Accidental Branding - How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands

Wednesday, April 2, 2008 by Mistlee

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Accidental Branding - How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands

By James Cherkoff

I was sent an advance copy of the book Accidental Branding - How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands by David Vinjamuri recently.

When I saw the title my heart sank because it looked like more entrepreneur-porn. However, this was a literal lesson in not judging books by covers because I really enjoyed it. The premise is that anyone can build a big brand by focusing on a few ideas.

What sets the book apart is that these ideas are taken from very well researched interviews and stories about the lives of seven people who have actually created empires out of thin air. And I mean empires. For instance, Roxanne Quimby who was living in a tent with her two children in 1984 but had sold her company, Burt's Bees, for $175m by 2003. Or the couple who build The Art Of Shaving into a national US franchise in ten years. And there's an excellent chapter about Craig Newmark of Craig's List and why he's like Chauncey Gardner.

All of the case studies are about people who had a need they couldn't satisfy in the market, or an itch they couldn't scratch as the open source world describes it. For instance, Julie Aigner-Clark couldn't find suitable TV for her new baby so she created Baby Einstein (a product I am very familiar with) which she sold to Disney for $40m 7 years later. A common theme which caught my eye was how closely all of the entrepreneurs stayed to the market. Often taking their cue entirely from their customers.

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This quote from Quimby probably sums it up best:

"You have to be really open-minded about what business you are in. You might not know what business you are in for a while. Your customers will pretty much define that for you, if you're open to their suggestions".

There can be no doubt that the web makes this aspect much easier than it ever was and it makes you wonder which mega-brands are currently being spun together in marketplaces such as Etsy and Dawanda. People who are not worrying too much about their brand but just staying focused on the most important part of marketing - their market.


About the Author:
James Cherkoff is a Director of Collaborate Marketing, a consultancy in London which helps companies in Europe and the US operate in networked media environments. He is editor of the blog Modern Marketing and contributes articles to the FT, BBC, Independent, and the Guardian. James speaks at conferences and events around Europe and the US, including MIT MediaLab and Reboot in Denmark. You can here him here. When he isn't knee deep in the blog-world he is likely to be discussing Arsenal FC or playing peek-a-boo.

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