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Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands Paperback – September 30, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0321426772 ISBN-10: 0321426770 Edition: 1st

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Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands + The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design + The Designful Company: How to build a culture of nonstop innovation
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: New Riders; 1 edition (September 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321426770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321426772
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Each of [Neumeier’s] books is excellent, but ZAG is revolutionary.”

“You already know that this book has the best title of any marketing book in a generation. What you don’t know is the details of the Intrusiveness Death Spiral and what to do about it. This little book ought to help. A lot.”

“Here’s a practical field guide on how to create and grow a world-class brand, so no more excuses—read it now and start zagging.”

“The revolution needs passion, imagination, and a dangerous handbook. Here
it is, born in the trenches yet written with enough verve and imagination to get you out of them—fast.”

“A big idea surrounded by 17 practical steps and presented in a delightful style.  The presentation alone is worth the price of the book.”

“Awesome book—even better than THE BRAND GAP. It arrived at my desk like a familiar but new friend.”

“There are two strategy choices: Do what everyone else is doing, only better, cheaper, or faster. Or do something different and truly distinctive. Marty Neumeier offers essential insights into how to do the latter.”

"ZAG is the new GPS for marketers. Clear, crisp directions for building strong brands and keeping them fresh and relevant. Read it before your competition does and stay one zag ahead.”

“Never has one author jammed so many good ideas into so few pages as Marty Neumeier has.”

"It is part manifesto, part practical handbook, and you can read it between LaGuardia and Logan.”

From the Back Cover

"When everybody zigs, zag," says Marty Neumeier in this fresh view of brand strategy. ZAG follows the ultra-clear "whiteboard overview" style of the author's first book, THE BRAND GAP, but drills deeper into the question of how brands can harness the power of differentiation. The author argues that in an extremely cluttered marketplace, traditional differentiation is no longer enough—today companies need “radical differentiation” to create lasting value for their shareholders and customers. In an entertaining 3-hour read you'll learn:

- why me-too brands are doomed to fail
- how to "read" customer feedback on new products and messages
- the 17 steps for designing “difference” into your brand
- how to turn your brand's “onliness” into a “trueline” to drive synergy
- the secrets of naming products, services, and companies
- the four deadly dangers faced by brand portfolios
- how to “stretch” your brand without breaking it
- how to succeed at all three stages of the competition cycle

From the back cover:
In an age of me-too products and instant communications, keeping up with the competition is no longer a winning strategy. Today you have to out-position, out-maneuver, and out-design the competition. The new rule? When everybody zigs, zag. In his first book, THE BRAND GAP, Neumeier showed companies how to bridge the distance between business strategy and design. In ZAG, he illustrates the number-one strategy of high-performance brands—radical differentiation.

ZAGis an AIGA Design Press book, published under Peachpit's New Riders imprint in partnership with AIGA. For a quick peek inside ZAG, go to

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Customer Reviews

This book is a quick and easy read.
Cynthia Kocialski
I have used direct quotes from this book in decks for presentations and it really adds extra credibility when you are trying to make a point.
C. Didonato
It is a book I highly recommend for any person who wants to know about brand marketing.
Laura Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In a previous book, The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier explains how companies can bridge the gap between business strategy and customer experience, noting that brand-building isn't a series of isolated activities; rather, it is a complete system in which five disciplines - differentiation, collaboration, innovation, validation, and cultivation - "combine to produce a sustainable competitive advantage. " His intent in Zag "is to zoom in on differentiation to reveal the system within the system."

Initially, he observes that the human mind deals with clutter the best way it can: by blocking it out. As a result, "the newest barriers to competition are the mental walls that customers erect to keep out clutter. For the first time in history, the most powerful barriers to competition are not controlled by companies, but by customers. Those little boxes they build in their minds determine the boundaries of brands." (Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck also have much of value to say about these boundaries and barriers in The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business.) In his latest book, Neumeier explains how to overcome these barriers with radical innovation - "the engine for a high performance brand" - that requires mastery of four disciplines:

1. Finding your zag
2. Designing your zag
3. Building your zag
4. Renewing your zag

Everything begins with identifying the zag. That is, offering something that combines the qualities of both good and different. "When focus is paired with differentiation, supported by a trend, and surrounded by compelling communications, you have the basic ingredients of a zag."

OK, but how to do that? Neumeier provides a design process that consists of 17 checkpoints, each formulated as a question.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Scurry on March 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
How do you know if you should read this book? Simple, finish this sentence:

Our brand is the only ____________that ______________.

If you completed that sentence with something only your brand can do then you don't need to bother. If not, stop reading and order now.

Although everyone says they are (probably) uniquely qualified to do whatever it is they do, few can actually plug the holes in the sentence. Zag will teach you how.

Zag teaches that the only way to differentiate yourself is to zag when everybody zigs. Go where no one else has gone before. Don't make it different - make it radically different! Don't worry, there is a 17-point checklist to walk you through it.

Like the Brand Gap, Neumeier has dropped the heft and delivered "easy-to-read, easy-to-use and easy-to-remember principles." No words or pages are wasted in Zag.

I give it my highest rating.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Marcos on December 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
I guess if the author had stated clearly that this book was a pastitsio, or a mix of other marketing books, I could actually give it 4 stars. Indeed, it is a great short summary of marketing common sense, and one which I could easily refer students to. The core of the book is a check list from the company's mission to communication to the points of contact with the customer, much like a homework marketing managers should be doing already.

However, the book doesn't bring ONE new idea into the stage. They are all ideas from other authors, whom surprisingly recommend the book, when they should instead be suing Neumeier for plagiarism.

The very concept of ZAG, a catch word if there was ever one, is the same as Seth Godin's Purple Cow: a unique differentiation concept that would put you ahead of the competition. Then he spends a good time explaining how the consumer has a specific mind niche for each category, a concept that is present in the 1980 book "Positioning", by Ries and Trout. He uses Godin's "Tribes"concept a lot. Drop a little Aaker into the mix and you have ZAG.
I am mesmerized, because the author recommends these very books he got all the ideas from, in the end of his text.

So, is it ok now to almost cut & paste other works as long as you mention them in the appendix ? Is this an editorial marketing ploy ?
If you are not bothered by this, then go ahead and buy the book. It is an easy read and the ideas are useful.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Evan Blittner on June 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Positioning a brand to genuinely differ itself from the competition is one thing. This book goes beyond most branding books by providing a handbook that clearly identifies strategies to create a distinctive consumer experience (ZAG). Neumeier uses real world examples to demonstrate how brands ZAG using organically grown strategies and execution that is placed into their entire culture.

The book provides detailed explanations as well as charts for key themes such as Good and Different, Defining a brand, Market place clutter, Designing your ZAG, True lines that translate into real world Taglines, engagement, and how to create mutual loyalty programs that engage and challenge consumers rather than buy loyalty with discounts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brittany Rose VINE VOICE on September 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book at the same time as the Brand Gap, being confident in the fact they'd both be helpful, well-written, yet densely packed tomes of information - and I was right!

Zag hones in on one element discussed in the Brand Gap - differentiation - and expands it into a 200-so page book. According to Neumeier, differentiation, or creating zag, is one of the most important elements of branding - and it needs to happen at every step of the way, from conception to naming to marketing.

The great thing about Zag is the way it presents the information - much like in the Brand Gap it follows a 'whiteboard', graphic-heavy, basic (but important) facts. This time around however, it pairs the basic format with a strong, easy-to-follow example through the faux development of an educational wine bar chain.

Neumeier then takes the reader through 17 steps (including some helpful exercises) you should take as a business owner, venture capitalist, or advertising professional when determining whether your product is zagworthy - or how to make it so it is.

In terms of why I gave the book 4 stars as opposed to 5...The last section of the book - once the 17 steps are completed and the wine bar is 'fully developed' - is a little bit dense/doesn't seem to flow as well as the rest of the book/series.

Also there is a decent amount of repetition between Zag and the Brand Gap, and I am hesitant in believing that people would pick up one without the other. Although it makes sense to reinforce the principles (and sell more books I'm sure) in some cases, it almost made it hard to differentiate some of the messages between the books, making me feel a bit cheated in that I paid money to read the same pages over.
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More About the Author

Marty Neumeier is a designer, writer, and business adviser whose mission is to bring the principles and processes of creativity to industry. His latest book, METASKILLS, explores the five essential talents that will drive innovation in the 21st century. His previous series of "whiteboard" books includes THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY, about the role of design in corporate innovation; ZAG, named one of the "top hundred business books of all time" for its insights into radical differentiation; and THE BRAND GAP, considered by many the foundational text for modern brand-building. He has worked closely with innovators at Apple, Netscape, Sun Microsystems, HP, Adobe, Google, and Microsoft to advance their brands and cultures. Today he serves as Director of Transformation for Liquid Agency, and travels extensively as a workshop leader and speaker on the topics of innovation, brand, and design. Between trips, he and his wife spend their time in California and southwest France.

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Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands
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