From the grassroots growth of beverage brands like Red Bull, and Honest Tea, to the exploding growth of digital brands like Twitter, and Groupon — successful companies of all types and sizes begin with three things: an entrepreneur, a winning idea, and a brand strategy. Branding expert Catherine Kaputa, founder of SelfBrand LLC, uses dozens of US and international brand histories to demonstrate what makes a brand thrive, and provides you with the tools to do the same.
Although the author positions this book as a guide on how to build your business into a big brand, as its subtitle and promotion video suggest, I personally enjoyed more the first half of the book where she shares thought-provoking ideas on what branding is and the basics of how it should be developed. Among many of those ideas, I found especially intriguing her definition of branding as “soft-power”. Here’s an excerpt on this topic:
For your business, hard power consists of those quantifiable things you put on your balance sheet: the bricks and mortar, your inventory of goods, your equipment and supplies, your cash on hand, investments, and receivables… Hard power is important, but it’s not enough to succeed in today’s dynamic, competitive marketplace.
For your business, soft power consists of the brands and the intellectual property— the brand names, inventions, patents, advertising campaigns, taglines, and ideas— your business owns. Soft power is the image and reputation of your business. It’s the relationships your brand has with its people— customers, employees, vendors— who value your business and what you stand for. It’s having a company or products that your core group of prospects recognize. It’s having visibility in the industry, the community, and the larger world. Soft power is what people say about you and your business on social media or at business gatherings when you’re not around. Soft power comes from taking a stand for something that people recognize and value… Soft power is your relationships with your customers, your employees, and your network of alliances. Soft power is your ability to inspire and “click” with people so that they identity with you and your business.
Another noteworthy passage can be found in Chapter 3: Power Positioning, where she shares what she learned from her mentors Al Ries and Jack Trout (coiners of the term “positioning”).
Positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.
According to the author there are two principles to position a product in branding: You can appeal to benefits and consequences—the human’s instinct to gain pleasure and avoid pain—through defined brand characteristics and benefits: Hilton and McDonald’s do so by providing exactly what you expect no matter the place you are. Alternatively, you can appeal to identity—appealing to emotions and aspirations of people—by targeting a specific market, being a maverick or having a celebrity connection: brands such as Apple, Porsche and Lux are good examples.
All in all, Breakthrough Branding is a great read for anyone interested in marketing, branding and entrepreneurship. However, I think it falls short of expectations for anyone looking for clear steps or examples on how to build a brand from scratch.