I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of this book, just by pure chance. Wipperfurth saw my review of Malcolm Gladwell's THE TIPPING POINT and emailed me to see if I'd be interested. Guess some good things do come of writing all these reviews.
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.