Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant Hardcover – 15 Feb 2011
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From the Inside Flap
This ground-breaking book clearly defines the concept of brand relevance and shows what it takes to channel innovation and manage the competitive arena so that competition is reduced or eliminated.
Throughout the book, branding guru David Aaker explains how brand relevance drives market dynamics using dozens of illustrative case studies involving brands such as Asahi Beer, Prius, Whole Foods Market, Hyundai, Zappos, Wheaties Fuel, Zipcar, Muji, Cafe Steamers, GE, SalesForce.com, and Apple. He reveals how brand teams have turned away from destructive brand preference competition by making other brands irrelevant.
Adopting Aaker's brand relevance model--in which innovative offerings form categories and subcategories--provides dramatic opportunities for brand teams with insight and the ability to lead the market. As Aaker explains, successful brand relevance competition involves four vital tasks: concept generation, concept evaluation, creating barriers to the competition and, critically, actively defining and managing the new category or subcategory. It also involves being on top of the market, the competition, and the technology so that they get the timing right, a crucial element of a successful brand relevance strategy.
Brand relevance is a threat as well as an opportunity to firms facing dynamic markets. Aaker shows how to avoid having a brand go into decline because people no longer consider it relevant.
Brands that can create and manage new categories or subcategories making competitors irrelevant will prosper while others will be mired in debilitating marketplace battles or will be losing relevance and market position.
From the Back Cover
Praise for Brand Relevance
"Aaker has nailed it (again)! The long-term viability of a business is inextricably linked to gaining a brand relevance advantage through new category and subcategory development and unique positioning."
--Joe Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial officer, Coca-Cola
"Most of our work as brand builders is reactionary, chasing each other's ideas. The result is a marketplace of sameness. David Aaker gives us fresh principles and real ideas to change that, to be truly innovative, to raise our game."
--Jim Stengel, former chief marketing officer, P&G
"Aaker has hit the nail on the head with Brand Relevance. You've gotta take the leap or risk getting left behind."
--Ann Lewnes, chief marketing officer, Adobe
"Brand Relevance shows how finding a higher purpose, a characteristic of great companies, can affect which brands customers perceive as relevant."
--Tony Hsieh, author, Delivering Happiness and chief executive officer, Zappos.com, Inc.
"Loaded with powerful examples, David Aaker's Brand Relevance book brings brand insight to the process of innovation."
--Ian R. Friendly, executive vice president, General Mills
"Clarity jumps off the first pages--it's less about the brand-preference battle than the brand-relevance war. And clarity continues as he presents a disciplined process leading to relevance wins and shows how to make innovation pay-off in the marketplace."
--Richard K. Lyons, dean, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
"Staying the course with familiar approaches to building brand preference risks the likelihood of being made irrelevant by those who jump on Aaker's brand relevance lessons and find new growth paths."
--Meredith Callanan, vice president corporate marketing and communication, T. Rowe Price
"A 'wake-up call' for a market leader because if the relevance game is lost so is its market position."
--Joseph K. Gross, executive vice president, Allianz SE
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As he explains, the way for a firm to get on top of its strategies in a time of change is to achieve these four strategic objectives: (1) Complete and then follow a process by which to create new categories and subcategories that make competitors irrelevant; (2) Apply the brand relevance concept to the given circumstances and leverage its power as a way to drive and understand dynamic markets, (3) understand how and why brand relevance can be diminished or lost as well as how and why to avoid or replenish that loss; and (4), understand and develop or strengthen the characteristics it must have "to support substantial or transformational innovation that will lead to new categories or subcategories."
Aaker identifies with meticulous care the "what" of these and other strategic objectives, then devoting the bulk of his attention to explaining how to achieve them. To support his results-driven approach, he makes brilliant use of 25 mini-case studies of a remarkably diverse range of companies that include IKEA, Best Buy, Whole Foods Market, Zappos, Zipcar, Apple, Segway's Human Transporter, Salesforce.com, and Walmart. As these and other exemplars have clearly demonstrated, companies are most relevant when their clients depend on them to help them be most relevant to their own clients. Here in a single source is about all the information, insights, and counsel any C-level executives need to ensure that their companies gain and then sustain brand preference and thereby make their competitors irrelevant.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
First, I do think there are good ideas to be found in this book. To make some real moo-lah you want to create a new category or sub-category. OK, got it. The creation of new categories is well-covered in other books, but I guess Aaker's contribution is to tout the creation of a sub-category from an existing category. Not exactly an earth-shattering revelation, but if you work at BigCo it might make the message of radical innovation more palatable.
The writing style and organization of this book are quite bad. First, the writing style. It appears that the author is capable of only one metaphor in marketing, and that is "winning the war". Everything is about "winners and losers", which seems to me at odds with the central premise of creating a new product category -- which create winners without necessarily making losers of existing players.
There is an unnecessary amount of jargon in this book. Instead of simply saying, "when other firms enter the market," he refers to "a brand preference context emerging." What?
I found a number of factual and typographical errors in the book. It becomes quickly apparent that the author is a "sales guy", not a "product guy". Every product introduction fits into a neat narrative, either succeeding wildly or being "too little, too late." There's really no depth of understanding about products or product psychology. I found it particularly troubling that he referred to IKEA furniture as "high quality." Even the folks at IKEA know that their stuff is not very well-made. That's part of their product positioning.
And now, the book's organization. It's terrible. The book starts, rather mysteriously, with a long-winded narrative about Japanese beer market share changing over time. It's up to you to figure out why you should care. Then there's a chapter on cars and a chapter on food. This would make sense if the author had a deep understanding of the psychology of car-buying or food-shopping, but it's basically a collection of unrelated "war stories" and market-share spanning a century. The Model T. The Porsche. The Edsel. The Yugo. The Volkswagen. The mini-van. Electric cars. What do they have in common? They're all cars! It would make a lot more sense to organize the stories according to concepts (such as "creating a new category"), but I guess that would only leave two chapters. As it is, organizing the book around industry will only be of interest to people in those industries -- except not, because again, he shows only a superficial understanding of the products themselves.
I'd like to go on, but I've only made it 40% through this book and I really don't want to spend any more time thinking about it. I want to give the book 2.5 stars but I am feeling charitable and will round it up to 3. If you want to buy books with actual content and original examples that cover the same turf, I recommend Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim and Mauborgne and Different by Youngme Moon. The latter exhibits the deepest product psychology of any marketing book I've read. Highly recommended, unlike this book.
The book goes on to describe numerous examples of companies which have gained substantial competitive advantages by creating in the minds of potential customers a new category or subcategory of product. Examples from the field of retailing include Muji, IKEA, Zara, H&M, Best Buy, Whole Foods Market, Subway and Zappos. Examples from the automobile industry include the Toyota Prius, the Saturn, the Chrysler minivan, the Tata Nano, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Zipcar.
Creating brand relevance is a matter of framing new categories and sub-categories and influencing customers' perspectives by creating mental associations. To create new categories, an organization must be involved in finding concepts, evaluating them, using them to define new categories, and creating barriers for competitors. All is not lost if a company finds itself becoming irrelevant; the author gives plenty of examples of companies which have recovered relevance through renewed innovation.
There are numerous other books available which discuss the importance of differentiation, but none describe it quite in the same way as the present author does. Differentiation is important, but a key aspect of business success lies in communicating the differences to the target market in such a way as to excite ongoing interest. This book is a bit longer than I would have liked, but the author's advice and conclusions seem to be very pertinent.