Without a shadow of doubt, Mark Batey's Brand Meaning is one of the most inspiring books on brands that I've read. It is thoroughly researched, easy to read and contains plenty of ideas that page alter page poke standard brand knowledge. It offers a comprehensive view on how brands can connect consumer experience with business strategy in a useful and thoughtful combination of theory and practice. Batey manages to relate people to brands in new ways joining the dots between physical product, consumer experience, cultural background and human motivation, that gear up into a new perspective on what brands mean, and why and how they mean what they mean. Psychology, sociology and anthropoly blend with his own experience in branding and advertising, producing a text that goes much deeper than other respectful authors of the likes of Ries or Aaker. It may be a bit dense for starters in the subject, but is very thought-provocative for those who are already introduced into the basics of brand management and is, for example, a must read for my MBA students. It is often said that brands exist in consumers heads. If you really want to understand what lies underneath the statement you must read this book.
Brand Meaning is worth a read for a number of reasons. Firstly because Batey accentuates the trickiest part of branding: how can an inconspicuous brand become a meaningful iconic brand? Although he does not provide any golden tips, he does describe the things to take into account, and what you need to know. A second reason to read this book is for its sound scientific underpinning, which does not only draw on the latest literature and research on the subject. For many of the subjects he covers, Batey provides descriptions of their historical background (of values, for examples), thus not slipping into descriptions or predictions of what could possibly become fleeting trends in the long term. A third reason for picking up this book is that Batey contextualizes the concept 'brand meaning'. That means he does not only deal with brands' psychology, but also brands' financial value, and brand stretching.
Brand Meaning is made up of eight chapters. Batey starts off with an essay on the financial value of brands, and then moves on to the mental world a brand exists in. In the second chapter he zooms in on motivation; why and how people look for meaning in things (i.e. brands). This chapter is a must read for any self-respecting brand manager; if only as a way of going over all relevant interesting information again. In this chapter, Batey discusses subjects such as the relationship between human needs and the benefits brands can provide, values (including the Schwartz Value System used by social psychologists and anthropologists), means-end theory, emotion, and the role brands play in the shaping of people's self-image. Batey wraps this chapter up with an extensive description of the twelve archetypes and their relation to brands.
Chapter 3 of Brand Meaning is about perception, and in particular how specific cues can influence and/or steer our observations. Batey deals with all sensory systems at length here (visual, auditive, taste, scent and touch), and even describes a method of how brands can target these cues. Chapter 4 deals with the meaning of things, with concepts and theories such as connotation, denotation, semiotics, tangible and intangible qualities, and symbolic meaning reviewed. Chapter 5 goes on to focus on the meaning of brands, linking associations and meanings. This is where Batey distinguishes between primary and implicit brand meaning (with the latter being more subconscious, and shaped by an archetype, for example). Although the book has a strong theoretic grounding, Batey always manages to come up with applicable practical implications. In Chapter 6, Batey bridges the gap between brand meaning and branding strategy. He does so by, for example, looking at the implications for brand extensions, but also by homing in on the effects of brand extension on brand meaning. The motto of Chapter 7 is captured by a Good Year quote: `brands start off as labels on products and end up as icons of meaning'. In other words, this chapter focuses on the evolution of brand meaning. Batey finishes his book with a chapter on brand communication and how this can contribute to the creation and maintaining of brand meaning.
Seeing as Batey does not come from the world of marketing, but still worked in advertising for years, he provides insight into this world through the eyes of a `relative outsider'. Every now and then, this yields very refreshing insights. Some examples of Batey's unorthodox remarks: * 'Though companies create brand identities, people create brand meaning'. * 'Meaning is at the heart of consumer behaviour'. * 'Actual self + Brand = Ideal self'. And finally: `According to the Henley Centre in the United Kingdom (1999), consumers place far more trust in the Kellogg's brand than they do in members of Parliament'.
As an account planner with over 25 years' agency experience I have to say that this book feels like an important book on branding - maybe as important as David Aaker's book was in the late 1990s. It begins with a strong theoretical foundation, and includes all the most important classic and emerging research on branding. Batey spends a lot of time exploring the fundamental topic of human motivation and why we seek meaning. He highlights the needs and value systems that drive behavior -- he even has a cool chapter on "the meaning of things" which addresses how objects can come to be endowed with symbolic meaning in the first place.
But the book also has a very practical side - there are chapters on brand meaning in brand strategy (in fact, Batey encourages readers to think of brand management as brand meaning management)and his work on brand extensions, portfolio management and architecture is very applicable to our day-to-day situations as agency people.
I think Batey's greatest contribution to branding theory, though, comes in what he calls "implicit brand meaning" which is different from primary brand meaning - it's the meaning that taps into deep universal truths and cultural values, the meaning that transcends categories and product qualities. Batey calls it the "psychic resonance" of the brand, and includes lots of ideas on how to identify and manage implicit brand meaning.
If the book has a drawback, it comes in the density of the topic. It's chocked full of insights and thoughts. It's less skim-able than it might be, but it sure is underline-able once you get into it. You'll want to read it with pen in hand.
Great book. If you work in a field that involves the high-level management of brands, I believe this is a must read.
I particularly like how well thought-out and researched this book is. Instead of the subjective opinions and light substantiation of many books in the realm of business and marketing, this book is clearly the result of a very thoughtful survey of a huge amount of recent and relevant research in fields including psychology, sociology, anthropology and others. The author has combined this research with his broad experience actually practicing brand management into some very solid thinking that I found truly useful.
The first sections on why humans need meaning, perception and symbolism are great. They bring in a ton of research and literature to support and clarify the author's ideas which are solid, with some real new thinking in the mix. The rest of the book is a "theory in practice" section with many fresh case studies I haven't read in other marketing books, and some good practical advice.
The only fault I found with the book is that it's written using quite formal language, which can make it a little thick to get through at times.
As you can probably sense, this is not the book for you if you want a little light, weekend reading on the subject of brands. But if you work in or around the field or plan to, I believe this is a truly important book to read.
Some brands are much more than just products, companies or logos. Some brands are cultural icons, rich with meaning. BMW, for example, is not just a car. It's a statement of accomplishment, refinement and wealth. People don't buy BMWs simply for transportation. This exceptional little book looks at the many dimensions of brand meaning. The author first establishes a theoretical basis by considering the human motivation for meaning and perception. He wraps up the book by connecting theory and practice with three excellent chapters on brand strategy, the evolution of brand meaning and brand communication. People make buying decisions, Batey argues, not simply to satisfy utilitarian needs, but to satisfy much deeper emotional and spiritual needs. The challenge of the marketing profession is to understand this phenomenon and to address the symbolic need as much as the superficial. This book has become required reading for my marketing department.