Zag

Zag by Marty Neumeier was recommended by Éric and he was right, fantastic book. Veryyyy quick read, loads of great examples and interesting tips. Mostly good for new projects and companies but anyone branding something can find some good info in there. Neumeier wants to teach to reader how to “zag” when others are “zigging”, how to be different, how to be unique, how to differentiate your product or company from the mass.

I was very surprised actually because in all the “circles” of web 2.0 people I follow, no one that I can remember has mentioned it and yet Neumeier’s view of branding is very crowd sourced, p2p, distributed, etc. I think this could be a major book in web application creation and presentation/sell.

Now, the battleground is moving again. While intellectual property, access to capital and manufacturing efficiencies are still important, the newest barriers to competition are the mental walls that customers erect to keep out clutter. For the first time in history, the most powerful barriers to competition are not controlled by companies, but by customers. Those little boxes they build in their minds determine the boundaries of brands.

What exactly is a brand? Hint: It’s not a company’s logo or advertising. Those things are controlled by the company. Instead, a brand is a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. People create brands to bring order out of clutter… The only word that comes close is “reputation”. Your personal reputation, like a company’s brand, lies outside your control. It’s not what you say it is—it’s what THEY say it is. The best you can do is influence it. (emphasis mine)

Traditionnal communication vehicles such as television commercials work best with intrusive, one-way selling messages. But since people now have a choice, they’re choosing to spend more time on the Web, where communication is more like a conversation than a sales pitch. They’re also listening more to their friends, in a return to the word-of-mouth culture that existed before mass communications. Unfortunately, as audiences turn their backs on intrusiveness, the advertising industry is fighting back with even more intrusiveness. This is the first reason for advertising’s death spiral.

Success order, in turn, is determined by two factors: the “birth order” of competitors, which includes the much touted “first mover advantage,” and “preferential attachment,” the network theorists’ term for popularity. As positioning experts Jack Trout and Al Ries have often stated, the biggest winner is not the brand that’s first into the marketplace, but the one that’s first into people’s minds.

The best rule to follow when mapping your value proposition is to forget about the so-called best practices. Best pratices are usually commonn practices. And common practices will never add up to a zag, no matter how many of them you apply.

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