evidence that businesses think brands are worth more than the consumers who buy them. At the same time, the financial markets keep raising brand valuations. The result - a brand bubble that represents $4 trillion in S&P market capitalization alone. According to the authors, the average brand value component of market capitalization is 71% using Young and Rubicon's 'BrandAsset Valuator' that was developed with $113 million to track 40,000 brands in 44 nations.

Explanations for the decline in consumer valuations of brands: 1)Glut of products - 58,375 new products introduced in 2006, over 2X that of just 2002. The average American sees 60% more ad messages/day than when President Clinton took office. Not surprisingly, over 81% of consumers could not name one of the top 50 products launched that year. 2)The glut invariable leads to commoditization of brands. 3)Consumers are more price sensitive - not surprising given the flattening of real incomes and large job losses. 4)Better products - even the lowest-priced goods exceed the average acceptable quality levels for most people. Stated alternatively, regardless of what you buy, you'll be happy with your purchase. 5)Trust in institutions and corporations has declined - this includes advertising as well.

The authors should have quit at this point. The remainder of "The Brand Bubble" is vague, and seems like a long commercial for Y&R services. Reality, however, is that a growing worldwide surplus of goods and declining economic strength for U.S. consumers doesn't leave much future for brand value. This trend is reflected in growing Wal-Mart and declining mall, high-end store sales. Period, end of book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2009
Energy drives brands and successful brands drive valuation. This is what John Gerzema and Ed Lebar demonstrate in `The Brand Bubble". This book is a great addition to a subject that has been written about a lot. As the chief marketing officer of FICO, the company that enabled equal-opportunity lending through analytics, I particularly welcome the quantitative approach that they use to make their point, as well as, their thorough analysis of how the forces of social media affect brands. This is a great read for executive teams in search of a brand boost!

Laurent Pacalin
Chief Marketing Officer at FICO
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2008
The next bubble in our economy has to do with brands - this is important news for anyone in the creative industries, in marketing, as well as those on wall street. John & Ed make a clear case for why the value given to brands by speculators does not match up to their real values in consumers' minds. There is some good news here, though - once you know about this bubble, you can move your brand in ways that your customers will value.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2008
During a time of so much uncertainty in the marketplace, this book delivers compelling brand insights and guidance- Insights driven by the consumer's perspective of today's dynamic environment. Anyone involved in the task of managing a brand in this climate needs to read this book in order to make the most effective strategic brand and business decisions.
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John Gerzema and Ed Lebar explain that Young & Rubicam's proprietary BrandAsset®Valuator (BAV) is "an empirical model that, based on global consumer research, is designed to explain how brands grow, decline, and recover." Of course, some brands never grow; other brands grow and then decline; and still other, fewer each year, grow, decline, and then recover. Gerzema and Lebar assert that a developing problem could drive down valuation multiples and stock prices around the world, if not corrected. "We've concluded from a decade's worth of brand and financial data that business is riding on yet another bubble: the brand bubble." After it bursts, which brands will survive? Those that are "irresistible" because they offer to consumers "a palpable sense of movement and direction." However different these brands may be in other respects, what do they share in common? Gerzema and Lebar call it "Energized Differentiation." The material is organized within two Parts: Chapters 1-5 provide the reader with a comprehensive frame of reference (e.g. the attributes of energy infusing irresistibility and the new consumer behaviors, expectations, and mind-set they call "ConsumerLand"; Chapters 6-10 examine each of a five-stage process by which to develop an irresistible brand as well as how to establish and then sustain a consumer-centric organization in support of it, using that brand as an organizing principle.

I was especially impressed in Gerzema and Lebar's skillful use of case studies to illustrate each of the five stages of the transformation framework. More specifically,

Stage One (Chapter 6), Exploration: Performing an Energy Audit
Case Study: LEGO
Excerpt: "To initiate tour audit, we invite you to tap into Young & Rubicam's BAV database of more than forty-two thousand brands...For each brand, we have collected and analyzed consumer attitudinal information that allows us to formulate measures of sustainability, including a cumulative `Energy Index,' along with separate Vision, Invention, and Dynamism scores." On Page 133, Gerzema and Lebar explain how to access this valuable information.

Stage Two (Chapter 7), Distillation: Identifying the Energy Core
Case Study: Virgin Atlantic
Excerpt: "The core of brand thinking is, `To achieve our goals, we need to make the brand an organizing principle for the business."...We can this process building an Energy Core. The goal is to synthesize a single energy pulse that has the power to infuse and inform every aspect of the enterprise's activities, a Core that can radiate ideas to further enhance the brand's Vision, Invention, and Dynamism."

Stage Three (Chapter 8), Ignition: Creating an Energized Value Chain
Case Study: Xerox
Excerpt: "In this stage, ignition, we launch the implementation stage where you harness that energy for practical use. In ignition, the enterprise takes the fuel from its Energy Core and uses it to drive the brand forward, continuously activating and renewing the sources of Vision, Invention, and Dynamism. This then transfers energy put to consumers and back through the organization [because] in business, ignition occurs when the excitement produced by the Energy Core becomes sufficient to sustain creativity, customer attraction, and business growth."

Stage Four (Chapter 9), Fusion: Becoming an Energy-Driven Enterprise
Case Study: Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers
Excerpt: "When management's aspirations for the brand and business are becoming part of the culture, that's the start of the final stage of transformation we call fusion, a defining characteristic of companies that launch out of their categories and exceed customers expectations...The added challenge of this challenge of this stage is that a constant flow of energy and ideas is needed to propel the brand forward...Whatever the factors, the key to making progress stick is when people in the organization begin to own the brand, the business challenges, and the culture as well." In essence, energized convergence.

Stage Five (Chapter 10), Renewal: Active Listening and Constant Refreshing of Brand Meaning
Case Study: UNIQLO
Excerpt: "Today, brands must be in a state of constant renewal. They must subject themselves to never-ending feedback. They must be ready to reshape themselves over and over again, in whatever form that takes...In today's world, market position has never been more temporary. Success is often a momentary high, followed by a tumbling fall...Part of reinvention requires discarding all the linear and restrictive models of consumer behavior. These might serve brand managers' fantasies of control, but consumers now define brands in their own personal, random, and unexpected ways...Striving for steadiness and consistency is futile. Brands need to create their perceptual difference by moving faster and never staying the same...Even when it achieves success, a brand can't rest on its laurels. As much as we'd like to think otherwise, brand management is a never-ending process."

I realize that these excerpts are taken out of context but I hope they at least provide some indication of the thrust and flavor of Gerzema and Lebar's thinking about an increasingly more complex challenge: creating and then sustaining Energized Differentiation not only for a brand but also for an entire organization. No commentary such as this can do full justice to the BrandAsset®Valuator (BAV) model. It may not be appropriate for your organization. Decide for yourself. Carefully absorb and digest the material that Gerzema and Lebar provide. Go back and re-read the key passages that, presumably, you have highlighted or otherwise noted while working your way through the narrative. (FYI, I purchase 24-packs of optic yellow Sharpie ACCENT Highlighter pens and used up two of them while reading this book.) Consult the resources available at [...] No matter what decision you then make, keep in mind that your organization probably sits atop a "brand bubble" that could pop at any moment. Something must be done and done now. If not the BAV model, what?
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on October 18, 2008
I try not to read too many books about branding. Ultimately, they say more or less the same thing: invest in marketing spend, build awareness and familiarity and an emotional connection, make sure your brand stands for something more than your product and be singleminded about it - not that any of this is bad advice but I've heard it all a million times before and I try my best to practise those principles, but really, I do not need to read it one more time.
This book is different. It is counter-intuitive. It bites the hand that feeds us. And it is honest. And fact-based - working from the world's largest brand database, the Brand Asset Valuator. In fact ,this is one of those rare brand management books that might actually help you bring some new thinking to the strategic table. It moves beyond the 101 of brand-building to a post-modern scenario where consumers see into brands and interact them with them in ways undreamt of in the 20th century. In this world, brands need to keep moving, to integrate themselves more closely with the weave of our lives. In other words, to demonstrate their ability to adapt and evolve. This evolutionary energy is, to me, what the authors call ' energized differentiation.' And because it is so fundamental to our existence and to our continued ability to survive, it behooves us all to learn to identify and nurture it.
One final thing I appreciate about the book - in the true spirit of open-source networking, the authors have opened up the BAV database. Interesting to see how many people use it and where they take it. This could be the brand world's equivalent of Linux.
Now if only the cover had been finished in real bubble wrap...
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on September 18, 2009
Through extensive research and analysis (over 20 years worth) the authors not only prove the existence of the Brand Bubble but, further illustrate the importance to recognize, acknowledge, and to overcome it. Very clearly laid out with highlights and plenty of graphic support through diagrams and illustrations, this book is hugely informative and intriguing.

We're living in a world of rapid and unavoidable growth in technology. Massive amounts of information with faster and easier accessibility have lead to a new kind of marketing. Consumers now research products on their own, buy what they want in the method that they want, and then communicate about their experiences across various platforms to millions of other consumers. Consumers themselves have become marketers. Right along side a brand's investors, they have become reporters and critics holding the power to decide whether a brand lives or dies.

What's the most important lesson? Marketers need to work with consumers instead of at consumers. Energized differentiation, Relevance, Esteem, and Knowledge all play important roles in developing and maintaining Brand Strength (as a leader, and value over time) as well as Brand Stature (current value).

Very clearly laid out with highlights and plenty of graphic support through diagrams and illustrations, this book is hugely informative and intriguing.

Review by Kendal Brown, Graphic Designer at Stinson Brand Innovation
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on October 29, 2008
What's brilliant about this book is the way that it demonstrates the misguided approach to brand management that many companies practice in language that the perpetrators themselves can understand. It is rigorous in the way it leverages years of proprietary brand data to illustrate and quantify the gap that exists between corporate and consumer perception of brand value. But it doesn't stop there: it's real value is in highlighting the underlying cause of this discrepancy, the failure of organizations to understand the true source of value that consumers derive from a brand. Ultimately the value is in how the brand experience makes them FEEL, i.e. it's emotional and not just a rational value proposition. The more brand management has been taken over by data-driven, MBA-educated technocrats, the more they have tried to manage brands based on a false paradigm of how brands work. The Brand Bubble doesn't just highlight a branding or business challenge, but a systemic failure of many supposedly brand-driven business to truly understand what business they are in.
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