I’ve been reading a lot about marketing, branding, and running a business overall. I’m sure that, considering I’m an aspiring writer, this trend seems a bit odd. Later I will post an article in which I explain the connection between writers and marketing/branding/business management. For now, I want to bring you another book written with branding in mind: A Brand Strategist’s Note by Sophia Ahn.
Starting a business is hard. Building a successful brand for a business is even harder. Borrowing the first line of Ahn’s book, “Brand is ubiquitous and easily talked about, but in order for the brand to come out and be communicated, people behind it who develop and manage the brand are going through some heavy thinking and tricky challenges.” The process of creating and growing a brand is rather abstract with no right or wrong answer; something might work for the brand of one company, but when applied to another, it fails. Creativity and innovation can stall, and the basics of branding slip through the cracks.
A Brand Strategist’s Note by Sophia Ahn (a brand strategist in the United States and Korea) works to address these issues. It reminds existing brand strategists of the foundation of branding and gives new ones bricks with which to build their brand. This is not a how-to book. Instead, Ahn’s writing works to facilitate discussion about branding and give people’s minds a jumpstart into the process. With amusing (and helpful) Shel Silverstein-like illustrations, Ahn’s quick tips and quotes serve to get readers thinking for themselves, not just blindly following a cookie-cutter, step-by-step guide.
Admittedly, my brain has been rather…scattered as of late. Therefore, I’ve had a harder time concentrating even when reading. However, Ahn’s snippets of wisdom manage to not only keep my attention but to get me thinking about The Writer’s Scrap Bin’s brand and how I can improve it. She reminded me that a brand isn’t just an object; customers see it as a living, breathing entity with values and philosophies which grow over time. It’s born from a combination of facts and intuition, strategy and creativity, and no one approach is going to work for every brand.
Out of the entire book, I most love the quotes and illustrations. Ahn has collected quotes from successful entrepreneurs, philosophers, and other big wigs. These quotes help highlight and explain different concepts which the author touches upon in her notes. My favorite quote comes from page 60:
Great vision without great people is irrelevant.
–Jim Collins, Business Consultant and Author
Ahn continuously reminds the reader that great branding ideas must be implemented properly by human employees and that the brand itself must be treated as a person who represents the entire company. I think that Ahn could not have found a more perfect quote to embody these concepts than the one given above.
Even when the text did not manage to stimulate me, the illustrations did. Some of the illustrations provide visual guides, such as diagrams, to help convey the text’s meaning; others give examples of the concepts in the text, including ones from famous companies such as Starbucks and Amazon; still others just serve as amusing accompaniment to the text with which it has been paired. I stated earlier, these illustrations are very reminiscent of Shel Silverstein illustrations. Therefore, they are simple, black-and-white, and, at times, almost doodle-like. This simplicity allows the illustrations to aid the text without drawing too much attention away from it.
While the writing is easy enough for beginners to follow, I would recommend this book for people who already have some experience with branding. Ahn covers the basics and how they work. However, as the book is so brief (about 69 pages of text), beginners might find themselves wanting more explanations than what this work provides. For example, beginners will need a little more guidance in order to understand what a “brand identity” is versus a “brand image”. Another example can be found on page 56, where a novice like me might need a little more information beyond the sentence “Organize multiple brands in structure.” For this reason, seasoned veterans who get stuck might find more value in this book than newcomers.
Overall, I think that A Brand Strategist’s Note is a useful and entertaining cheat-sheet to the building blocks of branding. Having so few pages to go through allows the reader to advance through the book slowly, digesting each nugget of wisdom without wasting too much valuable time. It’s not exactly the kind of book you should use to build the entire foundation of your branding knowledge, but you should keep it at your desk for inspiration when none of your efforts seem to be working.
You can buy the paperback version of A Brand Strategist’s Note by Sophia Ahn on Amazon. To learn more about this book or its author, you can visit the publisher’s website and Instagram or Sophia Ahn’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.