Quick review : well written, easy to read with examples, and quite innovative - but the more experienced pratitioner or well read academic will probably be familiar with much of the ideas presented.
Full review : This book will appeal to those who prefer the visualisation of models and concepts alongside short examples, and the format will be particularly liked by those whom have followed an MBA degree or similar training. Main stream academics looking for well researched material may be a little disappointed, for by the authors own admission this book is "a constructive attempt to show another, more dynamic way, for companies to move forward. This book is not about research results, but about attitudes". The center has received feedback from many practitioners and managers tackling live corporate branding projects whom seem to like this book, and it is a fairly easy and somewhat innovative read for non-specialists or general managers, but perhaps less so for the well practiced or academic experts in the field.
The author, Jesper Kunde, is the founder of one of Scandinavia's largest and most successful advertising agencies. In this book, he outlines how it is possible to build strong brands through strong leadership and a strong vision. In explaining his holistic approach to brands and organisations, he draws on concepts from psychology and he argues that his ideas can be implemented in any organisation. The book is not a step-by-step manual as such, but rather an introduction to Kunde's way of thinking.
Kunde points out that simply having a good product is not enough anymore. Consumers pay less attention to adverts and brands and look at the companies themselves. They are looking for reliable companies with sound, consistent attitudes. It is necessary for the management to secure trust and loyalty from both within the organisation and from the consumers, and it thus needs to communicate its ideas to all the company's employees and to the public. Kunde argues that if a company has a strong spirit as its foundation, it can reach a strong market position, and a strong market position is what ultimately decides a company's destiny.
In order to achieve a strong market position, an organisation has to have a strong leader who can unite the entire organisation around an idea, a shared vision - a corporate religion. It is important for the leader to find out what the company really is, to be able to describe it. Kunde argues that this ability is unusual, especially in large international companies.
Successful examples mentioned in the book's many short and to the point case studies are Richard Branson and Bill Gates. These charismatic leaders have strong believes, a clear vision of the future, they know how to communicate it and they are conscious of their own roles. However, Kunde points out that the challenge is to establish the corporate religion in people's minds throughout the whole organisation, so that it is not connected to just one person. The corporate religion must be able to continue even after the first charismatic leader is gone, perhaps particularly relevant based on Microsofts problems of recent months.
Kunde argues that in most large, international companies half of the available energy is unused. If the management can describe the company, develop a consistent company concept, formulate an internal religion and manage the whole company accordingly, this hidden potential can be released. The employees, and consumers, need to feel that the company has a soul and that they are all fighting for a cause. The ultimate goal is to reach the stage which Kunde calls 'brand religion', when the product is a lesser part of the brand than the concepts associated with it. Harley Davidson is one of the examples Kunde mentions.
Kunde writes in a clear and straightforward manner, and Corporate Religion is an easy and enjoyable read. Those used to already reading ideas and approaches from scandinavian academic literature will find this general philosophy to business practice quite familiar. The concepts and ideas are well explained and further illustrated by case studies and graphic models. It is a book that some academics (used to MBA approach to learning) and most practitioners will enjoy and find useful as it provides both interesting ways of analysing organisations and of interpreting the reasons for their success, or lack of it, and practical guidelines on how to implement a corporate religion and what pitfalls to avoid.
However for well-read academics or practitioners, the book may not seem that revolutionary and Kunde's ideas rather common sense, but it is still an inspirational book worth reading if you have the time.