Branding Books Considered – Primal Branding and ZAG

If you are a business marketer or have ever studied branding, I’d like to recommend to very decent branding books to you. Let us compare the two and discuss a few of the main topics and where each of the authors is coming from. The two books, we will be discussing are:

  1. “ZAG – The #1 Strategy of High Performance Brands” by Marty Neumeier; New Riders Press, Berkeley CA; 2007.
  2. “Primal Branding – Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future” by Patrick Halon, Free Press, a Division of Simon and Schuster, New York NY; 2006.

Primal Branding was a fast-read, like ZAG, although Primal Branding was very repetitive. Patrick Hanlon the author did what Marty Neumeier promised not to do; that is Patric’s book took a little topic that could have been a 15-20 page essay and stretched it into a 245 page book.

Indeed, I think Partick Hanlon, did what a lot or PR Firm writers do; highlight their clients, potential clients and friend’s clients as a way of both propping themselves up and helping secure their own legacy along with their clientele. It is a PR strategy that many in that industry have used, as they borrow their own clients as case-studies, which helps them get in print and the author as their outsourced CBO or Chief Branding Officer.

Still, Primal Branding was a worthy book and good topic and it was definitely worth the $25.00 with the 10% Barnes and Noble loyalty card discount. Smile. One of Patrick Hanlon’s customers since 2003.
Indeed, I did like both authors take’s on loyalty programs. I see that Patrick was very Fortune 500 focused, and this may explain why he failed except on a couple of occasions to note that you can make anything a quality brand with enough money. It’s like you could run your dog for President of the US and practically get him elected even without papers for 750 million dollars. That’s not so impressive, as building without the advertising or marketing budget.

Over the years many of the companies I would have noted which were used in Primal Branding as examples were obviously not Patrick’s clients or within his knowledge base, so they were not listed, but should have been rather than all the repetition. The Primal Theme, was interesting, but “Primal” has been used successfully previous in book titles, so maybe that is why they used it.

You know, anyone can make an analogy and try to force everything into it to make all the bullet points fit, but Primal Branding somewhat missed the mark, this I noted immediately in the introduction with his mention of Starbucks, without having the knowledge of Howard Schultz’s book; “Pour Your Heart Into It” or how Starbucks Media and Howard’s move to LA and Hollywood to assist with his pop-trend branding efforts early on.

Anyway. I think Patrick is someone I would not hire for branding and Marty, author of Zag, I would. But, I also got the idea that Patrick was old-school (also judging by his bio) and Marty is both or at least has a good knowledge base of the 70s, 80s and previous due to background personal studies and great interest, but has made his mark in the 90s and present. If that makes sense to you.

As far as Patrick is concerned, his most important summary was at the bottom of page 236 and top of page 237. I think that is what one should take away from that book, it’s a decent format. I would love to compete against Patrick in the market place, with any company he has as a client. When it comes to Marty, I’d want to work on his team against anyone else in the market place.

Patrick’s book did discuss the obvious such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but come on? Was his book was written for a novice? For someone in the industry? A novice might have a small company, isn’t running a large one, and his advice is not meant for small businesses although pretends to be, perhaps to add to the book sales by widening the secondary target readers.

For someone in the industry, stating the obvious sets the reader up for low-expectations, which I guess is good, as that is all he delivers really. All his examples are larger companies with the exception of a couple, so, the book does not deliver for the small business market, which is a good portion of those who buy the book.

On page 209 Mr. Hanlon talks about several books he recommends, I have read a good many of them, most I did not care for. His recommendation for “Built to Last” by Collins is right on the mark, of course Marty’s book list lists that book too, and Marty’s list is much better and I’ve read a number of those too, I agree all good books. Marty’s list in the back of ZAG, I especially liked the brief summary next to each title of why. I have included a couple that I have not read onto my reading list for 2009.

I felt while reading the end of Patrick’s book that he borrowed some old work he had done and forced it into the pages, I felt his summaries of prior events were not exactly correct and that he was limited and in the very box he claims to tell us to step out of. His comments in the final chapters of the history were perspective based, not actual and quite frankly somewhat mistaken, and he attributed outcomes of events to actions that probably had little to do with them.

Patrick’s bibliography was completely week, it almost looked like an afterthought and made me question what I’d just read, even though I know for a fact much of his advice is relevant, because I understand branding for the most part, having lived it using my own money in the business world. Thus, I see his wisdom on one hand and assume on the other that his success in life was more about who he knew than what he was able to achieve from his branding genius.

In many regards Patrick in my opinion has come to believe in his own created myths and the myths created by others in his field, or so he pretends to in his book. Like I said, I’d love to see this guy on the battlefield in the market place. Although the book was decorated around a fun theme, I’d say he forced a square peg in a round hole, thus, I wonder if he even enjoyed writing this book or if he actually wrote it or merely talked into a tape recorder and had someone else write it.

Why? simple, if you have ever done this you will find yourself repeating often, especially if you dictate rarely to transcribers. Ask any transcriber, it’s a big problem, and if this is the case then shame on him for putting his name on something, he barely touched, that’s not fair to the reader.

If he did write it himself with all that repetition, I wonder if that is all he knows or if he’s just getting old and doesn’t remember. If someone is in the top of their field they ought to be able to do better. Now with that said, I understand he has connections in NY, lots of them, and has great clients because of it, thus, a book deal was easy to get. I wish he’d have put his efforts into it better. Patrick is obviously overpaid, and does not work as hard as he should considering the severity of his advice and the size of his clients. [in my opinion].

This does not take away from the gentleman’s business success, but it kind of reveals character. Now even with all that said, yes, it was worth my time to read and it was easily worth the $25.00 but, it is what I read between the lines in this book.

So, I am very glad that a fellow branding expert recommended it to me to read, I did learn a few things, and understand his premise, but he could have those two paragraphs on page 236-237 into a 250-word article. I just betcha, that Marty, author of ZAG would agree with me, I should ask him. When I completed reading Primal Branding, I wrote down those two paragraphs word for word in my trusty journal to use for an upcoming important branding project.

Now, with regard to the book ZAG, it is every bit as much that it promises on the cover, even more so, and you will be pleasantly surprised after reading it. The format is brilliant and it is easy to read, does not waste your time with repetition or nonsense. It is short, sweet and to the point. Easily worth the $25.00 and it is something that every entrepreneur, business person, marketing department, government agency head or non-profit PR person should own. It sits proudly in my business library, it’s a keeper.

Previous post Internet Network Marketing Recruiting Success
Next post The Easiest and Hardest Part of Phone Sales