Archive for category Book Reviews

Book Review: Brand esSense

Posted by on Sunday, 20 April, 2014

Brand-esSenseI actually finished Brand esSense by Neil Gains a few weeks ago. I’m glad I fell behind with reviews though. Last week a friend and I chatted about the popularity of a branding session at the recent Market Mix conference. We couldn’t understand why marketers are confused by branding, when it’s essentially unchanged since the 1940s. That’s when brands were first described as anthropological concepts.

Without that discussion, I would have deemed Brand esSense an overly academic, deep read in a short book. It is an academic deep read in 232 pages, but it’s also an excellent bridge between the sensory aspects of brand and how they are used with current marketing tactics.

Who is Brand esSense for?

This needs answering a tad earlier than usual. Brand esSense is for the experienced marketers, like the ones at Market Mix. The ones with brand theory knowledge. This book skips the basics and jumps straight into the psychology behind the components of brands. It’s a heavy book.

Does it Really Go That Deep?

Yes, it does. After reading this book you’ll know which colors elicit anger, why to use smell, and creating archetypes, among others. See, I said it’s detailed.

The detail makes it a hard hard read. It’s also not linear so concepts jump around, which can be confusing. Archetypes is one. While this sounds nasty, especially when you look at other books like Seth Godin’s lighter reads, I recommend Brand esSense, just for a more academic read or experienced marketer. The detail includes some amazing research. Both scientific research and case studies explain and show how each concept helps form a brand.

And if Brand esSense gets too dry, skip to chapter eight. It’s a great summary of the book and gives enough detail to stand on its own.

Note: Being an Australian in the US meant the play on essence really confused me. I’ve been i the US long enough now to confuse Australian/UK English and did actually check spelling before posting this. Tangent, but I hope you weren’t confused too.

Book Review: The Power of Visual Storytelling

Posted by on Thursday, 3 April, 2014

The-Power-of-Visual-StorytellingWow, The Power of Visual Storytelling launched with a bang.

My Twitter feed during SXSW was filled with praise for Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio’s new book. In the book, there are endorsements from power names, including Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki, and Charlene Li.

With these high expectations, what’s The Power of Visual Storytelling about?

It’s 221 pages of stats, profiles, and recent case studies of social media campaigns. I especially loved Ekaterina’s personal experiences with @BenefitBeauty’s #BeautyBoost campaign.

The call-out boxes off each social media platform make the book a valuable resource, for now at least. We all know that social media is dynamic and it’s often hard to get a conclusive profile and how-to for each platform. I applaud the research that went into this.

Who is The Power of Visual Storytelling for?

This question was tricky at first because I overlooked the sub-title and was expecting a book on actually story telling and using visuals to tell narrative. You know, all the hero’s journey and overcoming adversary etc. This book comes after that. There’s a short chapter on the benefits of storytelling, but if you’re looking for more on storytelling, check out Nancy Duarte’s books.

For the next few months, The Power of Visual Storytelling is a brilliantly useful resource show how to tactically use images on social media. Just get in quick, before facebook makes a major change… again.

Book Review: Digital Branding

Posted by on Monday, 3 March, 2014

Digital-BrandingDigital Branding by Daniel Rowles is exactly the digital marketing book I would write. It’s current, relevant, very practical, honest, and topical. Perhaps a little too much so. I can see some “old-timers” being intimidated by the practices Rowles demands.

The book is divided in three parts. The first is an introduction to digital branding with some great definitions. This is where the “love” count started early. Yes, most digital communications about a brand don’t directly include the brand. Yes, it needs to be measurable. And my favorite, verbatim, “brand awareness is a phrase that is often used to justify digital activity that doesn’t have clear objectives”. I’m not telling which early project I worked on where this was a common management line.

Digital Branding’s value is in the second part: The Digital Toolkit. It’s practical and realistic, suggesting free tools, and acknowledging the top end of the market, like Google Analytics Enterprise. Intermixed are case studies and advice, with gems like only doing something if you have something to say, and that social media is essentially PR.

Part three, Strategy and Measurement, is the weakest, but only in parts. The strategy chapter is less tangible fluff. This is made up in the next chapter. Analytics describes useful reports in Google Analytics. I love (yes, love count was high) the reminder that a high bounce rate isn’t bad if the customer got what they needed.

Who is Digital Branding For?

I think my annotation here was perfect: “Am I loving this because it reinforces my ideas and it’s actually too basic? Who is this for?”

It’s detailed enough for experienced digital marketers, but clear enough for marketers new to digital, or even non-marketers. Of course, the newer you are the more you’ll get from Digital Branding, but I picked up some tools from the kit and a couple of tips.

This book isn’t release until April, but I recommend it. In fact, I’m buying a copy. My ARC was produced too early for all the tables to be included.

Book Review: Accelerate

Posted by on Sunday, 16 February, 2014

AccelerateAccelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World is the latest business book by John P Kotter. Like his previous books, it’s short (200 pages), sweet and written to change the world. Due for release in April 2014.

I never did read Kotter’s famous Our Iceberg Is Melting when it was popular. However, when I finished Accelerate I was curious and checked the GoodReads reviews to see if it’s the same style. It is, and it is a distinct style.

Accelerate describes a model of running a traditional hierarchical corporate structure along side a more nimble, network-like structure similar to start-ups. He correctly states that companies using a traditional corporate structure are too slow to respond to market influences, much to their detriment, and sometimes downfall. Kotter calls this mix a “dual operating system”. Yes, it makes me think of running Windows on a Mac, too. He explains how volunteers need to be recruited to run the additional structure, which runs concurrent with the traditional one.

The book runs through how the dual systems can work with case studies that either have so many details removed to preserve anonymity or are fictitious. OK, I don’t meant to be nasty with this. It was just a surprise. Openness and disclosure is now the norm; this approach was just very old-school and comes across as theory only. It’s not all … theory. I love the table showing the difference between managers and leaders.

Who is Accelerate for?

If you’re in a senior executive in a large, traditional company, or an MBA candidate wanting a career in an above mentioned company, then this is for you. You’ll find lots of idealistic strategies to implement or reference. All from one evening’s reading and a known author you can name drop, and spout ideas to your colleagues.

However, if you’re looking for tactics and proven models, read something else. Like Guy Kawasaki or Scott Berkun’s books. Berkun’s reasoning that you need real management experience to write on the topic came to mind often while reading this. Especially chapter eight, the Q and A. Some of the answers are borderline delusional. Instructions like that employee management programs won’t be required because employees will want to do the tasks perfectly, and that budget isn’t needed because the employees will happily work up to 150% capacity, are very naive. They’re strangely reminiscent of Australia’s Natural Law Party of the 1990s.

Therefore my word of warning is to not depend on John P Kotter’s reputation when deciding on this book, but look to see if your aims and goals are the same. If so, then I thoroughly recommend Accelerate for you.

Book Review: Pioneers of Digital

Posted by on Thursday, 13 February, 2014

Pioneers-Of-DigitalWhere was this book when I was in grad school?

Pioneers of Digital (Paul Springer and Mel Carson) is a collection of 20 interviews and case studies looking at the founders of digital marketing, the ones who did it by design and those by accident.

In grad school one of my assignments required analyzing a case study from a book. Unfortunately the RMIT library’s marketing and PR section hadn’t been added to since 1990. Small exaggeration. Pioneers of Digital would have been my go-to.

Most of the interviews are essentially case studies of their careers. I loved reading what lead June Cohen to put Ted Talks online, discovering how many people started their careers in totally unrelated areas and fell into marketing and technology, and how success comes from making a difference, not by trying to make money. Two case studies told the story of hugely popular campaigns. I remember wasting a lot of time with Subservient Chicken without knowing it was a Burger King promotion. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty has continued to inspire women 10 years after its launch.

My favorites were Kyle MacDonald’s One Red Paperclip and, the surprising inclusion, Stephen Fry. Both chapters had more storytelling and feeling than the others, and that’s taking my bias aside. I’m a sucker for great marketing from outside the industry.

Pioneers of Digital closes with a statistics-filled summary of the up-and-coming digital marketing cities, and lessons from the pioneers interviewed. If the initial chapters are a bit hard to get through, the book is worth it for these two chapters.