Bator’s admirable attempt to distill business success into three primary components.
The “formula for business success” posited by Bator (The Pocket Guide to Strategic Planning, 2011) consists of three elements: Brand, Culture, and Strategy. The book starts and ends by strongly reinforcing the notion that these three elements must be “aligned.” Employing the oft-used example of Starbucks, Bator suggests that the organization has achieved outstanding success because of its exceptional ability to align brand, culture, and strategy. Writes Bator, “the leadership of Starbucks continues to enhance that strategy and fanatically reinforce the standards that give customers the same Starbucks experience, regardless of which store they patronize.” Other examples of organizations that dutifully align brand, culture, and strategy are cited throughout. The central visual metaphor of the book, an iceberg, shows “Brand Conveyors” and “Brand Drivers” above the surface of the water and “Organization Drivers” hidden underneath. The Organization Drivers—the history of the organization, its mission and vision statements, its core values and service standards—form the foundation upon which brand and culture are built, according to Bator. In addition, Bator believes “a ‘focus on employees first’ philosophy” is a primary differentiator for the successful business. The book does a particularly fine job explaining the multiple aspects of a brand, properly emphasizing this key point: “it’s critical to provide a branded experience for customers and one that exceeds, or at least meets, the expectations they have developed from the brand image.” The author makes numerous cogent observations about brand experiences and brand perceptions; at times, though, it seems the discussion is so heavily centered on brand that culture and strategy are given short shrift. The book would have been enhanced by a more thorough discussion of culture and strategy (though there are some good thoughts about strategic planning embedded in the “Brand Drivers” section). An appendix of readings or resources might also have been useful.
Well-intentioned and stylistically sound; still, the book focuses on the importance of brand rather than comprehensive business strategy.