A Counterpoint to the Branding Craze

Branding Only Works on Cattle: The New Way to Get Known (and Drive Your Competitors Crazy)
I just finished
Branding Only Works on Cattle
by Jonathan Salem Baskin on my flight to St. Louis. I’ll be honest that I thought I wasn’t going to like the book. I write about personal branding quite a bit, and the first sixty or so pages of the book seemed to be just a repetitive slam of the product/service type of branding. Boy, am I glad that I read more and finished the book. By the end, I really loved the ideas, and I came away really reconsidering some of how I talk about marketing and have shifted a little bit of what I say when advising people about social media strategy for business. Let me talk a bit more about what changed my mind.

Changing Behavior Drives MUCH More Value

Baskin left me thinking hard about two major points. The first was that money spent on marketing should be money spent on shifting a buyer’s behavior closer towards buying. Yes, I realize that this is fairly basic and fundamental in one light, but if you look at how far from this perspective marketing efforts seem to be drifting, especially online, it seems to me that maybe we should poke people on the shoulder and point out the basics again.

Is it more important that I remember the Geico Caveman, who somehow accidentally became a TV celebrity? Or should I be motivated somehow to double-check my insurance rates against Geiko’s? Repeat this with every brand. Did Starbucks win so many dollars because we remember the green and white logo, or because they invented the “third place?”

Search Is Vital

“Search is a larger, behavioral reality that impacts corporate strategy.”

Baskin rightly points out that marketing strategies that don’t include a heavy element of search won’t work well for us. One of the reasons that I advocate content marketing, such as writing a compelling group blog, is that it’s an opportunity to build search equity. Writing about things that people might search for is a great way to find some new people at your door who might want a look at your product.

Worth It

In the end, I think that Branding Only Works on Cattle is worth a purchase (or if you’re a library type, add yourself to the waiting list). The supporting information and some of the other points that I didn’t write out are worth looking into as well. It’s not a reference that I’ll be pulling down from the shelf every few days, and this book itself probably won’t be Baskin’s landmark work, but I tell you this: I’ll be waiting to see what he publishes next in a few years.

What’s your take on my representation of what he said? What do you think about focusing on behavior over branding? Are you naturally adding search into your marketing mix? Have you considered content marketing?

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