Posts Tagged book review

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: 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: The Bright Idea Box

Posted by on Thursday, 16 January, 2014

bright-idea-boxLove count – six.

I read an ebook ARC of The Bright Idea Box by Jag Randhawa. As such, I made more annotations in the text than I do with a print copy. Some were detailed, some were to cross-reference items, others were simply the word, love. The Bright Idea Box got six “loves”.

Oops, I’m jumping ahead. It’s a first book by a business author, and was only released this week. Chances are this is the first you’re hearing about it. I should explain its topic.

The Bright Idea Box is a step-by-step guide to simultaneously innovate your business and increase employee engagement. Randhawa mixes his experiences with examples from other companies who do aspects of the MASTER program well. He then formatted it in a linear adoption plan, with workbook exercises, to take you through all that’s needed for implementation. Yes, it’s that practical and Randhawa makes it too easy and compelling not to implement. I love (there’s that word again) the chapter on each stakeholder and how get them on-board. He ran this to improve his team, but it can be done – small or big.

What I like about this book

  • It’s modest. Randhawa doesn’t claim to be world-changing. It’s very much “this worked for me”.
  • Sentences like, “Do employees understand the relationship between the company’s success and their success”, and “You will learn why employees either quit and leave, or quit and stay!”.
  • It’s perfectly practical. I actually noted this twice, but it’s true. Some tips are as basic as training your employees to listen to customers. I’ve worked with a company that charged a large Asian bank more than $1 million with this same advice.
  • Advising accountability in Reports and Dashboards. My comment on this section actually was (I’m blushing already), ” Will the author marry me?”. Jag? – update: I just saw the Amazon author profile. I concede I’m too late.
  • Advice on why this method works better than just a Suggestion Box in the corner. Employees submitting ideas need to show the business case, and there are details on how to support this ensuring implemented ideas support the company’s goals.

What could be better

  • Randhawa has so many great ideas that some could be books or shorts on their own. I love the what’s your passion exercise, I even blogged about it. But, it doesn’t really fit here.
  • The combination of marketing and employee engagement is great, but the link between them isn’t always clear.
  • A couple of times I found myself flicking back to see how we got onto topics. I didn’t read it in one hit, so maybe that was a factor, but the innovation versus invention discussion confused me. The MASTER program’s name could have been reinforced more through the steps.

We all know that with business books you need to pick and choose what you take from it. Do that with this one, but I’m sure you’ll be choosing the vast majority of it. There’s just so much “love” on the pages of the Bright Idea Box.

Book Review: Promote Yourself – The new rules for career success

Posted by on Saturday, 2 November, 2013

Promote Yourself Dan SchawbelIt’s hard to work out exactly why I don’t like Promote Yourself by Dan Schawbel. I’ve written many introductions and deleted them, all trying to find an objective reason.

I think it’s because there’s no clear audience identified.

There are many other reasons too, but they’re all subjective. The focus on millennials, the “it’s all about me” attitude, the instructions to do A and B to receive C. But these are disagreements, not reasons for it to be a bad book.

I know Dan Schawbel intends this book to be a career guide for millennials. I’m not convinced that’s who’ll get the most out of it.

I see the primary audience as early gen X and baby boomers who are struggling to relate to the younger members of their teams. The secondary is audience is millennials, but those who do well on tests, but struggle to make friends. The ones who want to be rich, famous and have an MBA, but lack an understanding of creativity or how.

Let me explain.

The first half of the book focuses on building your personal brand at work with the aim of getting promoted. Dan explains the need to network with the right people. He also explains how being a social media guru will make you indispensable, because no one older than “you” understands or can use the internet and computers. You can help them learn. But he also feels the need to explain what Twitter and Facebook are. By his reckoning, shouldn’t millennials already know that?

All through the book are to-do items. Take on an extra project, promote your wins, set up a personal website and you’ll be promoted. Sure there are caveats about over doing it and looking like a jerk, but I think the book (and its readers) would benefit from being told how and why. It’s there on a surface level, but reading this brought back memories of some jerks I’ve worked with. They knew how to tick boxes, but lacked the understanding to know which boxes should be ticked. One thing these jerks had in common was an MBA, giving them a great theoretical knowledge, but not the wisdom to apply it.

Which made me laugh at page 229: Should I Get an MBA? It’s probably the page I agreed with the most. No, an MBA isn’t mandatory, and is more useful in some companies than others. However, I’m not sure the entrepreneurs Dan used as examples of successful people without MBAs were the best to use. They each built their fortunes by making ideas happen, not by playing the game for a promotion large companies.

Promote Yourself isn’t all bad. Pointing out need to excel in your current job first is essential advice, dealing with job hopping and self-directed learning were other gems.

I’d love to give recommendations of alternative career books to read instead of this one, but it’s a sub-genre I tend not to read, so cannot. If anyone can, please add it to the comments. In the mean time, I’m sending this book to a millennial for his perspective.