Building Brands: What Really Matters

It’s good to see more and more books dedicated to the art of building and maintaining strong place brands. Some are academic, others brutally practical. Ed Burghard‘s book Building Brands: What Really Matters, is one of the latter, and we caught up with him to find out why he wrote it and what we can gain from reading it. Ed has been a long time contributor to our expert panel and is well known for his formula of Place Branding = Place Marketing + Place Making.

Ed, what inspired you to write your book, “Building Brands: What Really Matters”?

My branding career with Procter & Gamble spanned over three decades. In that time I was able to study brand building in both the private and public sectors. Along the way, I earned the honorific global title of Harley Procter Marketer for 1) having mastered branding principles, 2) having applied those principles to successfully build brands and 3) for demonstrating the ability to teach others how to brand. My own hands-on branding experience includes brands in both both the private and public sectors.

One observation over that time is too often small business leaders, entrepreneurs and economic development organizations blindly follow the advice of agencies to guide their marketing efforts. They lack a sufficient understanding of branding to strategically lead the agencies rather than be led by them. As a consequence, I saw many branding initiatives fail.

My passion for teaching inspired me to try and “give back” in my retirement by educating those managers about brand building so they can make better decisions with their marketing efforts.

Specifically with regards to place branding, I found many practitioners feel the core principles of brand building are somehow different and they tend to ignore the wisdom of practitioners in the public sector. They are simply wrong. The principles of brand building are universal, only the tactical choices are different.

Spending money on marketing is easy, spending it wisely is hard.  This book helps the reader be more strategic in investing their marketing dollars and more confident in generating a return on investment.

Imagine someone reads the book and is asked by a friend to briefly share what it is all about. What would you like her to say?

I think the real world feedback from these three readers is exactly what I would like to hear consistently. I don’t think I can say it any better than they already have.

“Ed – I have been reading your book and find it insightful and inspiring. I’m currently in the midst of a strategic planning process and one of the findings is my community needs a brand. Thank you for putting your thoughts and experience down in a very readable book I can use immediately.”

“Ed…got my copy last week. A short, to the point guide, making the complicated simple. A must read for communities and EDOs who too often spend thousands on ineffective “branding” campaigns. Kudos!”

“Ed, loved the book. It’s the perfect combination of practical brand development/management wisdom and real-life experience. I would recommend for novices and veteran marketers.”

Which are the key insights you gained from writing the book? 

First, the power of defining a brand as a promise cannot be underestimated. It is the key that unlocks the puzzle for every manager I have spoken with. When you tell them their promise must be authentic, relevant and competitive, they “get it”. Intuitively they know their promise must be kept and not broken. The rest of the branding puzzle is all about how to deliver on that promise in a heart and mind opening way.

Second, with regard to place branding, the power of my formula: Place branding = Place making + Place marketing. This formula creates a paradigm that can be readily compared with product or service branding. It explains why the branding principles are equally applicable for place marketers.

Third, and this is more than semantics, viewing marketing as a subset of branding instead of the other way around helps all the pieces of the branding puzzle fall into place. I should point out this model is different than the one espoused by leading academicians.

How does the book differ from others on the subject?

Here is what Philip Kotler (globally recognized as the father of marketing) believes is unique about the book.

“The most attractive thing about this book is that Ed lived with branding for 35 years in the greatest branding company, P&G. That experience makes him a real expert.

Ed does an excellent job of writing about his experience. His communication style is personal and interesting to read. Ed addresses most of the issues that anyone responsible for building and marketing a brand will face. 

Uniquely, “Branding: What Really Matters” gives a lot of space to place marketing. I am not surprised given Ed has spent a number of years making an effort to help the country do a better job marketing the USA and the American Dream.

His story about leading the Ohio branding effort is an interesting read. It offers. a number of practical lessons to help any community that decides to make a meaningful investment in place marketing. I found Ed’s place marketing learnings to be highly consistent with those in my book “Marketing Places.” 

I would be happy to recommend “Branding: What Really Matters” to brand managers and students.”

Philip Kotler, S. C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University from 1962-2018 

As Dr. Kotler calls out, this is a book where I share what I learned by doing rather than many authors who tend to talk branding from an academic versus an experience base. And, that difference is what makes the advice in the book less theoretical and far more practical.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

I opted to price the book to make a difference rather than generate a meaningful revenue stream. If readers have a Kindle Unlimited subscription the book is actually free to read. Otherwise, the eBook version is priced less than $10 to download. The paperback and hardcover versions are priced higher reflecting the actual production cost charged by Kindle Direct Publishing.

I would encourage economic development organizations to have their Board of Directors read the book at the start of any place branding exercise so expectations for outcomes can be properly set. For EDOs already into a place branding investment, the book can be best used to help identify areas where the probability of initiative success can be improved.

In closing, on the book’s Amazon page I have included a document entitled 12 Things I Believe. I recommend reading it regardless of interest in the book. The document shares some of the core principles I relied on during my career with Procter & Gamble.

More recommended books for place developers and managers HERE


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