A New Brand World: Eight Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century

By Scott Bedbury with Stephen Fenichell
Reviewed by Uma Outka



You may not know him by name, but you’ve known Scott Bedbury for years. Ever repeated Nike’s “Just Do It” motto or enjoyed a latte in an overstuffed armchair at Starbucks? Meet the man behind the curtain.

Bedbury is widely recognized as a master of branding. His specialty: taking basically boring products—sneakers and coffee—to exciting and profitable new heights. A New Brand World combines the insightful how-to with the tell-all memoir (there’s an inevitable sneaky pleasure in knowing that Nike CEO Phil Knight used to look out his office window at an aging strip mall). He presents Eight Principles for creating and sustaining a successful brand, interspersed with personal stories and vivid descriptions of marketing genius in action.

Though he’s focused on product and service branding, which is generally out of the individual networker’s control, his insights have considerable ramifications for how the networking opportunity is promoted. Early in the book he distinguishes between brand awareness and brand strength (we all know the Marlboro Man but we don’t all love him). This distinction parallels a basic challenge for networkers—finding the strengths of their chosen business overshadowed by the negative awareness of the umbrella “MLM brand.”

Bedbury’s definition is one that every networker would do well to take to heart: “A brand is the sum of the good, the bad, the ugly and the off-strategy. It is defined by your best product as well as your worst product. It is defined by award-winning advertising as well as by the god-awful ads that somehow slipped through the cracks, got approved, and not surprisingly, sank into oblivion.”

In this context, companies’ attempts at restricting their representatives’ marketing efforts makes sense: keeping a company name clean, so to speak, is perhaps the only way to create an identity beyond “MLM brand.”

But where does this leave the field? First, with almost all the responsibility: you’re independent, so the company can’t really control you, and too vigorous an effort to do so always backfires. Second, it leaves you with almost all the power: the company has to be sound and offer worthy product branding, but it’s the field that does the most to create the opportunity brand.

Bedbury asks, “How do brands become more relevant and resonate more deeply with customers?” His answer? Mass customization. And isn’t that where you come in?

Highlight this sentence: “Your advertising must create a proposition that your product or service delivers on, time and time again.” In that regard, customizing your opportunity to the needs and abilities of the people you sponsor is the only way to deliver on its promise. It comes back to the fact that sponsoring has to be about what they want, not what you want.

What would it mean for your business if there were no one out there saying, “I tried that, it doesn’t work”? What would it mean if the word on the street was, “Hey, you’re the tenth person I’ve talked to who’s happily involved in xyz company. What’s it all about?” From a branding perspective, that’s the goal.

Steps one and two should be obvious: Make only those propositions on which you can deliver; and, as Kim Klaver puts it, never sponsor people for whom this is not the right thing to be doing. For the more subtle subsequent steps to building brand strength (and for fun), you’ll have to read on in A New Brand World. Highly recommended.

Hard cover, 220 pp., $24.95,
Viking.