Kellogg on Branding in a Hyper-Connected World: A book review by Bob Morris

Kellogg on Branding in a Hyper-Connected World
Alice M. Tybout and Tim Calkins, Editors-in-Chief
John Wiley & Sons (March 2019)

How to design new conceptual bases on which to create or increase demand for what you offer

According to Philip Kotler, Professor Emeritus of Marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, marketers are now struggling to succeed in a marketplace of “hypertension, commoditization, globalization, and rapid technological obsolescence” as well as (yes) volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Alice M. Tybout and Tim Calkins created this book in order to help marketers respond effectively to all manner of unprecedented challenges. The material in this book is carefully organized within four sections, each of which offers a set of cutting-edge responses to a question of major importance:

One: “How to think strategically about a brand?”
Two: “How to bring a brand to life?”
Three: “How to gain a better understanding of a brand and quantifying its stature?”
Four: “What are the most valuable lessons to be learned from brand leaders?”

Opinions vary (sometimes significantly) about what a brand is…and isn’t. Initially, it was a means by which to identify ownership; of livestock, for example. Over time, a brand suggested relative value. Today, brands have become just about anything that will attract attention, often with positive associations. Credit Tybout and Calkins with providing an a brief but remarkably substantial Preface in which they observe, “Consumers have an almost infinite range of products and services quite literally at their fingertips, and these options can be delivered, if not instantly, then close to it.” Then in the Introduction, Calkins shares his thoughts about how and why brands are essential to success in every dimension and domain of business.

I have always thought of brands as resembling a two-edge sword: positive brands help to achieve success while negative brands suggest imminent failure. This is what Calkins seems to have in mind when noting that brands have the ability to shape how people perceive products by elevating or diminishing their appeal.

Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need brand managers who think strategically about the given brand, bring that brand to life and then strengthen it by gaining a better understanding of how to quantify its stature. That is, they create or increase appeal of the brand their organization offers. In Section One, for example:

o Trybout explains how to establish a solid foundation for building a strong brand
o Jim Stengel, Matt Carcieri, and Reneé Dunn explain how to leverage the power of brand purpose
o Calkins explains how to create a powerful brand portfolio
o Gregory S. Carpenter and Kent Nakamoto explain how to create three competitive brand strategies
o Eric Leininger shares his thoughts about leading the given brand with orchestration and differentiation
o Sanjay Khosla identifies and explains three keys to building global brands “with soul”

The other three Sections also offer an abundance of information, insights, and recommendations. As indicated previously, Section Four offers “Lessons from Brand Leaders” and I think this material will be of special interest to those who know nothing about brands and brand management, and, to those who have decades of real-world experience with brands and brand management. The contributors are Silvia Lagnado and Colin Mitchell (McDonald’s), Mary Dillon and Dave Kimbell (Ulta), Denny Dochery and Mike Porter (John Deere), Scott Davis and David Duvall (Novant Health), and Gloria Guevara (Mexico). The last three focus on a general subject rather than on a specific organization: Cindy Halvorsen (“Managing Brand Communications in a Digital World”), Sergio Pereira (“Customer Experience: The New Frontier of Branding”), and Paul Earle (“Brand New: Creating a Brand from Scratch”).

Obviously, it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to apply all of the lessons learned from a careful reading of this book. It remains for each reader to determine what is directly relevant to their organization’s needs, interests, concerns, and resources.I urge those who read this brief commentary to highlight key passages and keep a lined notebook near at hand when reading Kellogg on Branding in a Hyper-Connected World. Record comments, questions, cross- and page-references, completing exercises (especially diagnostics), follow-up tasks, etc. These efforts will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later. There really is a great deal to absorb and digest.

This book is probably the best single source for cutting-edge thinking about branding for those who now face unprecedented challenges in a hyper-connected world that seems to become even more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous each day. Conratulations to Alice Tybout, Tim Calkins, and their Kellogg colleagues on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

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