Critics and Misconceptions

The original version of How Brands Grow was published five years ago. Over that period critics have been very kind, it's been lovely to read so many glowing reviews. To be honest I've been surprised at the lack of criticism because the book doesn't pull its punches, it doesn't go out of its way to avoid making enemies. The sub-title "what marketers don't know" is deliberately provocative, and faults are exposed in market theories and marketing theorists (both academic and consultant).

Yet criticism has been muted. Most is along the lines of "yes I agree with a lot of what he says" – with the implication…. "but not all of it". Yet very few have been willing to say which bits they dispute. I suspect this is from fear of embarrassment because they don't have evidence to support their belief, it just feels wrong. Fair enough, many of the findings in 'How Brands Grow' are confronting, counter to current beliefs, counter to what was learned at university. Those feelings of scepticism are perfectly healthy, so long as they encourage further thinking and data gathering. If you don't believe me please try to prove me wrong – only good can come of it.

I expected people involved in the direct marketing industry to be upset as they had been highly enamoured with myths of loyalty, targeting and customer engagement, yet they largely seem to have accepted the evidence and embraced the need for broad reach and evidence-based results. The same for those working in online media, while there are still plenty of people preaching the need to build deep customer relationships those who have read How Brands Grow seem perfectly happy to switch towards building physical and mental availability in big heterogeneous mass markets.

What little criticism there has been 'How Brands Grow' has come from marketing consultants, mainly those selling market research products. Of course, there are financial reasons, 'How Brands Grow' exposes that some of the things they say are essential to measure aren't very important. In some cases it exposes that their special proprietary metrics are equivalent to snake oil cures. There is also loss of pride, several have come out with critiques that are more along the lines of "it's not right, but if it is then I knew it all long ago".

Here are a couple of the things that have been said that are worth refuting:

Double Jeopardy says that brands can't grow – wrong. Actually, the whole book is about brand growth. The fact that brand metrics follow the DJ law tells us what will happen when a brand grows (i.e. how those metrics will change), it does not say that brands can't grow.

Double Jeopardy means there is no loyalty – wrong. Double Jeopardy clearly shows that loyalty metrics are predictable. In doing so it also shows that all brands get loyalty, that loyalty is everywhere. It just isn't the 'brand love' style loyalty that so many consultants love. Consumers are polygamously loyal.