Friday, October 14, 2005

Book Review: The Brand Gap

Brand Gap, The: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design
by Marty Neumeier (AIGA Press)

I recommend this book. I wouldn't buy it though due to how short it is, especially with the PDF that you can get that covers the major themes. It's more like caffeine than vitamins.

The fact that the first page spread is of the Nike Swoosh with the caption “This is not a brand” in Latin, should illuminate what type of book this is. It’s more bullets than in-depth reading, but the author explicitly states that this book was purposely written as an hour or less read.

Neumeier defines a brand as "A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service, or company." Thus a brand is not something that a company can actually create. It can influence it, but it can’t hand it to the consumer on a platter intact. He states that customers don’t want a logical, rational feature-based sales pitch and that they want a brand that they trust. He discusses the ills of focus groups and the pros of quick prototyping. This leans into the area of thin slicing that Malcolm Gladwell discusses in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. After all that this what this whole book is thin-slicing.

Minor discretions
Neumeier says that “Most people like clicking--they just hate waiting.” I would say that people don’t mind clicking if they believe that you are giving them what they want. Nobody wants to get off the interstate at the wrong exit and have to try to get back on the main road.

The author states that Amazon (page 140) lost 31% of its brand value in try to extend its online book niche into an online “bookmusiccameracomputerappliancebabyfurnituretoy” niche. Maybe it’s because the book was written in 2003, but I haven’t thought of Amazon as a book-only company for many years. I see it as an everything-store--like,,, or This means that he is right in stating the brand is rather meaningless in connection with the product. What’s the brand value of all those companies? These brands easily come to my mind when I consider buying something on the Internet. Amazon has become a storefront for small businesses everywhere to do business under their umbrella. I bought some really great shirts the other day from some guy in Pennsylvania--of course these are commodities, but I personally feel safer buying through than from a random website. I am also a left-brain shopper who reads the fine print on the generic and name brand medications to see which one has 5% and which one has 9% of the active ingredient.

The included recommended readings at the ending are an excellent addition. From the PDF at, it appears that Neumeier has got onto the Godin's IdeaVirus theme.

You can download the The Brand Gap PDF from my site, smjdesign.

--Stephen M. James


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