Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers' Trust from Wedgwood to Dellby Nancy F. Koehn
Pub. Date: 03/28/2001
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
"The hottest word in business lingo today is branding. Koehn has entered the scene to write a book that explains the meaning of this overused term. In this lucidly and entertainingly written book, Koehn traces how six great companies created enduring brands. In each case they thought first not of an ad campaign or catchy sales pitch but of the ingredients that would make their product distinctive. A valuable addition to any business collection."
-Ken Auletta, Author and Communications Columnist, The New Yorker
"Brand New is an unforgettable collective portrait of six entrepreneurs and the great companies they founded. With brilliant insight and vivid prose, Koehn takes the reader inside the minds of her entrepreneurs and analyzes the reasons their companies prospered even as most of their competitors failed. With a memorable mix of old and new, Koehn is able to accomplish that rarest of historical feats: rigorous use of the past to inform the present, and vice versa. Her book is simply an outstanding achievement."
-Thomas K. McCraw, Straus Professor of Business History, Harvard Business School
"Brand New felicitously blends biography, business history, and conceptual analysis in a book that gives the vogue word branding a rich and surprising past. Koehn writes with lively prose and has the historian's eye for illuminating detail. From Wedgwood and Heinz to Estée Lauder and Dell, her entrepreneurs created lasting brands, but always in a context of their own choosing. While giving due credit to their enterprise, Koehn brings out the interplay between vision and the historical forces that make it realizable."
-Jack Beatty, Senior Editor, Atlantic Monthly and Author, Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America
"Brand New is absolutely essential reading for anyone who has ever aspired to build a successful business. Countless "new new thing" technologies end up not making it to companyhood because their creators fail to appreciate basic lessons of businesses and brands past. In all moments of great economic change, technology matters. But understanding customers and meeting their needs effectively and meaningfully matter just as much-sometimes more. Using a range of compelling historical and modern companies, Brand New lays out a series of critical lessons that no businessperson operating in today's turbocharged environment can afford to ignore."
-Jonathan Bush, Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder, Athenahealth
"Koehn has opened a new field of business history-one that focuses on the demand side rather than the supply side in technologically new industries. She brilliantly records the careers of six entrepreneurs who, by defining customer needs, became leaders in their rapidly growing markets. By combining past and present, she joins her talents as a historian, case writer, and teacher to provide a new perspective on branding."
-Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., Straus Professor of Business History, Emeritus, Harvard Business School
"Today's literature on brand building is replete with simpleminded platitudes and prescriptions generally divorced from any context other than someone's most recent success story. With Brand New, Koehn has successfully described the complex evolution of modern consumer brands. In viewing contemporary business behavior through six of the world's great brand developers, she provides the reader with an interesting set of tales with significant take-home value. A superb read!"
-Len Schlesinger, Executive Vice President, The Limited, Inc.
"In a world where many companies are built to sell, Brand New shows how companies can be built to last-and that is where value is created. Unlike the recent spending frenzy, history shows that brands are built by giving value to customers, suppliers, capital sources, and employees-and by doing so at a margin that preserves the economic engine. The entrepreneurs in this book built enduring best-of-class businesses by creating change and living through it. Their stories contribute to an inspiring book."
-Howard Stevenson, Senior Associate Dean and Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
"Nancy Koehn understands how markets reward quality brand names, which is the essence of honorable capitalism. Indeed, in this field of study she is the quality brand name."
-Ben Wattenberg, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute and Moderator, PBS's weekly discussion program Think Tank
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Stories are the way that we all learn best. Professor Koehn has provided six meticulously detailed ones about brand development by 18th and 19th century entrepreneurs (Josiah Wedgwood, H.J. Heinz, Marshall Field) as well as 20th century ones (Estee Lauder, Howard Schultz, and Michael Dell). Almost any reader will learn details new to her or him from these cases. Each example focuses on how important brands got started on a shoestring. The book has a major weakness in that the financial details of the six businesses are too sketchy to really help understand the economics of what the entrepreneurs did. Wedgwood improved the quality of earthenware, and changed the way that the products were used by the wealthy and the aspiring. He courted the visible elites and royalty to inspire emulation by those who could afford the products. H.J. Heinz offered quality and convenience at a time when most preserved food products were shoddy and women did most of their own preserving. Marshall Field courted the carriage trade who could afford to pay top dollar for top quality goods and service. Estee Lauder provided high quality cosmetics at more affordable prices. Howard Schultz introduced most Americans to the latte, taking coffee from being a source of caffeine to a tasteful experience. Michael Dell changed the business model for how corporations got their computing equipment, customizing for each one just-in-time. Having been educated in both history and in business, it is clear that Professor Koehn comes at the problem more from the historical discipline than from the business one. As a result, the book will be most appealing to those who are interested in the origins of one or more of these brands, companies, or entrepreneurs. At this level, the book is five-star entertainment. Business readers will find that relevant details are often missing. For example, Wedgwood staged very expensive exhibitions of his wares. You wonder how he could afford to do this, and finally learn near the end of the study that the company had enormous profit margins. H.J. Heinz is described as being very successful in a predecessor company, yet he goes bankrupt. Some information about his margins would probably have revealed that he had low margins. The information is not included. There are bits and pieces of ratios and annual revenue numbers, but the financial side of these examples is clearly underdeveloped. That's a shame, since they all built up important enterprises on a shoestring. The choice of cases seems flawed from a business perspective. Five of the six are consumer products and services. Of the five, all appealed initially to high income people when good products and services were largely unavailable. Forming brands in such an environment is no great trick. Readers would have learned more about brand building from cases where the competition was fierce from people who were providing exactly the same choices. As a result, from a business perspective, this is a three star book. I averaged the five and the three star ratings out to reach my four star conclusion. After you read this book, you should think about how you decide which brands to trust, and how you go about establishing the trustworthiness of brands that you represent. What else is important before trust can be earned? In particular, pay attention to the significance of establishing improved business models (something that all six entrepreneurs had in common). Make your brand stand alone in its desirability in the eyes of all who see it! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution