Back to Basics by Michael Wintrob

24 Jun 2011
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Michael Wintrob

For those of us who are part of the military-industrial branding complex (read: The Industry), we have long taken for granted that a brand is much more than a logo. Steeped in our pyramids, onions, insights and platforms we spend our days dissecting complex segmentation studies, tweaking concept language just so and doing the inevitable partner-agency (ahem) dance. But every now and again it is refreshing to get some distance from the jargon and back in touch with the fundamentals of what we do and why we do it.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of sharing an introduction to branding to a group of innovators in a session sponsored by Cincinnati Innovates. LPK is in its second year of sponsoring the innovation competition, which offers 12 prizes and almost $90,000 in awards.

Considering this was a diverse audience of entrepreneurs — many with great product ideas but not necessarily a great brand (yet) — I needed to focus my talk on the basics. Forced to explain branding theory minus the buzz words, I leaned on an oh-so-simple formula: Different + RelevantDifferent from the competition and Relevant to consumers. And just like that the secrets of branding gurus were unveiled. The magic explained in two words and a symbol. As I talked the slides with the group, it seemed this simplest of brand ideas was registering with the audience as they imagined the immediate application to their burgeoning businesses.

Having worked with start-ups such as Giftiki in the past, I know these innovators are eager to learn and unafraid to execute. Freed from layers of bureaucracy and with an appetite for risk, I’m confident some of this decade’s great brands only exist now as ideas. I’m hopeful one of these future icons was in the room Wednesday night, and can now head out into the big, scary marketplace armed with a little insight into how we do what we do.

For those unable to attend the talk, here are some of my favorite books and tweeters on branding:

•    A New Brand World: Eight Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the Twenty-First Century by Scott Bedbury
•    Building Strong Brands by David A. Aaker
•    Kellogg on Branding by The Marketing Faculty of The Kellogg School of Management
•    Designing Brand Identity: A Complete Guide to Creating, Building, and Maintaining Strong Brands by Alina Wheeler
•    Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders by Adam Morgan
•    The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design by Marty Neumeier
•    @faris
•    @anibalcasso
•    @leeclowsbeard
•    @JimStengel