It's great to have a strong brand customers love and are happy to pay a premium for, but when a brand gets overextended, underadvertised, overpriced or develops other problems, few entrepreneurs know what to do. In Brand Aid (Amacom, $24), author and marketing consultant Brad VanAuken goes a long way toward remedying these problems. VanAuken, a veteran who has done stints with Hallmark and other redoubtable branders, covers scores of brand-related topics, including designing a brand, building it, leveraging it and measuring its success.
Some of his more entrepreneur-relevant material tells how to make a brand stand out using limited resources. Smaller companies usually don't do it like the big guys, VanAuken says. Instead of consistently, steadily and expensively trumpeting a leadership message (the preferred method of big branding outfits), entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed with focused, disruptive techniques. Typically, this means concentrating on a core niche and taking a bold marketing stand that attempts to redefine the category by using nontraditional marketing approaches. VanAuken, it should be noted, has gone the big-company route in attempting to position his reference book. It may not be a mind-altering breakthrough, but overall, it's a significant addition to the brand marketing library.
A Team Sport
The myths about how Thomas Edison and other lone geniuses developed breakthroughs are mostly false, according to technology historian Andrew Hargadon. In How Breakthroughs Happen (Harvard Business School Press, $29.95), Hargadon describes the real process, which he calls "technology brokering." It occurs when inventors borrow existing ideas from one or more fields and gather the people, funding and other assets needed to assemble and apply those ideas elsewhere. He makes his case with detailed analyses of how Edison and others actually worked and offers systematic tips on how to broker your own technology. For instance, entrepreneurs should create innovation groups diverse in backgrounds and contacts and encourage networking inside and outside the company. It takes a lot of teamwork to be a lone genius.
Mark Henricks is Entrepreneur's "Smart Moves" columnist.