Books that matter: Kim Campbell reviews BrandSimple

For the latest in this blog’s “books that matter” series, reader Kim Campbell offers her take on the one book she recommends any higher ed marketing or branding professional read. Kim describes herself as “one of those ex-corporate America types who now calls higher ed home.” She works with a small marketing shop at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kan., and survives on unmentionable amounts of coffee.

BrandSimple: How the Best Brands Keep it Simple and Succeed

Review by Kim Campbell

BrandSimpleYou might say that Allen Adamson knows a thing or two about building strong brands. As a managing director at Landor Associates, he’s worked on brands such as Sephora, Verizon and PepsiCo. Adamson’s book, BrandSimple, is a quick read that might jolt your marketing or communications team back to reality. While written from a broad perspective, Adamson gets right to the point – the best brands are different.

It somewhat goes without saying that in higher ed: We all think that our college or university’s brand is, well, different. Different than the other private or public institution down the street, different than the community college in our metropolitan area, and different than our brand used to be 20 years ago. We sometimes do things just for the sake of being different. But is our school’s brand, or the brand we’ve created for a certain campaign, really different? Does it stand for something that emotionally engages people with our institution or cause?

This is where BrandSimple offers some wisdom that stands the test of time. The best brands are built on difference, but this difference must be both meaningful and relevant.

Through Adamson’s DREK process, he lays out four pillars that successful brands are built on:

  1. Difference – what makes your brand unique
  2. Relevance – how appropriate is that difference for the audience you want to reach
  3. Esteem – how well regarded is your brand in the marketplace
  4. Knowledge – how well consumers know and understand your brand

Together, these four pillars are an excellent diagnosis tool when it comes to taking stock of your school’s institutional brand or perhaps the brand you’ve created for a particular campaign.

Too often even the best of us go all in on a creative concept. We get caught up in an idea and forget that there are thousands of good, creative ideas competing for the attention of key audiences. We forget that it’s typically the simple, different ideas that resonate – ideas that are built on an appropriate difference.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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