cover image Why Johnny Can't Brand: Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Big Idea

Why Johnny Can't Brand: Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Big Idea

Bill Schley, Carl Nichols. Portfolio, $23.95 (222pp) ISBN 978-1-59184-112-8

High-concept Super Bowl commercials, baffling corporate names, "formless positioning and flabby claims that lack any differentiating punch"—all come in for abuse in this sprightly old-school marketing primer. Harking back to the "Unique Selling Propositions" of the "Brand Titans" that bestrode advertising's golden age in the early television era, brand consultants Schley and Nichols exhort companies to redefine their products in terms of a single, mesmerizing "Dominant Selling Idea." They provide reasonably specific guidelines for arriving at a DSI, covering topics like market research, brand naming, visual imagery and—the heart of their method—concocting and laying exclusive claim to some special attribute through such techniques as combining two unrelated special attributes (Certs is a candy mint and a breath mint) or declaring a magic ingredient. They steer readers away from bland brand taglines and toward specific, wallet-grabbing, must-buy propositions like Black Flag's immortal "Roaches Check In, but They Don't Check Out." Writing in an engaging, straightforward style with a dash of wit and vinegar, the authors provide much useful, hands-on advice for perplexed marketing executives. Agent, Michael Carlisle. (Nov. 17)