Friday, May 18, 2007

Book Review: Pop!

I knew when I started this blog that doing book reviews would be a frequent topic, but I have yet to write one. I guess things have been pretty busy over the past couple months and I haven't read as many books as usual. But I am indeed a bookworm, and reading tech books has probably exponentially multiplied the number of pages I will read in my life. So with this, I am to share some of that bookwormedness with the world.

This review is for the book POP! Stand Out in Any Crowd, by Sam Horn. It may seem redundant to review this book when it's getting such great reviews on Amazon, but I really enjoyed it.

The topic of POP is just what it sounds like from the title. The interesting thing is that it's not just about business, or design, or marketing. The principles can apply in almost any circumstances where standing out is important. Which is everywhere.

POP stands for "Purposeful", "Original" and "Pithy". The book covers, in a very methodical way (great for analytical people like me), several processes, methods and inspiration sources for creating original ideas and "buzz" to surround them. So you've got a great idea? How do you make it exciting and unique to the rest of the world?

Purposeful, the first P, is for "accurately articulating the essence of you and your offering." Your message must have meaning. O is for Original, because "no matter what you are saying or selling, you are one of many" and you need to distinguish yourself. Pithy is short - it must be concise so that people remember and it "sticks". No one has a long attention span these days, so your message must be conveyable in just a few words. Being purposeful (focused) helps here too.

Beginning with Purposeful, it goes into a very in-depth, soul-searching analysis of your subject, whether it is your product, business, or yourself - and forces you to define its meaning and purpose. Sam has you create what she calls a "W9" form. That terminology bugged me a little (I have been known to argue semantics...) as the "W9" form in the book has nothing to do with IRS forms (which had also been on my mind because of the HR kit we're developing at work, and the recent tax season). But get past the choice of title, and the W9 is something every business needs. The W9 is a series of 9 questions, all beginning with W.
  1. What am I offering?
  2. What problem does my idea solve?
  3. Why is it worth trying and buying?
  4. Who is my target audience?
  5. Who am I and what are my credentials?
  6. Who are my competitors and how am I different from them?
  7. What resistance or objections will people have to this?
  8. What is the purpose of my pitch?
  9. When, where and how do I want people to take action?
Now if you've read other books about branding, these will sound familiar, and probably feel a little regurgitated. But what follows in the book are excellent examples and definitions of how to answer these questions that is quite different from what you might come up with if you only read that list. Trust me, I've been through this exercise with my employer(s) too many times to count, and I got so tired of hearing the same old automatic responses that we always spouted, none of which were, well, POP! But the way the author teaches you to explore these questions can and will yield much better results than you thought possible. In fact, I did it for a project I was working on at the time, and I've probably never been happier with the results.

The writing of the W9 leads to a list of "core words" that are related to your product, which then become a resource for the rest of the book: techniques for creating interesting phrases, terms and ideas relating to your product.

Some of these techniques you probably already employ in your brainstorming, many are "old standbys" but there are also some new and different ones. And most importantly, they are all here, explained and exemplified and in one place. In addition, completing the first section of the book with the W9 and Core Words before trying these techniques will make you more productive than ever in using these techniques. So even if you have used them before, they will yield new results given your new focus. By the time you exhaust these techniques with your list of core words, if you've really tried, you WILL have come up with some real breakthroughs.

Along the way, the book gives some good advice for presenting and pitching, and connecting better with your audience. Overall, I found this book to be very useful with "real" benefits, unlike many branding books that are fun to read but don't ultimately get you anywhere. I would recommend this book, whether or not your job involves marketing and branding. It will help you discover creativity you didn't know you had!

No comments: