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The Brand Bubble - Book Review (HBR 11-01-08)

The Brand Bubble - Book Review (HBR 11-01-08)

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Published by John Gerzema

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Published by: John Gerzema on Sep 17, 2010
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Harvard Business Review
November 2008
The Brand Bubble: The LoomingCrisis in Brand Value and How toAvoid It
John Gerzema and Ed Lebar
(Jossey-Bass, 2008) 
With consumers taking quality forgranted and treating more products ascommodities, companies are having atougher time making their brands standout. But has branding gotten fundamen-tally less rewarding, or do marketers justneed a new approach? Ad executivesGerzema and Lebar offer lots of evidenceof brand weakness, but they also point toVirgin and other “buzz” marks to showthat consumers still reward “energetic” brands. To get that energy, they say, man-agers can ramp up product innovation(P&G’s Swiffer), instill a point of view(Vanguard’s investor-centrism), and pro-duce videos and games that consumerscan share (Smirnoff’s viral hip-hop party).The authors don’t rigorously distinguishtheir approach from traditional advice, but the book is a wake-up call for market-ers who think more branding per se willsave them.
– John T. Landry
Future Imperfect: Technology andFreedom in an Uncertain World
David D. Friedman
(Cambridge University Press, 2008) 
We want the world to be orderly, but toooften it is simply a mess. Friedman, a lawprofessor, gleefully sorts out a host of messes having to do with a wide range of world-changing technologies. For everymanifest benefit (say, reducing crimethrough universal surveillance), there’s agnarly negative (adios, privacy). Friedmandoesn’t duck the big issues: the death of copyright protection; nanotechnology;cloning, genetic engineering, and otheradvanced reproductive therapies; cogni-tive enhancement through pharmacol-ogy; the growing difficulty (due in part totools that allow users to veil their identi-ties) of enforcing contracts in cyberspace.Friedman is honest enough not toclaim to be a seer – the future is both im-perfect and uncertain. But he frames thepossibilities evenhandedly, with energeticcomprehensiveness.
– Lew McCreary
The Trophy Kids Grow Up
How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace
Ron Alsop
(Jossey-Bass, 2008
Take a generation of kids who have been showered with praise for the mostmodest accomplishments (“You brushed your teeth? Good job!”) and an acutesense of entitlement (“Trophies for everyone!”) and what do you get when theyenter the workforce? An unquenchable thirst for praise and, you guessed it, anacute sense of entitlement. Twenty-somethings pester managers for constant(positive) feedback and have unreal expectations when it comes to career ad-vancement. They disdain face time and expect managers to accommodate theirdesire for work/life balance, well before they’ve paidany dues. And beware the scorned offspring: Someparents don’t hesitate to call a manager to complainabout junior’s less-than-stellar performance review.But like it or not, says Ron Alsop, author of
The Trophy Kids Grow Up,
these kids are our future.Boomers are heading into retirement, and we havejobs to fill. Alsop takes a microscope to the distinctattributes of what he calls the “millennials” (bornbetween 1980 and 2001) and finds that the newsisn’t all bad – far from it. First, older millennials haveremained close to their parents, and their affinitygenerally translates into good relationships withother adults. Alsop quotes the chief recruiter at L’Oréal, François de Wazières:“I tell our managers the good news is that this generation won’t hate you.” Moreimportant, they’re strikingly achievement oriented. They grew up in an era ofstandardized tests, and they want to score well. (The book applies most directlyto the West, but talented young employees in developing countries share manyof the same characteristics, despite growing up under dramatically differentcircumstances. See “Winning the Race for Talent in Emerging Markets,” byDouglas A. Ready, Linda A. Hill, and Jay A. Conger, in this issue of HBR.) Andwhile companies may need to teach some basic corporate manners –turn off that iPod in meetings and leave the ripped jeans at home – it turns outthat the old guard can learn from millennials when it comes to technology savvy.They’re also socially conscious and environmentally aware, and they put a pre-mium on corporate responsibility. It’s hard not to pin our hopes for planet Earthon what Alsop describes as possibly the “most generous generation.Much of the book covers familiar ground. We’ve all seen articles about “he-licopter parents” who hover over college applications and grading procedures.Speaker and consultant Tammy Erickson (an HBR author and blogger) haswritten extensively on generational conflicts and how executives can accom-modate younger talent while maintaining their sanity. Her February 2008 HBRList item, “Task, Not Time,” underscored this new generation’s desire to berecognized for results and not forced into any preconceived notions of how,when, or where they do their work. None of Alsop’s ideas for attracting andmanaging new employees is exactly rocket science: Establish an appealing on-line presence. Make your career website fun and informative. Be honest aboutwork/life balance and community engagement. Nevertheless, it’s sensibleadvice for anyone responsible for filling the talent pipeline.
– M. Ellen Peebles

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