Forging an Ironclad Brand: A book review by Bob Morris

Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide
Lindsay Pedersen
Lioncrest Publishing (April 2019)

How to establish a brand that can serve as your organization’s North Star

Since the first marketplace was established several thousand years ago, the essential purpose of marketing has been to create or increase demand for an offering. Specifically, I redfer to ancient commercial locations such as the Grand Bazaar (in Istanbul, Turkey), Timbuktu (Mali), Samarkand (Uzebekistan), Thirteen Factories (Canton, China), and the Rialto Market (Venice, Italy). Lindsay Pedersen explains how and why what she calls an “ironclad brand” can unleash competitive advantage, first by attracting favorable attention and then by consistently meeting (if not exceeding) customers’ expectations. “Brand is a relationship between your business and your customer…what you mean to your customer…a place you occupy in your customer’s mind.”

Pedersen shares these comments by Kellogg’s Tim Calkins: “A brand is your distinct meaning, and it brings with it all sorts of different connotations. So ask yourself as a leader, ‘How are we going to end up with the brand that we really want to have?'” In this context, I am again reminded of a conversation I had years ago during dinner with a prominent venture capitalist. At one point, I asked him how many proposals he and his associates received each month. “Oh, on average, about 300.” How many of them resulted in a formal meeting. “Maybe a dozen each month.” Criteria for selection? “We have three questions in mind. The first two are easy to answer: ‘Who are you?’ and ‘What do you do?’ Answering the third really separates the wheat from the chaff: ‘Why should I care?'”

Customers have lots of choices. Pedersen suggests that brand is “the meaning your business for, and brand strategy [is] the deliberate articulation of that meaning.” When people are thinking about doing business with you, why should they care?

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Pedersen’s coverage:

o Brand: Definition (Pages 25-40)
o Competition for customers (53-55, 84-85, 96-101,and 127-34)
o Company-wide ownership of brand (62-63, 85-86, 202-03,and 293-96)
o Articulation of purpose (67-76)
o Clarity of focus (36-38, 45-47, 103-06, and 109-110)

o Brand strategy components (79-86)
o Mistakes about brand (87-92)
o Criteria for brand strategy (93-115)
o Brand strategy: Overview (118-119)
o Your discussion guide (143-52)

o Examining data (153-68)
o Uncommon denominators (158-164)
o Benefits ladder (169-189)
o Characterizing brand (191-209)
o Stages of customer journey (211-229)

o Activity (231-245)
o 4 Ps of marketing (248-49, 253-54, 256-57, and 261-62)
o Marketing (256-64)
o Customer love (291-301)
o Storytelling (303-20)

In his classic HBR article “Marketing Myopia,” Ted Levitt shares a brilliant insight that remains true today: ““People don’t want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes.” I was again reminded of that comment as I worked my way through Pedersen’s lively and eloquent narrative. She provides about as much information, insights, and advice as almost any business leader needs to forge an ironclad brand, probably in collaboration with colleagues. However, Levitt reminds all of us that many (if not most) consumers have a specific question to answer or a specific problem to solve. They care about that. They are purpose-driven.

Some of Lindsay Pedersen’s most valuable material is provided in Chapter 14. She explains how an ironclad brand can be delivered throughout everything the customer experiences. Hence the importance of having all four of the “4 Ps of marketing” in cohesive alignment: product, price, place, and promotion.

“The goal is to harness the major levers so that you can surround customers with your brand in every way they experience it, on all levels, on all sides, in manners both big and small.” That is why experiencing a brand must be multidimensional.”

“Nurture your brand as you would nurture your most valuable asset” because that is precisely what it is.

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