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I just finished reading a great book called Web Form Design by Luke Wroblewski—the review will be publishing here soon. But Louis Rosenfeld and his company Rosenfeld Media were also kind enough to grant all Designorati readers a 15% discount to all products sold at their website, RosenfeldMedia.com.

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Rosenfeld Media is a relatively new publishing house, and according to their website their first books published just last year—but they have a good stable of authors and highly regarded advisors. Web Form Design is the first Rosenfeld Media book I’ve read, and I was very pleasantly surprised (more on this in the review). I’m looking forward to reviewing more of their offerings, and in the meantime I encourage you to visit them if you work in the fields of user experience design, information architecture or related disciplines!

BOOK REVIEW: Six Rules for Brand Revitalization


Six Rules cover

Six Rules for Brand Revitalization is a portrait of McDonald’s and its marketing from 2002–2005, when Larry Light (Global Chief Marketing Officer for the company and now a brand consultant) helped revitalize McDonald’s brand across the world. This revitalization is the case study that runs throughout Six Rules and is the basis for Light’s and Kiddon’s six-rule process for doing the same revitalization for most any brand. I personally am not sure McDonald’s has overcome the various strikes it has against it (quality, nutrition, customer service) but I’ll leave it to readers to judge the validity of McDonald’s as a brand success.

A mix of technical and anecdotal

I am always up for a good marketing story, and the McDonald’s story in Six Rules is a good one. All the necessary elements are there: a strong brand reduced to a weak one, oblivious executives replaced by progress ones with new ideas, and finally a well-executed strategy returns the brand to its former glory. The story in Six Rules ranks right at the top, in both McDonald’s descent into brand confusion and its eventual rise (if you believe the book).

There are many marketing books on the shelves with these stories, and Six Rules stands out for being focused almost exclusively on the McDonald’s story. This is not a combination of multiple stories as Jim Collins’ Good to Great was: the McDonald’s story is the only real example in the book, and it runs throughout. I actually enjoyed this deep focus on one complex example, and I was glad to see this focus on Light’s former employer did not crowd out the necessary text about the concepts behind his work at McDonald’s.

There is actually a good deal of technical information designed to deliver McDonald’s results for one’s own brand:

  • Concepts such as the six rules and the formula for value are drawn out in charts and equations. The brand pyramid is a particularly effective visual aid.
  • Each chapter ends with a “Do’s and Don’ts” section that outlines the key actions and pitfalls encountered throughout the McDonald’s story, and they are general enough to be applied to anyone’s brand difficulties.
  • It should also be said that McDonald’s is not the only case study in Six Rules: several other brands do make small appearances, such as Swatch, Apple, FedEx and others.

Inside and outside

A lot of marketing books focus on the ways companies market outward: advertising, packaging, social media, public relations. Six Rules takes it an important step farther by also examining what Light did to build the brand inward: encouraging employees to buy into the new brand promises, training new employees about the brand promise instead of the minutiae of employment, and developing a company culture that in return would express the brand’s promises in every customer interaction. I know first-hand that this is one of the most important aspects of marketing and also one of the least acknowledged or most poorly executed. Marketing tools can bang out a message or a promise as much as you want, but if the customer doesn’t get that promise when interacting with the company then it’s all for nothing. Light gets it right by paying close attention to this vital aspect of brand revitalization; anyone reading this book should pay the same close attention to this.

A story with no pictures

The McDonald’s brand revitalization story is remarkably full of interesting characters (Jim Cantalupo, Charlie Bell and Light himself) and changes in architecture, packaging, Ronald McDonald and other visual elements of the company. Therefore, I am disappointed Six Rules does not have any pictures! The book is slim despite being over 200 pages and it feels like a textbook instead of a storybook—textbooks are good, but the McDonald’s story is such an important part of Six Rules and the book design and execution serves the theory before the story. This is both good and bad.

Conclusion

Six Rules for Brand Revitalization is a very good book, and I recommend it for any marketing professional who works in the field of branding. There are many books like it on the shelves but its unique story about McDonald’s makes it stand out, and Light does a great job translating his personal success into principles and rules that anyone can apply to branding situations of any kind.

Six Rules for Brand Revitalization
Larry Light and Joan Kiddon
Rating: 9/10
Published by Wharton School Publishing
US$24.99