Customer Reviews: The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design
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This is an expanded edition of a book first published in 2003. In it, Neumeier develops in greater depth several basic ideas about how to bridge a gap between business strategy and design. My own experience suggests that on occasion, there may be a conflict or misalignment rather than a "gap." Or the business strategy is inappropriate. Or the design concepts are wrong-headed. Or the execution fails. Whatever, Neumeier correctly notes that "A lot of people talk about it. Yet very few people understand it. Even fewer know how to manage it. Still, everyone wants it. What is it? Branding. of course -- arguably the most powerful business tool since the spreadsheet." What Neumeier offers is a "30,000-foot view of brand: what it is (and isn't), why it works (and doesn't), and most importantly, how to bridge the gap between logic and magic to build a sustainable competitive advantage." Of course, that assumes that both logic and magic are present and combined...or at least within close proximity of each other.

As others have already indicated, Neumeier provides a primer ("the least amount of information necessary") rather than a textbook. His coverage is not definitive, nor intended to be. He has a crisp writing style, complemented by "the shorthand of the conference room" (i.e. illustrations, diagrams, and summaries). Some describe his book an "easy read" but I do not. When reading short and snappy books such as this one, I have learned that certain insights resemble depth charges or time capsules: they have a delayed but eventually significant impact. For example, Neumeier explains why "Three Little Questions" can bring a high-level marketing meeting to a screeching halt:

1. Who are you?

2. What do you do?

3. Why does it matter?

I also want to express my admiration of the book's design features. They create an appropriate visual context within which Neumeier examines each of five "Disciplines": differentiation, collaboration, innovation, validation, and cultivation. Expect no head-snapping revelations. For many of those who read this book, its greatest value will will be derived from reiteration of certain core concepts which Neumeier reviews with uncommon clarity and concision. Check out the "Take-Home Lessons" (pages 149-157) which include

"A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It's not what you say it is. It's what THEY say it is."

"Differentiation has evolved from a focus on `what it is,' to `what it does,' to 'how you'll feel,' to `who you are.' While features, benefits, and price are still important to people, experiences and personal identity are even more important."

"How do you know when an idea is innovative? When it scares the hell out of you."

Readers having relatively less experience with the branding process will especially appreciate the provision of an expanded (220-word) "Brand Glossary." Neumeier also includes a "Recommended Reading" section in which he briefly comments on each source. When reading business books, I much prefer annotated bibliographies such as Neumeier's to mere lists. For whatever reasons, many provide neither.
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on March 10, 2012
The book starts off with a bang and really grabbed my attention throughout the first half. After that the book fizzles out a bit and the information starts to lose some of its glimmer. The Brand Gap prides itself on being such a short title about a large subject. Well, I think the book could have been even shorter. It reads like a bloated blog post and interjects random visuals that are only sometimes helpful.

The Brand Gap is also quaintly outdated. At one point the author talks about how most websites are poorly designed and shows an example of something ala 1998. Well...A LOT has changed since this book was published (2006) and there are numerous examples of gorgeous, and useful websites on the market today. Granted, there's lots of bad design out there, but things have, and are, getting better.

A particularly embarrassing example is the author's use of Amazon's market share to elucidate his point about creating a focused brand. He gloats about Amazon losing 30% of it's market share after extending it's repertoire beyond books. Well guess what...the joke is on us now. Amazon magically broke the curse of expansion and their sales have risen 219% to $34.2 billion between 2006 and 2010. This NEEDS to be addressed in the book, otherwise the author's use Amazon's statistics is simply misinformation. It takes away a lot of the books credibility.

And speaking of credibility...For a book that stresses the importance of design and aesthetics, it needs to take a look in the mirror. The typesetting in the book is "horsey" and wouldn't even be acceptable in a first-semester graphic design course. Sure, I'm splitting hairs here, and most people wouldn't notice the typographic nuances, but a book that is half about design needs to take things like this seriously. It's ironic that the author claims that aesthetics build trust, however his own book leaves a lot of aesthetic loose ends.

The book is littered with many "a-ha" moments and interesting tidbits, but I don't feel like I have much more of an understanding of branding than I did before I read the book. It's a fun read, but nothing I would say anyone absolutely had to read.
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on August 3, 2005
Branding and selling must live in peace. They seldom do - and that's not good for anyone.

One reason there is confusion regarding brand/sales harmony is due to the over complicated nature of most books on branding. Branding has turned into a high concept domain of intellectuals and creative types that leaves the sales force feeling like strangers in a strange land.

The good news is that Marty Neumeier has taken the time to write with clarity. He brings brand into clear focus with a direct and easy to read book entitled The Brand Gap.

Here are seven branding truths from The Brand Gap that just may create sales-brand peace in our time!

1. Neumeier posits a simple, to the point, definition of brand, "A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service, or company." Sales professionals understand gut feelings and ought never to forget this definition. Too often a sales process will treat the customer as a logical, rational being that will make the best choice based on the evidence. That kind of left-brained approach to selling ignores what people are really like. Yes, reason plays a part, but not nearly as dominate a part as sales people would like. It might be comforting to think that all you need is a well-reasoned argument for your product or service, but sales and brands are more complex than that. Too often brand managers have worked hard at creating that "gut feeling" only to have it undone by a "nothing but the facts" sales process.

2. The Brand Gap says - "The foundation of brand is trust". This is THE common ground of branding and selling. Trust is always the first goal. No product, service or company will ever communicate value without first establishing trust. Without trust, customers cannot assign value to you or what you are selling. Great brands create a context of trust. The sales person still needs to build individual trust, but without a brand addressing the fears and establishing a safe context - sales will continue to be at a disadvantage. Great salespeople will understand how the brand seeks to create trust while making sure their sales process builds on it.

3. This book establishes the value of a brand in a way with which every salesperson can fully agree. "The value of your brand grows in direct proportion to how quickly and easily customers can say "yes" to your offering." I think I can hear an "amen" in the sales department. But I would add one bit of caution: Very few sales are ever a matter of simply "taking the order". No matter how strong the brand is, salespeople must never hurry past the need to get what I call "the second yes". The first "yes" is the client's positive response to creative branding. The second "yes" is the client's positive response to a sales process that uncovers their individual needs.

4. Neumeier challenges salespeople to get beyond features and benefits. The lazy will resist this - the wise will agree. Brands these days are about "symbolic attributes". Product features can be quickly copied in a marketplace where mass customization techniques are available to all. But symbolic attributes get inside the heart of the client with a series of branded answers to key questions.
- What does the product look like?
- Where is it being sold?
- What kind of people buy it?
- Which "tribe" will I be joining if I buy it?
- What does the cost say about the desirability?
- What are other people saying about it?
- Who makes it?
This is all good for salespeople hear. When branding folks insist on a list of standards that salespeople find needless; salespeople would do well to remember there are very valid reasons for managing the "symbolic attributes"!

5. Our brains filter out irrelevant information; letting in only what is different and useful. It's good to see brand managers being told to get "different" and be "useful". So much that passes as advertising is neither. But salespeople need the same lesson! In branding it's called market research. In sales it's called listening and interviewing. The day has come when brands and sales must be creatively relevant. Fail here and everyone should plan to be ignored.

6. Neumeier says design ignites passion in people. He's right. But traditional adversarial and manipulative sales processes are certain to put the fire out! I know from personal experience that, in its heyday, Saturn's brand fire burned all the more because of a sales process that was as distinctive and relevant as the brand. Well-designed products and services deserve well-designed sales processes. Keep the fire burning brand builders and sales makers!

7. Finally, The Brand Gap introduces the "brandometer" - a durable set of ideas about what the brand is and what makes it tick. Sales is not excluded from using the "brandometer"! No one is excluded! Everyone must ask the million-dollar question: "Will it help or hurt the brand?" This is the discipline question. I know sales people might want to fudge here. They live with the pressure of making their numbers. But don't give in to the temptation. Ask that question often enough and sincerely - and, you will be making millions by selling millions.
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on January 23, 2006
I am not a CEO, owner, entrepreneur, SVP of marketing, nor do I work in a company struggling to turn a fourth-tier brand into a world beater. Those are the native audiences for this wonderful, finish-it-in-a-plane-ride book. I'm a writer and consultant trying to explain branding to fundraisers, and what I intensely like about Marty Neumeier's brief "whiteboard overview" (his phrase) of branding is that it answers ALL my questions about branding and brand strategy quickly, simply, with nicely selected examples. It starts with what branding is NOT (not your logo, not your visual ID, not your products). Then it defines what it truly is, "A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service, or company." That's in the first couple of pages. But of course there's so much more. I love a good, insight-rich how-to book the way others love a good mystery. The Brand Gap is among the best.
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VINE VOICEon August 23, 2007
Marty Neumeier has written two "whiteboard" style books both dealing with branding and innovation - this is the first one. By whiteboard style, Neumeier's book is light on written content, moderate on visual content and layout, and heavy on basic, important, sharp ideas.

The book covers 5 principles to help bridge the gap between strategic thinking and creative 'magic' and uses a variety of visual and written metaphors, examples, and logical knowledge to do so. If you are looking for a text-heavy, super explanatory, in-depth type of book, then this isn't the one for you. If you're looking to focus your mindset when it comes to innovative branding, this is a great, go-to book to get through in a short amount of time.

The two main things I liked about this book were the fact it actually followed a lot of its own principles in terms of how it was designed/set up etc. and it also packed a lot of universality into these generic yet focused, sensical tips.

Case in is what you'll get out of the book if you are:

A Student/Novice in the Field: Students will love this book to help them review a lot of what's happening in marketing right now, and the 5 guiding principles can help them innovate at their future workplaces. The expanded edition of this book includes a 200 word glossary of advertising terms that'll also help students and novices talk the talk.

Agencies: will delight at the tests Neumeier asks you to go through when developing a brand, particularly graphically in the "icon/avatar" section. The real-life examples of successful businesses identify the longevity of the brands and how it is obtained, giving hints to marketing/advertising agencies how to get that same magic formula.

Businesses: whether small or large, this is a great book to have. If you have an internal promotions/marketing department, this book should be distributed to the head of your branding staff to help them focus your company's direction in the market. If you are the owner of a small business without an internal marketing department, this book can help introduce you to the fundamental principles of branding that you can then discuss with an external agency.

Overall a great quick read that kept me hooked, never bored, and always thinking. The summative list of the main topics discussed throughout the book at the end was extremely helpful, although the glossary was kind of out of place as half the words in the glossary aren't used in the text. Probably helpful for beginners in the ad industry though.
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on July 3, 2004
The Brand Gap picks up where Trout and Ries leave off. It gets into areas that traditional marketing and positioning books fear to tread, namely the role of aesthetics in building brands. As a 30-year veteran of Madison Avenue, I've learned the hard way that it doesn't matter how great your strategy is---it's execution PLUS strategy that moves products. Neumeier is one of the first to recognize this simple but elusive truth. It's enough to give one hope for the future of the marketing business. For that matter, for the future of business. Period.
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on April 18, 2004
Those who characterize The Brand Gap is a primer are missing the point. While the book does condense and clarify many existing theories of branding, it contributes one huge idea that has never been adequately addressed---namely, that unless strategy is connected to customer delight, there IS no brand. There's just a great business strategy that no one can see, or else there's a feel-good image that isn't based on business reality. Either extreme leads eventually to brand failure. In addition to the core idea of this book, I found a number of subordinate ideas that seem extremely fresh in the marketing world: the changing requirements for trademarks and identities, the collaborative brand-building model, and the need for Chief Brand Officers to coordinate the work, to name a few. The book may seem simple, but its simplicity is deceptive. I loved it so much that I attended one of Neumeir's workshops and was not disappointed. Both the book and the workshop are perfect examples of branding in action. They're different, collaborative, innovative, tested, and they lead to sustainable business success. Great stuff.
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on September 1, 2006
in existence, that still tells most important things about branding you need to know.

It said nothing new to me, but then again I have read the authors and branding / positioning gurus Marty Neumeier mentions and quotes plus two dozen other books on branding and strategy.

So instead of doing it the hard way, like I did, you CAN actually find out most you need to know about branding from this rather small book during a three hour flight.

One thing I don't like about this book is its "look and feel", layout and fonts.

Its like the author wanted to be SO COOL and innovative SO BAD that he took it overboard. I found it annoying, not cool at all.
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on January 4, 2004
I liked the book a lot. The back cover makes a comparison to McLuhan, but it reminded me of Strunk and White in The Elements of Style. What Strunk and White did for writers, Neumeier has done for branders by compressing the best thinking into a slim volume that delivers the fundamentals in an entertaining way. He also follows the Strunkian dictum to omit needless words. How many marketing books can you say that about? McLuhan did not hold up well over the years. I think Neumeier will.
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on February 26, 2005
I purchased this book because of all the good reviews, but if you are a graphic designer, this is waaay too basic. It gives you an outline of what branding isn't, but doesn't go much into what branding Is, or any critical information on how to build a brand. Honestly, it left me more perplexed than before! I did learn a couple of things hence the three stars, for instance, logo's are dead, and icons or avatars are better, and the theory of the "Living Brand" was right on. The author said that he wanted to take out the fluff, but I think he left it a little too light.
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