A Branded World: Adventures in Public Relations and the Creation of Superbrands

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A Branded World: Adventures in Public Relations and the Creation of Superbrands. Michael Levine. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2003. 260 pp. $27.95 hbk.

In A Branded World: Adventures in Public Relations and the Creation of Superbrands, Michael Levine presents his take on the importance of having a brand in today's world of ubiquitous messages.

Levine defines the process of branding as the "creation and development of a specific identity for a company, product, commodity, group or person." In discussing the distinct roles that marketing, advertising, and public relations play in establishing and maintaining a successful brand, he puts the emphasis on public relations, in part because he considers it a necessity that is often overlooked.

The most interesting section of the book is the examination of case studies: why some entities succeed and some fail. Through the lens of branding, Levine analyzes why George Clooney is a film star and David Caruso is not, why Target is prospering while KMart is struggling. he also explains why he thinks it was a bad idea for one of his former clients, Charlton Heston, to become entwined with the National Rifle Association.

Especially relevant to today's headlines is his discussion of working for Michael Jackson after the first time the singer was accused of child molestation, in 1993. He remembers "the Jackson camp was doing the worst thing they could possibly do under the circumstances: nothing." His advice was to open a dialogue with the media. It would be interesting to know how he would handle the situation today.

The best news in the book for consumers in general is the rule Levine reiterates over and over again: for a brand to be successful, it has to be true to its promise to the customer. And would not that be a wonderful world, if every store, medical center, and insurance company promising personal service provided the same? Levine illustrates his point by using McDonald's. While McDonald's does not promise an elegant setting or waiters in tuxedos, it does promise inexpensive food produced quickly in a clean setting. It is the wavering of its focus from that promise that has caused McDonald's recent problems, Levine says.

This is also why so many dot-corns failed, because although the companies spent huge amounts on advertising, they knew nothing about customer service and how to make the customer happy. …

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