Micro Branding - Build a Powerful Personal Brand and Beat Your Competition
by T. Scott Gross
reviewed by Bob J. Holder

Micro Branding is a fine presentation for small and medium businesses and individuals for brand development. The author does a good job explaining and illustrating what micro branding is. He also presents good implementation ideas, strategies and tactics.

The book is strong on "how-tos" and step-by-step processes for enacting the author's ideas and strategies. The chapters on mission, values and goals, networking and e-mailing are examples. He walks the reader, for example, through an effective networking process. Finally, the final chapter provides a fine summary of the book's key ideas and processes.

The author also addresses common myths and mistakes associated with branding. He does the same with recommended strategies and tactics. He discusses, for example, selected mistakes commonly made when engaging in public relations. Both tend to be supported with research and personal experience.

There are a few ideas and strategies that could have been included that would have improved the book. First, the author offers two economic offerings. In The Experience Economy, Pine and Glimmer indicate there are five. They suggest the service economy is being upstaged by experience and transformational offerings. They also show that services as with products are increasingly becoming commodities. While the author does touch on experiences for retailing, web sites and customer service enhancement, he fails to indicate they are a unique economic offering that may require different branding ideas and strategies than products and services. Transformational offerings are completely ignored.

Second, the experience economy points to another of the book's weaknesses. The author emphasizes exceptional service. However, services and experiences are different. Exceptional service is necessary for a "memorable experience." However, there is more to a "memorable experience" than even positive outrageous service. While the author addresses business as entertainment, there are three other experience realms. They are, at best, briefly discussed. However, the author does not provide a systematic presentation that would allow the reader to enact a memorable experience offering.

Third, while I agree with the author's emphasize on the importance of values, mission, vision and goals, the book would have been improved if it discussed the ideas associated with the "engagement paradigm." The author's discussion is "I" directed with little thought to "shared." The former maybe fine for an entrepreneur beginning a business, however, as Peter Senge suggests, all visions are personal. Senge's point is that everyone needs to share the values, vision and mission. The engagement paradigm provides principles for creating shared values, vision and mission when a firm lacks a formal declaration of them. The reader wishing to learn about these principles and methods and processes for enacting them ought to review Richard Alexrod's Terms of Engagement and/or visit Ned Hamson's site, www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/7527/, which contains numerous articles on engagement paradigm ideas and methods.

Fourth, branding is increasingly becoming more challenging as Howard Schwartz, Starbucks' founder and chairman points out because of the ever expanding choices available to customers and people growing business cynicism and distrust. My experience suggests this is also the case with small businesses. These conditions have two implications. The first is the need for continuous innovation and improvement. The author's "Conscious Creation" chapter and other innovation discussions are somewhat insightful. However, firms need to engage in what Ned Hamson calls the cycle of innovation in his book, After Atlantis. They need to engage in continuous improvement, breakthrough innovation, discontinuous improvement and yet, another discontinuous improvement. The cycle needs to be applied in every aspect of the enterprise. The author suggests several nice public relations ideas. However, they don't compare to the public relations' innovations enacted by Virgin's Richard Branson. In fact, a discussion of Branson's public relations approaches and some case examples would have improved the book's quality.

Starbucks is an example of a firm that seeks to address customer cynicism and distrust. The firm has, from its founding, been innovative in its branding and people development and care practices. In fact, Schwartz has always viewed people as a key to the firm's brand development and to addressing customer cynicism and distrust. The firm has also engaged in discontinuous improvement, continuous improvement and breakthrough innovations. The author could have discussed this issues in a more thoughtful fashion. He could have presented more detailed cases of such firms as Starbucks and Southwest that are recognized for loving their customers and people.

Finally, the book emphasizes listening to customers and owning your neighborhood. I agree with the author about the importance of these ideas. However, as Peter Ducker points out, it is also critical to listen to noncustomers. The author fails to point out that by not listening to noncustomers a firm can end up losing customers. He might have also emphasized the problems associated with listening to customers. Customers tend not to support and/or see the need for discontinuous improvements. This can also be the case with one's neighborhood. Certain firms have owned their neighborhood only to find that people moved out to new ones and/or that the economic value of its neighborhood declined. The book would have been improved if the author would have addressed the need for creating, for example, a new neighborhood through developing new competencies, products and/or offerings such as changing from providing services to experiences and/or transformational offerings.

In conclusion, I would rate this as a five star work. It is a good text for beginning to develop a brand. However, I would suggest thinking about the suggested improvements. I would also suggest scouting the Brandchannel.com, reviewing other works on branding and marketing such as Jay Levinson's Guerilla Marketing and Guy Kawasaki's Rules for Revolutionaries and Selling the Dream and about firms with exceptional brands such as Howard Schwartz's Pour Your Heart into It.

Micro Branding
Build a Powerful Personal Brand and Beat Your Competition
by T. Scott Gross,
Leading Authorities Press

Bob Holder is a development consultant. His St. Louis area based consulting firm works with profit and non-profit organizations and small enterprises. He was a contributor to the book, After Atlantis: Working, Managing and Leading in Turbulent Times. His, Requisite for Future Success ... Discontinuous Improvement in the Journal for Quality and Participation with Ned Hamson was the lead article in the launching of Emerald Management, the trade name for MCB Publishing in the United Kingdom. His articles have appeared in ODJ, ODP, Quality Digest, CI Magazine, Journal for Quality and Participation and Quality Journal. Bob has been devoting the last two years to teaching and doing paid and volunteer consulting in Russia. He consults, speaks and writes about innovation, strategic visioning and human systems design.

Contact Bob J. Holder at:
Gray Matter Production 620 Roosevelt Dr. Edwardsville, IL. 62025
Telephone: (618) 692-0258, Fax (618) 692-0819, e-mail: HBob372917@aol.com .

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