Review of 4-D Branding - Cracking the corporate code of the network economy by Thomas Gad    

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Despite the proliferation of books on the subject of branding, it seems that in the real world a brand's success or failure is usually the result of intangible or random influences, which evade measurement. Thomas Gad makes a bold attempt at not only pinning down these influences, but also explaining how to nurture them.

Most books in this field suffer from an excess of hyperbole & jargon. 4-D Branding has its share of both, but as Gad says himself it offers something most brand books don't: a method. The examples are carefully selected and are used well to illustrate points rather than forming the substance of Gad's argument. As with any recent book on the "network economy", there are a few painful cases where the examples chosen are no longer rising stars, but in each case the point made stands on its own strength.

The four dimensions of the book's title are the Functional (what is the benefit to your customer of the product or service you offer), Social (how do you make customers feel part of a group), Mental (how do you create value in the mind of your users) and spiritual (what philosophies other than profit drive you). These dimensions combined with an understanding of current positioning and activities can be used to create a Brand CodeTM, a powerful tool for driving the company forward in areas such as product line extensions and acquisitions as well as marketing.

Gad's boldest claim is that your brand is not your product, service, positioning or advertising, although all of these can influence it. The brand is an entirely mental construct, the perception of your company rather than any physical aspect. Perceptions can be managed, and this is what Gad's process teaches you to do. Changing mindsets should start at home, and a great deal of attention is paid to the individual. This ranges from advice for personal branding through to imploring senior management to be true to the brand ("To get your company onto a new track, to make a successful brand, requires that you do what you ... would really like to do. It has to be personally motivating... Successful brand building is done by passion, not by obligation").

The result is a surprisingly coherent model of how to structure your brand by playing on existing strengths, and creating a harmonious perception in the minds of your target audience. Add to this the fact that the book is well written, and it is hard not to recommend it to everyone with a stake in a brand or in management generally.

© Dan Sumption, October 2001

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