ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition — November 2002

In this issue...
Case Study and Commentary: Supply Chain Redesign
Sharing Information in Customer-Supplier Relationships
Our Readers Say...
Protecting Your Trade Secrets
Chapter News
Your Opinion: Books in Review
Features...
Book Nook
Editorial: From Our Perspective
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Your Opinion: Books in Review

Micro Branding—Build a Powerful Personal Brand and Beat Your Competition
by T. Scott Gross
Leading Authorities Press, 2001.
ISBN: 0-9710-0782-9.
Hardcover, 303 pages.
Price: $24.95

Overall Rating: * * * * * Pick It Up Today

There are a few ideas and strategies that could have been included to improve the book. Let’s review them and cite some additional worthwhile sources on this topic.

First, in The Experience Economy, Pine and Glimmer indicate there are five economic offerings, but Gross ignores two of them. Pine and Glimmer suggest experience and transformational offerings are upstaging the service economy. They also show that services, as with products, are increasingly becoming commodities. Although Gross does touch on experiences for retailing, Web sites, and customer service enhancement in Micro Branding, 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. Gross emphasizes exceptional service; however, service and experiences are different. Exceptional service is necessary for a memorable experience, but there is more to a memorable experience than even positively 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, although I agree with the author’s emphasis on the importance of values, mission, and 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 may be 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 or visit Ned Hamson’s Web site at www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/7527/, which contains numerous articles on engagement paradigm ideas and methods.

Fourth, branding is increasingly becoming more challenging because of the ever-expanding choices available to customers and people’s growing business cynicism and distrust, as Howard Schwartz, Starbucks’ founder and chairman, notes. 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 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, for example, some 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 also has engaged in discontinuous improvement, continuous improvement, and breakthrough innovations. Micro Branding could have discussed this issue in a more thoughtful fashion. The author could have presented more detailed cases of firms such as Starbucks and Southwest Airlines 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 non-customers. The author fails to point out that by not listening to non-customers, a firm can end up losing customers.

He also might have emphasized the problems associated with listening to customers. Customers tend not to support or see the need for discontinuous improvements. This also can be the case with one’s neighborhood. Certain firms have owned their neighborhood only to find that people moved out to new ones or that the economic value of the neighborhood declined. The book would have been improved if the author had addressed the need for creating a new neighborhood by developing new competencies, products, or offerings, such as changing from providing services to experiences and/or transformational offerings.

I rate this as a five-star work. It is a good text for those who are beginning to develop a brand. For those who want broader insight into this subject, however, I would suggest scouting 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 exploring books about firms with exceptional brands, such as Howard Schwartz’s Pour Your Heart Into It.

BOB HOLDER is an organizational effectiveness, marketing, and economic development consultant. He has experience in quality, applied research, community and economic development, organizational design, and state and community management. He works with clients to design whole system and high involvement processes for strategic visioning, organizational redesign, marketing, and branding. Holder has authored more than 50 articles on visioning, intuition, the experience economy, organizational change, leadership, scouting, discontinuous improvement, and organizational design for Quality Digest, The Journal for Quality and Participation, The OD Journal, Competitive Intelligence Magazine, and The OD Practitioner.

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