My bet is that your mind will go to some kind of consumer good – the one that is instantly recognisable, that has a distinctive logo, colour or theme, which dominates its market. Think Sanyo, Lego, Mercedes Benz. In Australia, think Vegemite.
The thing about a successful brand is that consumers can buy in confidence time and time again because they can anticipate precisely just how their purchase will satisfy their need. Think Barbie, Cadbury, even Brangelina. But a really successful brand has to have almost universal appeal, and it has to be recognised across its entire potential market.
I may say “brand” but I bet you don’t follow it with “books”. In fact, books and branding generally make for uncomfortable bedfellows, unless of course you are in the marketing department of a major publishing house. I tested this out myself in the usual way – via Google. Let me tell you, the search results were not useful. Sure there are some absolute corkers of series – Twilight, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Guinness Book of Records – but are they really brands?
Non-fiction provides better examples of branding, travel guides coming instantly to mind. Before you even get to the airport you will know if you are in the Lonely Planet cult, a Frommer groupie, or a DK Travel Guide afficionado. But they are still only a wannabe brands because none of them have the coverage, and none of them dominate their market.
No, if you want to talk branding and books, you really have to talk about Dummies.
Dummies books tick all the bases.
Distinctive colours with an unmistakable logo
Consistent quality – there are no nasty surprises for readers
They dominate the market
True facts about Dummies
There are over 1,700 different Dummies titles, they are in a wide range of languages, they are on the most extensive and eclectic series of subjects from raising ferrets to setting up a call centre, from differential equations to baby signing. And no surprises here – they all look the same with the “hand drawn” Dummies Man and the distinctive yellow and black cover. They all have the same lay out – the books are organised around sections called “parts,” which are groups of related chapters. Parts are almost always preceded by a comic that refers to some part of the subject under discussion. Another constant in the Dummies series is “The Part of Tens”, a section at the end of the book where lists of ten items are published. There are usually resources for further study and sometimes also amusing bits of information that don’t fit readily elsewhere.
Suffice to say, if you want an easily digestible summary of just about anything, go to Dummies.
I’ve put it to the test with the blog. There’s the WordPress Bible, which I can’t understand, and there is WordPress for Dummies which I can. The Bible now lives in the IT department. The Dummies is littered with sticky notes and is sitting on my desk.
Dummies is so confident about its branding, and so co-ordinated in its approach, that this month, March, is Dummies month all over the world (with the exception of France, which clearly is way too sophisticated for easy how-to guides). What that means is that Dummies is giving a $5 cash rebate on every book sold this month.
We’ve got the books all nicely categorised and searchable. We’ve got the rebate form on every book. We’ve got a heap of them in stock. We’ve got them all at a discount. Managing Your Money for Dummies anyone? You’ve got until March 31.