The Brand Mapping Strategy: A Book Review

Karen Tiber Leland, author of The Brand Mapping Strategy, is a branding coach. Reading her book feels a lot like sitting down with a brand coach and getting some insight and advice. The tone is friendly, the ideas are accessible, and there are plenty of practical takeaways.

Leland starts with a new vision of branding and marketing that recognizes the changes digital marketing has made in the concept of branding. It can be hard, if you’re accustomed to traditional marketing, to grasp this — and not getting it can really interfere with success in online marketing.

I’m reminded of a hospital we wrote for that used slogans like, “It’s in our DNA” and “The best kept secret.” If people ever search for phrases like that online, one thing we can say with confidence is that they’re not looking for a hospital. But cryptic slogans were part of the hospital’s brand. In print, it made them look sassy and hip. Online, it seriously interfered with organic search. (If you’re having this problem, check out the solution I came up with. It has worked well for us many times by now.)

The next chapter is another strong dose of reality: your brand journey needs to start with your platform. “I have seen far too many people haphazardly rush into building buzz for their brand,” says Leland, “only to drive traffic back to a website and/or social media sites that don’t hit the mark.”

Leland’s list of negatives for websites and social media pages:

  • sloppy (bad writing, grammar, and spelling)
  • poorly designed
  • badly branded
  • inconsistent
  • unclear
  • not using marketing best practices

She tells the story of a dentist who was convinced that “patients don’t care about websites” until he compared his own website with a competitor’s during his branding work with Leland. He couldn’t avoid the reality that he ended up looking less competent and knowledgeable than his competitor… something consumers don’t look for in a dentist.

By this time, readers should be clear on the importance of branding and on where they might be missing the mark.

The next section goes into the step by step “Brand Mapping” process — a trademarked term. There are exercises to help you and your team clarify your essential brand resources, including a clear statement of what you have to offer, your unique brand proposition, your signature story, and more. Whether you’re at the beginning of your branding journey or committed to continuous improvement, Leland has ideas that will help you.

Tidbits in the book include specific suggestions for improving your LinkedIn page, the cost of a PR campaign, and tips for team-building. It’s an easy read, and just about every professional or business owner will learn something new.

So many of the branding books I’ve read focus on visual branding that I found this one very refreshing. I’d recommend reading this before you sit down with your web firm — as Leland says, “If you don’t define your brand, someone else will define it for you.” Having a clear understanding of your organization’s brand can really help save time and money on digital marketing campaigns.

I received a copy of this book for review. I was not paid for this review, and you know I always tell you the truth.






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