Zag – Book Review

By: Marty Neumeier

Building a Brand: Navigating the Clutter

Building a brand today is challenging due to information clutter, and Marty Neumeier offers a solution with 17 steps. First, he defines a brand as “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company,” emphasizing others’ perceptions. Brand-building is about forming tribes based on trust, answering the question, “if I buy this product, what will that make me?” The goal is finding white space in the market, not just outperforming competitors. The combination of focus, differentiation, trend alignment, and compelling communication leads to a “Zag.”

Step #1: Who are you? (Focus)

Identify where credibility, experience, and passion intersect. Write a future obituary for your brand.

Step #2: What Do You Do? (Focus)

Define your purpose beyond profit in 12 words or less.

Step #3: What’s Your Vision? (Focus)

Create a vivid picture of your business’s future and use it consistently to illustrate direction.

Step #4: What Wave Are You Riding? (Trends)

Identify and ride powerful business trends.

Step #5: Who Shares the Brandscape? (Differentiation)

Understand competitors and aim for #1 or #2 positions. If lower, invent a new category.

Step #6: What Makes You The “Only” (Differentiation)?

Define your brand’s uniqueness in a concise onliness statement.

Step #7: What Should You Add or Subtract? (Differentiation)

Know when to add or subtract elements to enhance onliness.

Step #8: Who Loves You? (Focus)

Build a brand community where each participant contributes and benefits.

Step #9: Who’s the Enemy? (Communication)

Pick a fight to combat brand-building apathy. Sometimes the enemy is the old way of doing things.

Step #10: What Do They Call You? (Differentiation)

Choose a name that’s distinct, brief, easy to spell, pronounce, and defend legally.

Step #11: How Do You Explain Yourself? (Communication)

Craft a trueline that embodies your brand’s unique value proposition and turn it into a tagline.

Step #12: How Do You Spread the Word? (Communication)

Compete where you can win by unpacking your name, trueline, and tagline.

Step #13: How Do People Engage With You? (Communication)

Map your value proposition against competitors, avoiding common competitive areas.

Step #14: What Do They Experience? (Communication)

Influence specific touchpoints where customers experience your brand.

Step #15: How Do You Earn Their Loyalty? (Communication)

Build customer loyalty by avoiding disloyalty programs and empowering brand advocates.

Step #16: How Do You Extend Your Success? (Focus)

Choose between a “house of brands” or a “branded house” and extend your brand’s meaning carefully.

Step #17: How Do You Protect Your Portfolio? (Focus)

Manage brand portfolios by avoiding contagion, confusion, contradiction, and complexity. Say no to maintain focus.


Navigating through brand-building challenges involves strategic focus, differentiation, trend alignment, and effective communication. By understanding your brand’s unique value and leveraging trends, you can carve out a distinctive position in the market. Building a loyal brand community and protecting your portfolio from pitfalls ensure long-term success. The art of saying no and maintaining clarity amid complexity is crucial for sustained brand growth.

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