BOOKS: DECODING BRANDS - A system for mapping these special assets should prove useful, says Jeremy Myerson - 4D Branding, by Thomas Gad - FT Prentice Hall pounds 21.99

BOOKS: DECODING BRANDS - A system for mapping these special assets should prove useful, says Jeremy Myerson - 4D Branding, by Thomas Gad - FT Prentice Hall pounds 21.99 - This book is shot through with a missionary's zeal. Swedish author Thomas Gad makes

by JEREMY MYERSON, director of the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre atthe Royal College of Art
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

This book is shot through with a missionary's zeal. Swedish author Thomas Gad makes claims of biblical proportions for his system of mapping and understanding brands, ending with '10 commandments for a brand with a future'. God created the world in seven days but Gad turns one-dimensional brands into 4D brands in just one book. The immortal Richard Branson sets the tone in his foreword: 'Great brands touch people.' A long, sometimes rambling account of what is a succinct and serviceable concept follows.

Gad argues that branding represents the DNA of any organisation and to crack the genetic code we need to see a brand in four dimensions: functional (perceptions of a brand's tangible aspects); social (creating identification with a group); mental (supporting the individual in assessing products and services); and spiritual (local and global responsibility, ethical behaviour and so on).

Ikea is cited as the 4D brand to beat all others - on a functional level (practical designs at affordable prices); a social level (its homespun philosophy has built strong identification); a mental level (Ikea stores are choreographed to inform and entertain - Gad hasn't visited the one at Brent Cross); and a spiritual level (an ethos of economy, greenness and democracy).

Much the same is said of Nike, although cyberquatters such as nikesucks.com will give you the darker side of the saintly shoemaker. But you get the point: 4D branding helps owners build a more panoramic view of what they've got.

The book is at its best when it analyses the recent past and is rooted in practical case studies, and Gad likes nothing better than a reformed brand sinner returned to the fold. Adidas lost the plot but the retro revival rode to its rescue and it is now a fully paid-up 4D brand. Harley Davidson, having built social identification with the babyboomers, stayed with them as they got older and richer, and reaped the rewards; Levi Strauss, unsure whether to stick or to run to a new generation, is in trouble.

This is fascinating stuff, especially when the 4D argument is applied to new web brands: AltaVista is all function, whereas Yahoo! offers social and mental dimensions too. The trouble is that a brisk, insightful commentary is overlaid with Gad's Brand Tools With A Penchant for Capital Letters. But the book's heart is in the right place; the user benefits are evident but the functional side needs some fine tuning.

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