Brand Hijack Paperback – Oct 3 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
This is not your ordinary marketing manual. With casual humor and a laid-back tone, Wipperfürth, a marketer who helps brands like Dr. Martens and Napster "appear like serendipitous accidents," advocates the "brand hijack," a process of allowing customers to shape brand meaning and drive a brand's evolution. Using case studies of products that were embraced by young consumers precisely because they lacked traditional, excessive ad campaigns, like Pabst Blue Ribbon and In-N-Out Burger, Wipperfürth shows that seemingly effortless branding is actually sustained by "no-marketing" techniques. Some of these tactics include marketing first to alternative subcultures and building a brand "folklore" with "customs, rituals, vocabulary...and experiences," much in the way that he claims "Starbucks created coffee culture." The book designates three types of brand hijack: the Discovery, which allows people to feel "in on a secret" (à la Palm); the Commentary, by which a brand like Dr. Martens is associated with a subversive social statement; and the Mission, which "declares a worldview oppositional to a 'Big Brother' enemy" (à la Apple). While the book speaks specifically to marketers, it offers a glimpse into America's consumer- and ad-driven culture, and even lay readers will be fascinated to learn about the sly techniques being utilized on them. That pair of expensive pre-ripped jeans will never look the same.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In an age of marketing saturation, consumers are pleading with advertisers to "tone down the relentless yammering; you're talking too loud for us to listen." As backlash to constant media hype, products sometimes become "hot" when consumers ignore corporate America's overt advances and embrace independent products such as Doc Martens, Red Bull, Napster, and Starbucks, creating a cult following and effectively hijacking the brand as their own. Even Pabst Blue Ribbon beer has made a comeback recently precisely because it is the antithesis of a microbrew. So how do you market to an audience that rejects marketing? Wipperfurth explains how to walk this thin line by "seeding" the right audience to create a buzz and patient development of brand recognition. Of course, there is no guarantee that any of this will work, but Wipperfurth has the expertise to give you an advantage over the big guys. He has been called "a marketing subversive . . . The guy who will make your brands cool" by Adweek and is a partner at marketing boutique Plan B in San Francisco. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Being hijacked by consumers who become evangelical about the brand is a powerful thing that has benefited many of the brands used as examples in this book. In fact the examples and business anecdotes make the book very readable and highlight well the decision and choices the original brand owners have. It spells what to do to enhance the economic value of a brand hijack, but also what decisions and choices can promptly erase all the good will being created.
The book offers a number of tables that will help you structure your brand strategies in this new market that hijacks brands.
The Blair Witch movie is most illustrating. Years before the movie was shot, the creators used horror message boards to seed ideas of the Blair Witch myth. Instead of doing the typical film circuit, they hit college campuses with advanced screenings and placed "missing" flyers of the cast. They even shot a "documentary" about the Blair Witch that was shown on TV. This story helped create a pulling mythology about the Blair With within the horror and college segments that eventually spilled out into mass. The two segments were required to spread the story; to own the story or brand as if they were "in the know" so it could spread to mass.
My one slag on the book is the Wipperfurth gets too academic on comparing religious cults to brand allegiance and the Seth Godin-owned theme of tribal marketing. They're both relevant to his book and topic, but it gets too heavy and disconnects the beginning and end.
All and all, the book is worth the read since most of the case studies have played out in the market and we can see how they exist today (PBR being working-class beer, now co-opted by urban hipsters) and how their models were replicated (Paranormal Activity & the Fourth Kind copying Blair Witch).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
More focused on brands than Gladwell's book, which was about broader social epidemics, BRAND HIJACK is a fascinating book. The term "brand hijack" refers to a group of consumers taking your brand and giving it an identity you as a marketer were not counting on. Like when punk culture re-appropriated Dr. Marten's, originally a worker's boot, into footwear that makes a political statement. While traditional marketing wisdom would say that this is a bad thing, that the last thing a marketer wants to do is lose control of their brand's meaning, Wipperfurth proposes that in some cases it can be a good thing, even something to encourage.
Brand Hijack is choc full of case studies, both successful and unsuccessful. Dr. Marten's, Red Bull, Napster, Ipod, Southwest Airlines. Great brands. It presents examples of how a brand should and should not treat its customers if it's looking for true, long-term loyalty. And it argues that one powerful method to create the powerful bonds that lead to such loyalty is through allowing and encouraging your brand to be hijacked. Hijacking of brands is a risky, unpredictable, and potentially long process that's a far cry from the traditional marketing formula, but if anyone doubts its potential, consider this: According to Landor's 2001 survey of global image power, Napster had a global rank near that of Sony's. In one year of its existence, with a marketing budget of under $1 million (compared to Sony's $1 billion+ lifetime budget). Something to make one take notice.
Brand Hijack also has an interesting section that compares the psychology of what Wippperfurth calls a "brand tribe" (a group of people who use a brand, such as Ipod, to foster social connections) to that of a cult. And he includes a much-needed and heart-felt call for responsibility as marketers. Although it's a topic that could fill a book itself, it certainly deserves a place in any discussion of non-traditional marketing. Where do we draw our lines?
As a writer at an ad agency and teacher of an advertising class on branding, I would recommend this book to any marketer, advertiser, student of advertising, or fan of Gladwell's THE TIPPING POINT. It gives one a lot to think about, and inspiration to think of consumers in wholly different ways.
The problem lies with Wipperfurth undying love for bullet pointing the world. I have rarely seen some one bullet point quite as much. A class in journalism or comparitive literature is called for. Simple arguments tediously wind into multiple segments and points and tables.
Not only are these tables boring and difficult to even glance through, but they are entirely pointless and inaccurate. There are no ten ways to catch a butterfly. No ten ways to read a newspaper. And certainly no ten ways to manage a brand hijack.
Rather than making some interesting points and arguments, demonstrating the importance of two way communication, exploiting the richness of modern media, and then talking through what makes the process so rich, the author gets lost in this mindless description of every phase and every twist and every turn. Very very boring and pointless.
But, the point is well taken. Brand managers can now learn a lot more about their brands, and positioning their brands, than 2 decades ago. And truly, brands must be positioned not just as for 23 year old young men, but in cultural terms - for 23 year old metrosexuals living in urban neighborhoods. Marketing needs to be more targetted - consumers have many identities and reaching one takes effort. Conventional STP analysis and demographic profiling is just no longer accurate - peer groups rather than age and sex, influence tastes.
Be prepared to flip pages. But do read the book.
I recommend reading this book along with Seth Godin's Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside.
The great thing about having a very small budget for marketing is that it forces you to think and be highly creative. Sure, big companies will always have more money....but they may not be able to have more creativity or freedom.
And that's why this book is so useful. It is a blueprint for change that small companies can really embrace...if they choose to.
Wipperfurth has created a terrific read that anyone from an upstart-entrepreneur to a seasoned brand manager or marketing executive will undoubtedly find fascinating and eye-opening.
The best brands are those that develop the highest quality affiliation between the product or service and the mind of the consumer (see the critical research and analysis done by the Gallup Organization's William J. McEwen and John Fleming "Customer Satisfaction Doesn't Count" in which the authors conclude that satisfying customers without creating an emotional connection with them has no real value. Indeed the only thing that matters in the end is the strength or quality of that relationship - something they refer to as customer "engagement"). Great brand managers attempt to create, promote and maintain this relationship. But what if the market runs off with your brand? Or, perhaps more importantly, how can you get the market to run off with your brand?
In Brand Hijack, Wipperfurth examines certain brands that have gone a step past the usual brand management tactics - brands that have actually been "hijacked" by consumers - some serendipitously while others have been carefully orchestrated and costly marketing campaigns. Some have failed and some have succeeded and Wipperfurth does a brilliant job of accounting for the difference. As great as it would be to have a marketing windfall in the form of a serendipitous brand hijack, most of us will have to actually make it happen or, at least, attempt to make it happen. But the path is fraught with pitfalls and strewn with the corpses of brand managers who have tried and failed. You will need a guide to climb this mountain and Wipperfurth has here created the equivalent of the Lonely Planet guide to brand hijacking.
The case studies are engrossingly interesting. You may want to read this book with highlighter in hand. Profound insights reside on nearly every page.
I am currently launching a new business and will certainly use what I have learned in this book to better my business plan, my marketing campaigns and my overall approach to customer engagement.
Thanks Alex Wipperfurth for a wonderful read.
The result is a must-read for an entire spectrum of 21st-century style-chasers to corporate protesters-from every Sergio Zyman worshipper to Naomi Klein "no-logo" policefolk. But, most of all, this book is for the traditional marketing agency-and anyone who wants to emulate them. A letter to the editor of the New York Times sets the context for Brand Hijack: "We have a message for the movers and shakers of Madison Avenue-`Tone down the relentless yammering; you're talking too loud for us to listen.'"
The subtitle's premise of Marketing Without Marketing is somewhat simple, but like a Paula Z exercise video, it requires remembering to do it everyday to bring around real change: marketers must understand the consumer as a "cultural producer"-an innovative, creative person that is not an empty receptacle for advertisements. Wipperfurth asks marketers to: stop chasing the new cool ("it belongs to the market"), think of marketing as facilitation (treat consumers as peers), "act like an anthropologist when uncovering market opportunity," and give consumers the opportunity to encode their meanings on products instead of having them jammed down their throat. Not easy, but he gives a plethora of examples-from Doc Martens to Napster, and from Pabst Blue Ribbon to Ipods. And, he's full of surprises-anthropological models, cultural studies-type analyses, and the occasional pop-psychological remedy/self-help pick-me-up (e.g., "letting go of an idea").
The advice is ethical: don't tell people who they are, and think about the cultural context of your products. Make moral decisions based on your marketing plan's contents, and figure out ways that your consumers can be "art directors." The real academic and practical theory of Wipperfurth's splendid and well-written work is his ability to draw on academic models and anthropological studies of the consumer, and he explains how to shift from individual-psychological advertising models towards the future of engaging in marketing conversations with consumers in cultural ways, letting brand-hijacks to take over.
An absolute must-read.
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