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July 23, 2004

News & Opinion: The Heart of Brands

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 7:52 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

With so much talk today about brands, about their origins and their cults and so forth, I find it refreshing to go directly to the sourceto read detailed accounts of the very specific practices and actions of companies that have built enduring brands. In that regard I recommend these books that share the nitty-gritty of well-known companies.
Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers Trust from Wedgewood to Dell by Nancy Koehn is one of the best books on this topic. This whipsmart HBS prof tells the story of six companies that have created enduring brands from scratch. Her entrepreneurs: Josiah Wedgewood, H.J. Heinz, Marshall Field, Estee Lauder, Howard Schultz, and Michael Dell. Koehn points out that powerful brands are built from the core and not through superficial attention-getting tactics. In order to provide the benefits that their brands promised consumers, each of the six entrepreneurs had to create a range of organizational capabilities. Each of the six entrepreneurs worked with colleagues and employees to build not only a brand but a company.
What better company to learn from than Procter & Gamble? Steve Case, Meg Whitman, Scott Cook, and Steve Ballmer are but of the few leading executives who cut their teeth at the company that is arguably the best in the world at building enduring global brands. The new book Rising Tide: Lessons from 165 Years of Brand Building at Procter & Gamble by Davis Dyer, Frederick Dalzell, and Rowena Olegario is by no means a critical look at the behemoth, which granted the authors significant access to executives and archives. Yet the lessons are out and out fascinating.
Finally, the forthcoming Wedgewood: The First Tycoon from Brian Dolan, is an extremely well-written and comprehensive look at this early entrepreneur. Dolan draws from many fields to highlight not merely the innovative business practices of this pioneer, but to shed light on the economic and cultural context of his venture.