Bake your brand into the product

Thanks to Jez from Live Union for telling me about the book "Baked In", by John Winsor and Alex Bogusky. Its a nice little book with a brilliant title and central concept. "Baked in" brings to life what I've been going on about for the last four years here: great brands are all about the product "sausage". And if that product is briliant it advertises itself. To quote Robert Stephen of the Geek Squad: "Advertising is a tax for having an un-remarkable product".

What I find funny is that the book is written not by someone who sells real stuff, but rather by 2 blokes from an ad agency. Follow their idea of baking the brand into your product or service and, as they say, you don't need advertising.

The most fundamental idea in the book comes at the end, when they talk about the future of business being about "systems" rather than simple products or services. Agree 100%. We've called this "business models". Nespresso is a great example. Its a great product. But also a delivery system. And an online retailer. And a members club. I don't agree with them when they say this means that we no longer need brands. I think what they really mean is we don't need clever logos and ad campaigns, as they love the idea of products or services being based on and telling a story. For story, read brand idea.

Here are some of my fave examples of baking the brand into your product or service:

1. "Sacrifice and simplify": right on boys. In a world of over-engineered products with too many gizzmos and features there's money to be made by taking stuff out. And making what's work really well. Good example is the Flip video camera. I gave up on our video camera as it was a) too bulky and b) a pain in the ass to get the film onto my pc. It also had a user manual the length of War and Peace.

The Flip is a camera with one button: Record. And it has a USB thingy built in, so you just plug it into your PC. Genius. Clever trick is that when you make and send a movie it gives the option of adding the Flip logo, which is in-built free advertising. 1.5 million have been sold since it was launched in 2007. And the company was hot enough to be bought by Cisco for $590 million.

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2. "The power of an absolute": the Baked in Boys urge us to look for "-est" and not "-er". In other words, search for how you can be the leader at something. Not just bett-er or fast-er or small-er. But the biggest, fastest or smallest. For example, the MacBook Air was launched with the idea of "Thinnovation", and being the thinnest laptop in the world.

3. "Make what's invisible on the inside visible": this tip is all about making the uniqueness of the product visible for all to see. They give an interesting example of Fender making the electric guitar solid, not hollow as all guitars were before, to reinforce the idea is what electric not acoustic. Another example is this wacky banana juice pack designed by Naoto Fukasawa, which sells itself without any logo or even product descriptor.

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4. "The almighty co-creator": I've posted a bit about co-creation. The example John and Alex use is co-creation on steroids though. Threadless is a web-based clothing business where members upload ideas for t-shirts. The community online votes, and the top 10 get made into real t-shirts for sale on the site. The chosen designers get $2500 in cash, which aint half bad, and the kudos of having people wearing your design.

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In conclusion, if you're having the common problem of ad-brief-itis, where you're struggling to get a good ad campaign for your brand, perhaps you need to take a hard look at your product or service. Is the brand baked into the product? Or is it a me-too copycat hoping for a clever ad to save the day?