Branding Only Works On Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin

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Branding Only Works On Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin

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Category: Business and Finance
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: Somehow uneven book which makes a valid but not as revolutionary as it would like to believe point in a repetitive and over-hyped way; it provides incisive observations about what the Internet did to the purchasing process; it champions measurable goals for well focused campaigns and it offers some great practical tips for making use of on-line opportunities.
Buy? On expenses Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: January 2009
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons
ISBN: 978-0470742570

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Branding Only Works on Cattle starts big by ferociously rejecting the advertising-is-about-creating-brand-image view which apparently dominates current branding and marketing practice.

Baskin claims that modern branding campaigns are divorced from the realities of selling and that they confuse communicating ideas and (possibly) creating awareness of the brand name with achieving any real behaviour changes. Influencing what customers think is not enough as only behaviours lead to engagement and the ultimate behavioural goal of any marketing: selling stuff.

Branding Only Works on Cattle proposes getting rid of the idea of a brand as the fuzzy 'brand image' created by communication efforts and insists on a 'brand' that is virtually synonymous with the whole operation of the company in relation to its customer base.

Instead of telling people what to think, Baskin proposes what he calls 'behavioural marketing': activities that will prompt specific (and measurable) behaviours. Instead of fighting for a share of mind, marketers should fight for a share of action.

Inspired by his gaming background, Baskin suggests using the ARG (Alternative Reality Games) as a paradigm for engaging people and behaviour-prompting and explores the way that Internet search changed the way we (both as clients and as marketers) think about purchasing.

Most of the claims made by Branding Only Works on Cattle are hardly new: in fact I would risk saying that most would be every day common sense to most managers in most businesses. However, the advertising-is-about-creating-brand-image approach is more common among the largest companies, and certainly flourishes among the advertising people and specialist branding agencies. It is good to see its business value and its purposes and metrics questioned.

Baskin's book certainly has something valid to say, and I suspect that in the current economic climate its message will find more supporters than ever. It combines 'back to basics' focus on results (actually selling stuff ) with an active and modern approach to utilising the Internet. Its main idea (marketing-as-branding has become a useless strategy; producing awareness and manipulating people's thinking and feeling is nothing if it doesn't produce measurable behaviour) exudes common sense and is bound to attract attention from those keen to save money and obtain results (i.e. anybody apart from your branding agency).

There is, however, quite a bit of evidence contrary to what Baskin claims, especially evidence linking even simple awareness with the positive attitude and a likelihood of purchase. You don't need mysterious Freudian mechanisms to explain well known irrationalities of human cognitive processing, of which 'availability bias' is one of the best known and best evidenced. The share of minds does, indeed, correspond with the share of the market.

But even those who reject or doubt Baskin's particular claims about branding should heed his call for measurable results, quantifiable goals and clear, behavioural metrics. There is no reason (or at least, no economic reason, but that is a different subject altogether) for the arty mystique of branding campaigns being excluded from standard, scientific cost-and-effect calculus, and there is every reason for building integrated approach to marketing in which image-building and awareness creation will be only a constituent part, and tested on what it delivers rather than what it promises.

As many business manuals, and especially those coming from and relating to the world of marketing, Branding Only Works on Cattle is everything but understated. Self-hyped to the extreme, full of audacity bordering on chutzpah and claims of its own revolutionary value, Branding Only Works on Cattle promises a bit more than it delivers itself. It's highly repetitive of its main claims, it contains all kinds of excessively creative typography (mercifully, we have been spared different font colours) and it isn't particularly well organised.

Altogether, the book is more of a manifesto for a (kind of) new way of thinking about the whole marketing process than a description of The New Way to Get Known (and drive your competitors crazy) as the title promises.

There is, however, some practical advice and suggestions (although there should be more), and what is included is pretty good.

The use of ARG (Alternative Reality Games) paradigm as a model for the marketing process is a genuinely new and potentially very fertile idea. The examples of applications of 'behavioural marketing' to the Internet and the analysis of the role of the Internet in the purchase process including how it changes the off-line purchasing was very interesting. The rather ferocious debunking of marketing potential of social-networking sites and some excellent ideas on genuine Internet social marketing were perhaps the most practically useful parts of the book, although I felt that they were not necessarily directly connected to the main thesis.

Branding Only Works on Cattle is a somehow uneven product: it makes a valid but not as revolutionary as it would like to believe point in a repetitive and unnecessary over-hyped way; it provides incisive observations about what the Internet (both commercially and socially) did to the purchasing process; it champions measurable goals for well focused campaigns and it offers some great practical tips for making use of the on-line opportunities.

It is certainly worth picking up, especially if you are paying a lot of money to a branding agency and not seeing much results beyond fuzzy awareness. I would also recommend it for branding specialists still in love with the advertising-is-about-creating-brand-image approach, even if just to see what the opposition has to say. Finally, market research professionals could use it as an inspiration and a trailblazer for designing studies that go beyond awareness, brand image profiling and psycho-socio-demographic segmentation.

The review copy was sent to the Bookbag by the publisher - thank you!

For a view from the other side of the argument try Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy Is Wrong by Martin Lindstrom. Luxury Fashion Branding: Trends, Tactics, Techniques by Uche Okonkwo offers a detailed insight into a particular brand of branding.

Buy Branding Only Works On Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Branding Only Works On Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Branding Only Works On Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Branding Only Works On Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin at Amazon.com.

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