Fred Zimny’s Reviews > Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant

  • Brand Relevance by David A. AakerHow to create a blue ocean strategy is one of this year’s themes on this blog.

A little bit late – the book was published early 2011 – I decided to read Brand Relevance.

David A Aaker’s publisher claims that ” Branding guru Aaker shows how to eliminate the competition and become the lead brand in your market. This ground-breaking book defines the concept of brand relevance using dozens of case studies-Prius, Whole Foods, Westin, iPad and more-and explains how brand relevance drives market dynamics, which generates opportunities for your brand and threats for the competition. Aaker reveals how these companies have made other brands in their categories irrelevant.

Key points:

  • When managing a new category of product, treat it as if it were a brand;
  • By failing to produce what customers want or losing momentum and visibility, your brand becomes irrelevant;
  • and create barriers to competitors by supporting innovation at every level of the organization.
  • Using dozens of case studies, shows how to create or dominate new categories or subcategories, making competitors irrelevant.
  • Shows how to manage the new category or subcategory as if it were a brand and how to create barriers to competitors.
  • Describes the threat of becoming irrelevant by failing to make what customer are buying or losing energy.

David Aaker, the author of four brand books, has been called the father of branding. This book offers insight for creating and/or owning a new business arena. Instead of being the best, the goal is to be the only brand around-making competitors irrelevant.”

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The core

Quoted from the inside flip of the book:

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“The book clearly defines the concept of brand relevance and shows what it takes to channel innovation and manage the competitive area so that competition is reduced or eliminated.

Throughout the book, branding guru Aaker explains how brand relevance drives market dynamics using dozens of illustrative case studies involving brands such as Zappos and Zipcar. The book reveals how brand teams have turned away from destructive brand preference competition by making other brands irrelevant.

Adapting the brand relevance model – in which innovative offerings form categories and subcategories – provides dramatic opportunities for brand teams with insights and the ability to lead the market.

As Aaker explains, succesful brand relevance competition involves four vital tasks:

  • concept generation;
  • concept evaluation;
  • creating barriers to the competition;
  • actively defining and managing the new category or subcategory.It also involves being on top of the market, the competition and the technology so that they get the timing right. a crucial element of a successful brand relevance strategy.

Brand reference is a threat as well as an opportunity to firms facing dynamic markets. Aaker shows how to avoid having a brand go into decline because people no longer consider it relevant.

Brands that can create and manage new categories or subcategories making competitors irrelevant will prospect while others will me mired in debilitating marketplace battles or will be losing relevance and market position.”

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My rating

4,0 stars on a scale 0-5.

The author has written the book as a textbook. Very well structured with lots of examples.
These examples cover amongst others:

  • Changing the retail landscape;
  • The Automobile industry;
  • The food industry.
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For those who are looking for mainly service examples. Not too many. But branding and positioning for services is – in my opinion – always a tough challenge.
There are – according to Aaker – many authors that advocate transformational innovation or other strategic avenues to growth. E.g

  • Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim and Mauborgne;
  • The Growth Gamble by Campbell and Clark;
  • Leading the Revolution by Gary Hamel;
  • Beyond the Core by Chris Zook;
  • Creative Destruction by Foster and Kaplan;
  • Winning through Innovation by Tushman and O-Reilly;
  • The Innovator’s Solution by Christensen and Raynor.

As the author claims the difference is that his brand relevance book emphasizes the importance of defining and managing new categories and subcategories. For me it seems to be an extension of the concept of product differentation. Taking it to a next step and crossing a product (indeed mainly products) categories.
Reflecting on the concept I have to admit that brand relevance has the potential to both drive and explain market dynamics, the emergence and fading of brands, categories and subcategories. The examples did convince me that brands that can create and manage new categories or subcategories make competitors irrelevant.

This book is recommended reading for anyone who is interested in brand management. A minimum read is the first two chapters and the last one.
Not interested in brand management? But investing in your professional or personal life. Being or becoming relevant is a professional and professional challenge. The author’s approach might help you too.

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