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Book reviews Brand Royalty: How the world’s top 100 brands thrive and survive

by Matt Haig
Kogan Page Ltd, UK; 2004; ISBN 0 7494 4257 3; 288pp plus 16pp colour illustrations; hardback; £18.99

This book is a very enjoyable and stimulating tour round some of the success stories from the world of branding. Author Matt Haig acknowledges that there doubtlessly will be objections to some of the brands contained within what he has chosen as his world’s top 100 brands, while defending his choice on the basis that the spectrum of brands covered allows for vivid demonstration of some of the common themes that characterise durably successful brands. Haig puts brands and branding in the context of wider society by stating that through the invention of a new product category or the radical change of an old one, a brand becomes more than a machine for making money; it becomes an influencer on society, changing the nature of everyday life. ‘Brand Royalty’ consists of a series of 100 vignettes, each easily digestible at an average of three or four pages’ length, summarised with a ‘Secrets of Success’ list of bullet points. Of course such brevity can lead to superficiality, as in the case of the BMW vignette where the secrets of success are given as ‘Definition: A BMW defines its owner. It says the owner is likely to be wealthy, adrenalin-seeking, competitive, driven and looking for an

‘‘ultimate’’ experience’, and ‘Focus: Although BMW has made the odd mistake of moving too far up- or downmarket, it has generally kept the kind of tight focus necessary for any corporate brand’. Although these observations may be somewhat trite, the vast majority of the cases discussed in the book are done so in an extremely incisive and entertaining manner. For the 17 chapters that comprise the book, Haig has used a taxonomy that categorises brands in various ways, for example, ‘Innovation brands’ such as Adidas, Sony, Hoover and Toyota; ‘Pioneer brands’ such as Gillette, Kleenex, Wrigley and Heinz; ‘Distraction brands’ such as MTV, Harry Potter and Disney; ‘Streamlined brands’ such as Cosmopolitan, Nokia and Toys ‘R’ Us; ‘Muscle brands’ such as IBM, Wal-Mart and Microsoft; ‘Distinction brands’ such as Evian, Duracell and Heineken; ‘Status brands’ such as Rolex, Courvoisier, Burberry and Gucci; ‘People brands’ such as David Beckham, Jennifer Lopez and Oprah Winfrey; and ‘Responsibility brands’ such as Ben & Jerry’s, Cafedirect and Seeds of Change. This taxonomy gives a solid structure and flow to the book that otherwise would be a haphazard collection of anecdotes and analysis.



The opening vignette in the book focuses on Adidas, tracing the background of the company, its relationship to Nike and, as with all the other brands featured in the book, a summary of what Haig perceives to be the secrets of the brand’s success. For Adidas, one success factor is identified as the way that Adidas keeps its history alive through its sports heritage division. Haig observes that far from making the brand seem stuffy and outdated, its ‘old-school’ ranges are considered the most fashionable among the hip-hop community. The following vignette looks at Sony, whose secrets of success are judged to include a distrust of market research and a belief in buzz. As regards a distrust of market research, this refers to the famous case of the Sony Walkman where market research prior to the product’s introduction was very negative but Sony pressed ahead anyway and was richly rewarded for its belief in its product. Akito Morita of Sony is quoted as saying, ‘I do not believe that any amount of market research could have told us that it would have been successful . . . The public does not know what is possible. We do.’ While such a statement could be construed as arrogant, it encapsulates the faith that innovators must possess to avoid being deterred from taking necessary risks. The other secret of Sony’s success alluded to above, a belief in buzz, refers to the time when the Walkman first appeared in Japan and Sony workers walked the streets of their native Tokyo with Walkmans strapped to them, thus creating a valuable buzz around this new product. One of the most interesting cases in the book is that of Federal Express.

Haig describes how the company was launched in 1851 and grew its reputation during the American Civil War when it transported supplies to the eventually victorious Union army. From a branding perspective, the company is shown to have set itself the ambitious goal of becoming the world’s most respected service brand, and as one means of achieving this it has successfully managed the transition from a prestige to a populist brand. The ability to evolve is thus identified as one of Federal Express’s secrets of success. Whereas Federal Express is cited as an example of a company that has skilfully evolved from prestige to populist brand, Haig warns that this transition is a risky one. He illustrates this danger with the example of Mercedes-Benz’s introduction of cheaper cars to its traditionally very expensive range. Haig pithily comments that ‘people who drive a Mercedes-Benz like to feel superior; whether they continue to feel superior when everyone can afford one remains to be seen’. The importance of appropriate new product development is crucial in brand management, discussed here in the context of the Kleenex brand. Haig’s view is that the Kleenex product has been varied and reinvented almost continually over the last eight decades and that such variations inject new life into the brand without extending it into inappropriate categories, as a result of which Kleenex is still solely associated with tissues. A similarly sensitive approach to new product development is evinced by MTV, a global brand that adapts its content not only to each geographic market, but also to the musical tastes of each



market niche. MTV is also shown to be a good example of how to deal with the problem faced by any youth brand, namely that eventually your audience outgrows you. MTV has dealt with this problem by setting up VH1, ‘a music channel aimed at a slightly older and calmer viewership’. Another youth brand analysed by Haig is the jeans brand Diesel, whose pioneering self-referential advertising lampoons the over-inflated claims of rival brands that promise to improve or add meaning to our lives simply by selling us a pair of jeans. The author describes how Diesel deliberately advertises a kitsch, uncool, 1950s-style ethos, which paradoxically makes it even cooler.

When it comes to concluding what sets apart the durably successful brands featured in ‘Brand Royalty’ from less successful brands, Haig suggests that the examples in this book are successful not because they conform to a neat little set of laws that apply to all brands but because they follow their own individual path with confidence; successful brands are similar in that they all have a clear vision, but that vision is never the same. The reader should find plenty of inspiration and ideas regarding clarity of vision and distinct brand identity throughout this well-written, very well-informed book. Keith Dinnie Book Review Editor

Creating Passion Brands
by Helen Edwards and Derek Day
Kogan Page, London; 2005; ISBN 0 7494 43707; 238pp; paperback; £25

The blandness of consumer-led brands is the central theme underpinning this intellectually invigorating book. Edwards and Day contend that the obsessive consumer-centric focus of most of today’s brands results not so much in customer satisfaction or delight, but rather in a drab homogeneity wherein brands strive to pander to fickle consumer whims rather than boldly asserting their own brand personality. The authors take the view that ‘current brand management practice, with its

slavish devotion to consumer whims and directives, is leading brands on a road to nowhere’. Their proposed solution lies in creating the passion brands of the book’s title, brands which remain true to themselves, maintaining a keen awareness of consumer attitudes but leading these attitudes rather than following them. CEOs, marketing professionals and MBA students are the stated target market for this book. Perhaps for this reason, some flattery is thrown in the