It's probably a result of less-than-fully applying myself during my college years, but I tend to pre-judge any book by an academic as boring. I'm glad that didn't stop me from reading Nancy Koehn's book, "Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers Trust From Wedgwood to Dell."
Koehn is a professor at no less than the Harvard Business School. She is also an excellent writer, and she understands that the essence of getting good information across is stories. Brand New is a book of stories about branding. It is anything but boring.
Koehn divides the book into two giant sections, The Past and The Present.
In The Past, she includes the stories of Josiah Wedgwood, H. J. Heinz and Marshall Field. All the stories are told in detail enriched by facts, insights, and quotes. All of them contain lessons for today's businessperson. Most of the lessons are about branding, but there's a lot more.
Read this book and you will find out all about how Josiah Wedgwood changed the common practice by impressing his own name in the unfired clay of his works. That's impressive. But you will also learn how his partnership with Thomas Bentley took Wedgwood's strengths and his insight about branding and turned them into a highly profitable business.
You'll learn about why H. J. Heinz packed his product in glass jars and how he kept control of his distribution. You'll hear about the 1902 giant opening at Marshall Field's and you'll learn about Field's varying relationships with his partners.
In the section on The Present, you will get the story of Estee Lauder and how she changed not only her name and image but also the face of cosmetic marketing through magnetism and incredible persistence. You'll hear how Howard Schultz wound up at Starbucks Coffee and why it bears his imprint, and you'll hear about Michael Dell without overmuch mention of the legendary dorm room.
The stories themselves make delightful reading, but the learning is probably even more important than the enjoyment. These stories illustrate how specific, successful entrepreneurs took a look around at things that were happening in society and developed products and brands and marketing and distribution systems to take advantage of them. These insightful and inspiring stories will help you understand your own business and find ways to make it more profitable.
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