Creating Passionbrands by Helen Edwards and Derek Day

Brand aid: be a dedicated follower of passion

As they say in their helpful 10-point introduction/summary: "Current brand management practice, with its slavish devotion to consumer whims and directives, is leading brands on a road to nowhere." The answer, then, is to develop some sort of meaning for your brand. But Edwards, who lectures on brand management at London Business School, and Day, who has three decades' worth of practical brand management expertise, say that this is wrong, too. "Marketers are right to believe that greater emotional connection with consumers is the route to better brand health, but they are wrong if they believe that this can be achieved through superficial means like communications or 'brand personality'. If only," they say. It has to be far deeper than that.

One of Edwards and Day's examples is the internet search engine Google. Much in the news at the moment on account of its escalating market value, the company is known to millions for its bright, distinctive logo as well as the speed and clarity with which it does its job of searching the billions of web pages for information requested by users.

It was founded on a simple idea, what Edwards and Day refer to as "a belief of breathtaking scale". In the words of co-founder Sergey Brin, Google exists "to organise the world's information".

This is not the sort of task you would necessarily equate with a company so apparently devoted to the laid-back, student approach usually associated with internet companies. But, as with Microsoft, and some other computer companies, there is also a tight focus on continuous improvement, a policy that is only enhanced by the sort of people that Google employs - super-bright individuals who are motivated by more than a monthly pay cheque to be obsessive and fanatical about making the service better.

Of course, it is easy to be passionate if you are a) a start-up and b) in a less-than-mundane industry such as the internet. The second point can be answered by arguing that there are plenty of other businesses in these sectors that do not share the passion of Google.

The first point is harder to deal with: there is no denying that passion can dwindle as a company ages or circumstances change. One only has to look at the businesses that change character once they get swallowed up by larger enterprises.

But this need not be the case. Edwards and Day believe that if a company or product can establish an "emotional connection" with its audience through brand belief and combine this in a way that shows imagination, integrity and guts with being "good at something that is good for people", it can become a "Passionbrand", and so have a chance of outperforming the vast majority of other brands.

It is a compelling story, not least because - unusually in a business book aimed at influencing chief executives - it is not simplistic. In fact, the authors go so far as to urge those seeking a simple, one-stop solution to read another book.

As part of their approach, the authors provide a lot of information on how we got where we are, to a situation where everything is a brand - a status reserved in the "good old days" for a handful of household names - and every brand seems to be constantly checking its validity with consumers rather than setting out what marketers call a "proposition".

The lesson should be obvious: when everybody is trying to be seen to uphold the same values - which are usually as unassailable as those old standbys, motherhood and apple pie - only the brands that are genuine in their conviction and/or really different will prosper.

As every entrepreneur should know, me-toosim is not a valid strategy.

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