Book Review – “Brand Against the Machine” by John Morgan


Go read this book! "Brand Against the Machine" by John Morgan

Go read this book!
“Brand Against the Machine” by John Morgan

Occasionally, I fall into a book and feel strongly enough that it is worth putting together a few additional words on it so that readers know that I feel it would be worth their time and investment.  That time has come as we have found another fine example with John Morgan’s “Brand Against the Machine”.

Brief Summary:

The traditional paths of marketing and advertising are broken.  In today’s world, how can you improve your branding efforts to maximize your profits and improve your positioning with your desired audience?  John Morgan takes you through the essentials – know your market, develop a strong positioning, and how to sell yourself to said market.

There are three key takeaways within the first 50 pages of the book that you need to keep in mind every step of the way and make sure you abide by these thoughts each and every day:

  1. “The future of branding is marketing with people and not at them.”
  2. “Branding isn’t about market share, it’s about mindshare.”
  3. (And potentially most importantly…) “Another thing to remember is that marketing tactics come and go.  Branding lasts forever.”

John reminds us that this isn’t going to be easy and that you/we are going to have to work hard to achieve your/our goals.  Keeping those three items in mind, “Brand Against the Machine” takes you through various channels in how to improve your branding efforts.

Why I enjoyed the book:

Before getting into specifics, there are two general reasons that I enjoyed “Brand Against the Machine”.  First, John’s writing style is thought provoking, but not at a “speaking down to my audience” level.  I found myself thinking of how I could apply his thoughts to my efforts throughout the book.  Second, there is a good amount of humor and self-deprecation throughout the read and that is right up my alley.  You don’t have to take yourself too seriously all the time, no matter how much success you may have already realized with your brand/business.

In Chapter 60, John lays out “20 Rules” … excuse me, “20 decrees” for a business.  Number 6 caught my attention right away.  This decree says, “Customers have to “get” an idea right away”.  No matter how great you think your idea is and how well you think you are implementing a strategy around it, if your audience doesn’t “get it”, you are in trouble.

After reading through the prior 59 chapters and having thoughts in my head on how to improve this blog, I found myself immediately going back to the drawing board on that simple rule/decree.  Look for small changes to hit over the coming weeks and months and if you find them, know that it likely stemmed from a thought that crossed my mind while reading John’s book.

One additional thought came to mind while reading the book.  John’s words provoked a thought and that was to send him an email to see if he would be willing to answer a few follow-up questions.  Well, he was and here is the small Q&A that we went back and forth on over email.

Q1. Given the constant state of change we see in branding, particularly thanks to digital and mobile, since publishing the book in 2011, is there anything in the book that you read now and say, “I would tweak this a bit … and here’s how”?  If so, what is it?

I think I’d push the reader more. Building and maintaining a successful brand isn’t easy but it’s worth it. Too many people back away when things get hard. The strategies in the book work as well today as ever. But they have to be implemented and that’s where most people stop. 

Q2. Obviously the book has been a success.  Is it fair to ask the next question … will there be a follow-up?

Yes! Although my next book isn’t a branding or marketing book. It’s about the core principles people must follow to achieve their goals.

Q3. What else is on your (virtual) book shelf that you consider to be a must-read for branding enthusiasts?

It’s not a branding book, but The Greatest Salesman In The World by Og Mandino should be required reading for any entrepreneur or marketer. I’d also recommend CTR ALT DELETE by Mitch Joel.

Q4. Quick, one example of exceptional branding that comes to mind in recent weeks or months and why?

The first that comes to mind is Carmax. They brand themselves on being easy to buy from and don’t include the typical hassles of car negotiating. I recently purchased a vehicle from them and right from the start they were great. No pressure, no hassle, and everyone who works there seems to be genuinely happy to be there.

Have you read “Brand Against the Machine”?  What do you think of John’s additional thoughts in the Q&A above?  Let me know in the comments section below.  In case you aren’t already, you can follow John on Twitter or visit his web site and be on the lookout for his next book release!

If you want to read our other book reviews, click here.  If you haven’t read John’s book yet, go ahead and order that now.

Super Bowl Ad Review 2014

This past weekend’s Super Bowl was the most watched event in television history, with over 112 million viewers tuning in!  With the growing popularity of the NFL and a match-up of the two #1 seeds, there was a lot of talk about how good of a match-up it would be.  Well, the game itself didn’t pan out (for the Broncos at least), but the viewership numbers certainly eased the minds of the marketing teams that spent a good penny to advertise during the game.

Here are my personal favorites from the game, with a few comments for each, along with a few additional ads towards the end – two that I didn’t like and two that caught my attention well before kickoff of the Super Bowl.

#6 – Turbo Tax, “Love Hurts”

As soon as John C. Reilly’s voiceover hit, I/you knew that the ad was for Turbo Tax, assuming you were familiar with the prior ads that featured the actor’s voice.  I loved this ad from a humor and content standpoint.  It meshed extremely well with the Super Bowl itself.  However, the branding on the ad was terrible, though I’m not even sure where it would have been possible before Turbo Tax was finally mentioned 45 seconds into the 60 second commercial.  Great ad, not so great branding.

#5 – Doritos, “Time Machine”

This was the best 30 second commercial of the game in my opinion.  First, I thought it was pretty funny.  Second, the ad was strong from a branding perspective from beginning to end.  I’m not sure what level of intent there was to feature Doritos’ Spicy Nacho SKU, but any bag really would have worked in this spot.

#4 – Toyota Highlander, “Big Game” starring Terry Crews & The Muppets

This was a build off of the previously launched teaser ad from earlier in the week.  I have to say, had I not seen or known about the teaser ad, this probably would have been rated higher.  Again, just a personal preference on enjoying the surprise element come Super Bowl Sunday vs. seeing the ad for at least a week prior.  There was decent branding in this ad, with the Muppets mentioning the car itself and several close enough images of the Highlander written on the back of the car and several Toyota logo images.

#3 – Chevy Silverado, “Romance”

The ad above was funnier than the Toyota Highlander commercial and again, the element of surprise by not seeing this ad prior to the game, helped this Chevy Silverado spot land at #3 on the list.  The Chevy logo is showed early and relatively often in the ad, but “Chevy Silverado” itself isn’t mentioned until the last 5 seconds of the 60 second spot.  If you aren’t aware or aren’t looking for the Chevy logo, you have no idea who this ad is for until the very end.

#2 – Budweiser, “A Hero’s Welcome” & “Puppy Love”

Admittedly, we’re cheating a little bit here.  Budweiser throws out two great, great ads and I can’t pick between them.  “Puppy Love” gets a slight edge in branding due to the prominence of the Clydesdales, while you needed to wait 30 seconds before the first hint that “Soldier Comes Home” was from Budweiser.  But … that … ad … just, fantastic.

“Puppy Love” seems to be the consensus winner among this year’s ads due to its awesome story, and I would like to think, the terrific branding with the Clydesdales.  As of Wednesday afternoon, the Budweiser YouTube page for this ad has over 43 million views!  Congratulations!

However, I have to put someone else at #1 on this year’s list …

#1 – Radio Shack, “The Phone Call Commercial”

First, terrific branding right from the opening images.  Then, my mind was just completely blown away, with all of the 1980’s characters walking through the front of the store.  Look at this list: Erik Estrada from Chips, “Cliff” from Cheers, Hulk Hogan, Dee Snider, Chucky, Alf, Kid ‘n Play, The California Raisins, Q*bert, Teen Wolf, and Slimer.  Seriously?!  This isn’t just the greatest Super Bowl ad in 2014, this could be one of the greatest Super Bowl ads ever!  I’m so disappointed that this isn’t getting more props in the days after the Super Bowl, though it might be due to the fact that half the audience has no idea who these people and characters are.

Beyond the nostalgia and the strong branding at the very opening, you have a fantastic ending where Radio Shack essentially re-launches / re-brands itself and its stores.  The only thing this ad is missing is a hashtag at the end.  While it does bring in the “Do.It.Together” slogan and points you to the Radio Shack web site, they could have dropped in a hashtag on the same screen there and taken off.

So there it is, the second annual Super Bowl Ad Review!  Budweiser and Radio Shack were phenomenal and everything else fell behind those two.  However, these seven ads really caught my attention for one reason or another.  Now, let’s get to the bonus content …

I didn’t particularly like the following ads: The Diet Mountain Dew ad with Dale Earnhardt Jr was a little weird.  While it had decent branding in it, I somewhat expected a response from PETA and others about the content.  That’s simply because of the way things go in this country these days.  The other ad that I thought was going to cause a bit of stir was the Coca-Cola “America the Beautiful” ad.  I am not offended by the ad and I don’t think they were “wrong” for running it, as some are insinuating over the past few days, I just didn’t like the ad itself.  I thought the branding was weak and nowhere near as strong as ads in the past from the beverage giant.

Given that I am a Seahawks fan, I watched a lot of pregame coverage and found these two ads to be extremely well done:

The Zillow ad is obviously similar to the Budweiser ad above, but thought this was equally impressive and had strong branding throughout.  The Geico gecko is its own branding right from the get-go (see what I did there?) but this “Cheesesteak Shuffle” made me laugh.  Well done … again … Geico!

What were some of your favorite ads from this year’s Super Bowl?

New Poll – Where will you be advertising in 2014?

What advertising platform will you be leveraging in 2014? (Photo credit:

What advertising platform will you be leveraging in 2014?
(Photo credit:

Over the course of 2013, we covered off on several different trends in the advertising space, including the shift to advertising on various social networks (throughout many of our weekly Sunday Musings) and mobile advertising (most specifically with startup Nearwoo).

With that in mind, our opening poll question for 2014 is relatively simple: which advertising platforms will your brand/business be leveraging in 2014 to increase awareness and/or build stronger loyalty?  The options include:

  1. Mobile
  2. Paid Search
  3. Facebook
  4. Instagram
  5. Twitter
  6. LinkedIn
  7. Foursquare
  8. Other Social Media Networks

After voting, if you would like to endorse a particular avenue, please feel free to do so in the Comments section below.  If you have already leveraged any of these streams, let us know what level of success you may have encountered.

Thanks for taking the time to vote and Happy New Year! Book Review – “Brandscaping” by Andrew Davis


Andrew Davis' "Brandscaping" (Photo credit:

Andrew Davis’ “Brandscaping”
(Photo credit:

Two of the first few blog entries we put together on here on Shore Branding were book reviews for my favorite six books revolving around branding and digital marketing over time.  While two others have been read this past year, neither were as enjoyable as Andrew Davis’ “Brandscaping”, so I thought it was appropriate to put together a review of the book.

For convenience, here are the write-ups from my top six books – Part 1 and Part 2.  I have to say that I would put “Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Brand Partnerships” in the top three.  (Apologies to Mitch Joel…)

Brief Summary: [Read more...]

New Poll – What Is On Your Holiday Wish List?


What is on your holiday wish list?  (Photo credit:

What is on your holiday wish list?
(Photo credit:

We were overdue for a new poll for a few weeks on Shore Branding, but held off in the spirit of our #SaveThanksgiving efforts.  With Thanksgiving past us, it is now time to think about what your holiday wish list looks like.  Our new poll question is simple: What is the one tech-related item that you hope to receive as a gift this month?  (Whether this is self-gifted or from someone else is unimportant…) [Read more...]


Visit and help us ... #SaveThanksgiving Gobble Gobble

Visit and help us … #SaveThanksgiving
Gobble Gobble

If you have been reading our blog over the course of the year, you have probably realized that we love to celebrate the holidays.  Well, there in this poll of one, there is none greater than next week’s Thanksgiving holiday!  Unfortunately, as the years go by, it seems that Thanksgiving is getting swept under the carpet more and more, while consumers leave their families behind to get the early bird deals for their holiday shopping.  Retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day more frequently, and now, earlier and earlier.

For these reasons, we have launched!  In short, we want to take back the Thanksgiving holiday, remind people that this is a day for giving thanks for all of their respective blessings from the past year, and spend quality time with their family … not leave the house the second the doors open at local retailers. [Read more...]

Brand in Focus – Oreo

It has been a few months since we put a ‘Brand in Focus’.  Our second deep dive into a successful digital marketing strategy will focus on Oreo.  Let’s dig a little deeper into the brand’s efforts to see what has helped drive the brand forward and see how things look across social media platforms.

Oreo did not grab our attention until last year’s Super Bowl with its now infamous tweet and it has been history ever since:

We’ll focus on Twitter first, but before we do that, let’s outline Oreo’s efforts.  When visiting its own web page, you will see that they have links to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube pages.  One of the first things that caught my attention was the use of the same image/icon/logo across each platform – showing consistency in their branding efforts across each page.  Well done!  Now, how do they compare?  Let’s take a look … [Read more...]

Has your brand started mobile advertising? Meet NearWoo


NearWoo Logo As many would tend to agree, the future of digital is mobile.  Does your brand/company have a mobile strategy?  Does that include mobile advertising?  Well, it really should and I want to point you in the direction of NearWoo.

(Clicking on the link above will allow you to save an additional 30% off if you decide that you want to give mobile advertising a try with NearWoo.)

NearWoo is a start-up company here in the US that allows you to select what markets / neighborhoods you want to advertise through the mobile channel.  In four, easy steps, you can be up and running with your campaign.  Over the past month, we have been test running a mobile campaign in the NJ/NY area to see how it played out, get familiar with the site and analytics, and tracking the performance of our campaign.  The overall goal was to see if/how traffic improved on and to provide an overview of NearWoo’s capabilities for our readers and those that we have worked with. [Read more...]

Guest Writer Wanted!

Want to write a "Tips" article on Yelp or Instagram?

Want to write a “Tips” article on Yelp or Instagram?

Towards the end of the summer I referenced that several changes would be happening here at and this is one of those items/announcements.  I am looking for a guest writer/blogger to help out with a few digital marketing write-ups.  I have two in mind specifically, but am more than open if someone also had thoughts/ideas of their own and wanted to leverage this site as a platform.

What I am looking for specifically is for someone to write a “Tips” article for Yelp and/or Instagram.  To be perfectly honest, I do not use these sites nearly enough (Yelp) or at all (Instagram) and any type of tips article written by me would be a disservice.  There isn’t a rule or set number of tips that need to be included in the write-up, but I would expect more than a handful for each.  For reference, here are our past “Tips” write-ups on other social networks/platforms. [Read more...]

Understanding the New Facebook Insights

If you haven’t already, in the very near future you will start to see the new Facebook Insights tabs available for the Pages you run.  We picked up the new tools last week and wanted to take you through a look at the tabs and the information that Facebook will be providing page owners, while also sharing some of our initial thoughts.  Overall, there looks to be a much greater amount of data available to page owners.  Here is what you will be able to find if you run a Facebook Fan Page.


From the first picture below, you’ll find that the general overview will provide a 7 day summary of activity on your page.  You’ll see the total number of page likes, how many people your posts are reaching, and the level of engagement each post drives.  Facebook has cleaned up the way they show/illustrate Reach and Engagement metrics and I think it is much more visually appealing. [Read more...]