Category Archives: Branding Resources

A remarkable branding website

This morning I received an emailed newsletter from The Cult Branding Company, a branding consultancy and provider of tons of information on the subject. Despite its rather mundane name, they have done a very good job of practicing what they preach: developing a brand that attracts a cult following.

I clicked through to their website and spent over an hour reading and downloading articles and viewing videos covering cult brands and branding under these subject headings:

Cult Branding
Brand Loyalty
Consumer Behavior
Word of Mouth
Business Life
Brand Modeling
Cult Brand Profiles

In addition to these wonderful resources, BJ Bueno, a founder of The Cult Branding Company, has written a book and an accompanying workbook which can be purchased from the site.

But also, the Cult Branding Workbook in pdf form can be downloaded for free. Just scroll down past the “buy at Amazon” offer.

Even without having the attendant book, the workbook is an invaluable guide to developing a cult brand. Highly recommended.

They also maintain a blog (naturally), and a not-too-frequent newsletter.

I’m a member of this cult and urge you to look into its value for your business.

Branding Books from Left Field

In this series, I’ve recommended six books so far, and all of them (except the possible exception of Blue Ocean Strategy) were specific to branding.

But the three books I’m recommending today address three non-branding topics, but each presents concepts that, in my opinion, can be effectively adopted to enhance a brand. They may not apply to every brand or every situation, but it’s always nice to have a “full set of clubs” when you approach the first tee.

Here they are in no particular order:

Crossing the Chasm

written by venture consultant, Geoffrey A. Moore, concentrates on marketing new technologies to mainstream customers. The first version was written 19 years ago now, and revised in 1999. But I believe the strategies explained within are not only valid today, but perhaps even more relevant than when first penned. My copy highlights many pithy concepts and strategies that are designed to help those who are creating “breakthrough” products (like the iPod or the Kindle) understand the process of identifying and nurturing early adopters, enlisting joint venture partners, “crossing the chasm between early adapters to the mainstream and the shelves at Wal-Mart and Best Buy.

Of particular interest to me is his approach to fashioning a positioning statement, and its need in the introductory process so people will know what the product is and who it competes against. This is particularly important when your product is a new concept because there’s the initial confusion of what it is and why should I, the consumer, what one.

Here’s his positioning statement structure. Just fill in your own nomenclature between the parentheses:

For (target customers)
Who are dissatisfied with (the current market alternative)
Our brand is a (new product category)
That provides (key problem-solving capability).
Unlike (product alternative),
We have assembled (key product features for your specific application).

I’ve used this model with several clients to good effect. And, yes, Mr. Moore advocates the original goal of “positioning” – to create and occupy a space inside the target customers’ collective mind.

Jump Start Your Business Brain

by Doug Hall is directed at small businesses and concerns marketing, sales and business development. Mr. Hall has studied small business practices (Merwyn Technology) and advised marketers of all stripes (Eureka! Ranch). Though based on research, the book illustrates its conclusions with many real-life samples. From it all, Mr. Hall has crystallized a formula for success, and for me, that formula is inherent in effective branding. Here are the three principles he has identifies and espouses for developing a successful business (or a successful brand).

Those principles are:

Provide an overt benefit.
Demonstrate a reason to believe.
Promote a dramatic difference.

In a way, these principles could have come from a good copywriting text. But Mr. Hall advocates real benefits, real credibility and real dramatic differences. This goes beyond promotional appeals and gets directly into the heart of the business. It’s what makes for powerful branding when the entire organization is concentrating on those three real core values. There’s where outstanding brands evolve.

Embracing the N.u.d.e. Model

by Scott and Donna Degraffenreid is sub-titled “The Art and Science of Referral Marketing”. This small tome contains the results of Scott’s research within the pharmaceutical community where prescription medicines rely greatly of referrals. His research and later analysis led him to develop a generalized model of how referrals actually work, and how knowing this, a marketer can benefit. He calls it the N.U.D.E. Model because of its four components:


These four factors need to be present if a product or service is to be referred frequently, either by customers or gatekeepers. They add up to the reason people will refer others in the first place: to look good in the referee’s eyes. The formula to balance the four attributes is also presented.

I’ve had personal conversations with Scott (that’s why I use his first name) about the application of his model to the branding process. He and I agree that by applying the N.U.D.E. model a better branded offering will result. It will be consistent, differentiated and memorable.

So there you have three books not directly addressing branding, but from which branding strategy and tactis can be extracted.

As I stated in previous posts about branding books, if you click on a title you’ll be sent to the appropriate page in Amazon. And if you buy a book, I’ll get a very small commission.

Let me know of your favorite books on branding by using the comment box below.

Three more outstanding branding books

I mentioned in my last blog about choosing three branding books I’d recommend as the text for a “night school” class in branding. I promised reviews on three other branding books I’ve found helpful.

Since I focus on helping smaller organizations develop strong brands, the books I’ve chosen have that orientation. There are several other books I like a lot, but they’re more for big brands with big budgets. Several of them are academic texts by Kevin Lane Keller and David A. Aaker.

Branding books I recommend

Anyway, here are the “second-tier” branding books from my library.

Brand Aid

By Brad VanAuken is subtitled An Easy Reference Guide to Solving Your Toughest Branding Problems and Strengthening You Market Position. You can, and probably should begin this book at the beginning and read it straight through as you would a text book. But I find it valuable as a reference guide. Whenever I’m looking for a technique or process relevant to a client’s problem, I’ll find Brand Aid to be a great source. Mr. VanAuken has provided checklists, case studies and mini-tutorials on most major branding topics and issues. The book is organized in six parts: Introduction to Brand Management, Designing the Brand, Building the Brand, Leveraging the Brand, Other Brand Management Considerations, and finally, A Summary. Particularly helpful are two appendices, one on brand audits, the other on online brand management.

Integrated Branding

By F. Joseph LePla and Lynn M. Parker is another book taking a strategic approach to branding. The authors have developed an “Integrated Brand Model” involving three concentric circles that outline the three levels of activity that define brands: brand conveyors, brand drivers and organizational drivers.. The inner-most circle is designated “Organizational Drivers” (Mission, Values, Story). The next circle, “Brand Drivers”, consist of Principle, Personality and Associations. Brand Conveyors reside in the outer circle. They include communications and positioning, strategy and products. How it all fits together to form an integrated brand is discussed in depth.


By Marty Neumeier is the quickest read of any I’ve recommended. It, and a companion book,The Brand Gap, have simplified the ideas of branding. Both are fairly short books with big type. And both can be found in presentation form on Mr. Neumeier’s website.
I picked Zag over The Branding Gap for this blog because it speaks to the number one (in my opinion) issue in branding – differentiation. His premise is study your competition and do something they aren’t doing. As the book jacket proclaims, “Today you have to out-position, out-maneuver, and out-design the competition. The new rule? When everybody zigs, zag”. He outlines a 17-step process (simpler that it sounds) to do just that.

If you click on the titles, you’ll be directed to Amazon where you can buy them. I’ll make a small, commission if you buy.

So, that’s a total of six highly recommended books. Notice I didn’t include the highly readable and thought-provoking works by Seth Godin, Tom Peters or Guy Kawasaki. They’re helpful and useful, but don’t concentrate on branding per se. Next blog will feature three books that are not exclusively branding books, but ones that have helped be brand in unusual ways.

And if you have any favorites you’d like to share, please make a comment here and share your enthusiasm with others.

Branding books that might actually help you brand

There’s a Meet-Up group here in Denver called Brand Café where 15-20 persons discuss a branding topic each month. This month our leader, Rex Whisman, suggested each of us bring in our favorite book on branding. It was to be a book we consider basic to our education as branders. Upon reading this notice, I immediately emailed asking the question: “must we limit it to one only?”

There are so many good ones available today.

I almost instantly thought of three books whose principles I’ve come to use in helping my clients develop their brands.
Three highly recommended branding books
So I went with them, even though right on the heels of my initial selections, three more titles popped into my consciousness.

Here are the first three books that have been the most useful in helping me help my clients fashion strong brands. I’ll blog about the second three next week.


by Allen P. Adamson, Managing Director of Landon Associates lays out some brand principles and a process that begins with establishing your brand idea. Then you can capsulate that basic idea – really get to the nub of it by creating a “brand driver”. Then he speaks to employee involvement: buying in to and participating in the branding process. Not until then does he introduce branding elements – first the name and then the other, relevant elements. The book also introduced me to a tool Adamson calls the “Customer Journey”. It’s a map showing the various touchpoints in the brand-customer relationship, beginning with first introduction through using and endorsing the brand. This process identifies customer and prospect mind sets along the various main paths from intro to evangelist (or critic). The book is as simple in organization as it is in message. Highly recommended.

Blue Ocean Strategy

by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne was a business book best seller a few years back – and with good reason. First, it’s not strictly a book on branding. It’s a book on creating a company that, as the subtitle suggests, shows “How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant”. And the authors really deliver. From a brander’s perspective, Blue Ocean Strategy is a primer on differentiation. By using the techniques expressed within these pages, the basic work of developing a brand platform and the brand driver (see BrandSimple) are presented as a by-product of this corporate strategy. I find the “Strategy Canvas” introduced in Blue Ocean Strategy to be helpful with even the smallest clients who usually begin the process believing their business is just like their competitors. This is just a beautiful presentation of how to create an exceptional business – and its associated brand.

The Infinite Asset

by Sam Hill and Chris Lederer is on this list because I find its “Brand Portfolio Molecule” a great way to analyze, develop and present a company’s brands in relation to one another, and with other brand associations like sponsorships, joint ventures and personalities. Although I’ve not had an opportunity to use all the features of the portfolio molecule with my base of smaller clients, the authors promise this tool is useful in many ways: identifying your lead brand in the eyes of customers, finds “holes” in a product line, helps judge the health of a brand, helps balance the portfolio, gauges the relationship between corporate and product brands, helps determine metrics and their measurement, I have found it most useful in demonstrating the great number of associations a brand may collect over time, and determining which are to be nourished and which weeded out.

That’s just a paragraph on each of three books I consider outstanding. If you click on the titles, you’ll be directed to Amazon where you can buy them, and if you do, I’ll receive a small, and I mean small, commission.

Incidentally, if you live in the metro Denver area, you are welcome to attend a Brand Café get-together. Just go to for more info and to sign up.

A new blog about branding surfaced in Australia

A friend from Down UnderIt’s the blog of Heywood Innovation, “a successful Sydney-based creative consultancy operating in Australia and Singapore”.

They’ve only posted 15-20 blogs so far and the content is no-nonsense basics. Here’s an example:

“The positioning statement delivers a quick, concise and meaningful message to a potential consumer which complements the brand name and visual identity and helps consumers to understand the personality of the brand. Positioning statements are generally drawn from one of five categories:
“> what you are
“> what you do
“> how you do it
“> who you are
“> why you do it”

Well, I would have liked some examples at least. It’s a well-designed site that may just become a valuable voice for branding “Down Under”.

I’d just ask Tony Heywood and the folks responsible for the blog to “lighten up” a little and share their experiences along with the text-book content.

Martin Jelsema

My Branding Guru Totem Pole

My totem pole of branding iconsThere are some people who I believe have the right ideas about branding and the innate ability to communicate them. Now I don’t put them on a pedestal because they agree with me. They’re there because they’ve taught me something, or put into words some basic truths in a compelling way.

My list, from top to bottom, is fairly small because you can’t build a totem pole higher than a lodge pole pine. Continue reading My Branding Guru Totem Pole