Marty Neumeier

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

One of the best things about the internet is links, more the concept than the technical. It’s amazing that someone, (anyone!) can follow, flick, tap, and click their way through ideas, people, and sites.

Today’s feature, Marty Neumeier happened just that way. First, someone shared a book suggestion and tagged someone who shared it with them. Both are good follows. I ordered the book, then Amazon suggested related authors. One of which was Marty Neumeier who has a trove of talks, which is what we’ll look at today.

What is a brand? “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization. It’s not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.” Neumeier’s comments are identical to Ashley McCollum’s insight about food and the launch of Tasty. 

If brands like Harley Davidson, Apple, Coca-Cola, Subaru, Yeti, and so on confer pricing power it’s because they offer something unique, they offer a feeling.

This means brands have to be different. Neumeier counsels businesses to ask, who are you, what do you do, and why does it matter? And there should be focused answers. Neumeier calls this, ‘ONLYNESS’. Terry O’Reilly hammers this point in This I Know and writes that it’s the “critical lesson” of his book.

“Successful products don’t win because they’re better or cheaper. They win because they’re different.”

Differentiating means being distinguishable. Neumeier says that if you can cover the logo, name, or product and still tell what the brand you’ve got it. Otherwise, you don’t. In his talks, Mark Ritson calls this a brand’s DNA and points out how the colors, the styles, and presentation all mesh.

For example, this is ONLYNESS:


Good marketing and branding are difficult because differentiation is lonely. As such, only organizations with the right culture will succeed. “Branding needs to be led from the top. It is not something you give to a marketing director,” Neumeier noted. A good leader will, “banish the fear of stupid.”

Building a strong brand is hard but worth it. Coca-Cola survived New Coke because it was a strong brand. It wasn’t only Coke that people trusted but recent successes with Cherry and Diet Coke too. When Netflix attempted to spin off its DVD service the company survived because its brand was strong.

Brands are not HIPPOs creations. Like evolution, they fit it a niche. Businesses must find what job customers are hiring for. “Find out what your customers are trying to do in their lives,” Neumeier said, “and help them do it.”

This isn’t a question to answer but instead a process to embrace. Like IDEO, Neumeier advocates for design thinking where a business communicates with its customers, creates prototypes, collects feedback, and prototypes again. As Richard Shotton saw, this doesn’t have to be fancy.

For books, Neumeier likes classics like Positioning and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing in addition to Confessions of an Advertising Man by Ogilvy. Also, The Medium is the Massage, which, “used all these great photographs of journalistic photographs of the time, diagrams and all kinds of stuff. It was graphically really arresting and very ’60s, hip-’60s and I just thought, That really spoke to me, and I really could understand that much easier than reading the full Marshall McLuhan book.”

Thanks for reading, HIPPO stands for HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion.

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