ZAG: The Number One Strategy of High Performance Brands

Reviewed by Trang Phan, Emerson College, USA

It’s easy to create a brand. The real challenge is to create a brand that will stand out in today’s cluttered marketplace. According to Marty Neumeier’s book ZAG: The Number One Strategy of High Performance Brands, radical differentiation is the key to a successful brand and is key to creating lasting value for shareholders and consumers.

ZAG: The Number One Strategy of High Performance Brands presents ideas in a straight-forward manner and is a quick read. It presents 17 easy steps on how to create a brand with differentiation and maintain its zag. The concept for this book is simple: “when others zig, zag.” Neumeier takes readers through a quick branding boot camp providing insightful tips for developing a brand that will impress consumers and blasting up the ‘unique selling point concept’ by several notches.

In his fresh take on brand strategy Neumeier tells readers that true power lies in the consumer and not the brand. Brands must work harder to distinguish themselves from the marketing clutter by producing a strong identity and creating a distinctive consumer experience. Marketers must have a strong understanding of radical differentiation to make their brands flourish. A good take away from this book is, “When focus is paired with differentiation, supported by a trend, and surrounded by compelling communications, you have the basic ingredients of a zag.”

If brands want to zag, they must be answer to fill out this statement: Our brand is the only _____ that _____ . Finding the words to fill the blanks is harder than it seems, but the step-by-step process walks through the surprisingly simple process. Brands die out because they are unable to keep their zag and eventually camouflage in with the rest of the other cluster of brands. Neumeier provides real world examples that show a range of businesses (from successful large companies like Apple to small personalized local coffee shops) to demonstrate brands that zag and the common features these companies that have resulted in success.

A large portion of ZAG is spent on telling readers how to create a brand’s zag but it’s also important to focus on what to do after you’ve achieved this. Yes, brands must be different, but they also have to make a lasting impression on potential loyal consumers. The latter half of the book gives some brief guidelines on how to be a brand that is always zagging.

The zag concept, as described by Neumeier, is essential in this day and age as brands scramble to stand out in the fear that they will be overshadowed by bigger brands. The rise of social media creates more territories for brands to infiltrate, but they must first learn how to be brands that consumers love. Neumeier offers an analytical perspective on branding and this book is a great resource when trying to understand how good brands are built. It is a simple guide on how to establish and nurture a radically different brand.

Trang Phan (@itsTrangYall) is a junior marketing communications major at Emerson College in Boston.  Originally from Dallas, Texas, when Trang is not studying, she likes to do origami, read, sketch, and walk around the city.  Her Lovemarks are Hello Kitty, Starbucks, Forever 21, Apple, and Sharpie pens.