Learning from the Masters
Those of us who provide fee-based services live and die by our ability to build an ever-bigger "platform," as the book trade calls it—a stew of branding and reach that generates a critical mass of ubiquity and trust in a given domain. Thus we can all take notes from Marty Neumeier who, through a series of books and a recent video, artfully demonstrates how to construct a mechanism that not only drives revenue up front but more importantly feeds the enterprise, hungry for clients, that lies behind.
Neumeier recently published his third book, The Designful Company, an extract of which we ran on Graphics.com a few weeks ago. Like its predecessors Zag and The Brand Gap, the author calls this a "whiteboard book"—one that can be consumed quickly, thanks to how the relatively modest amount of content has been packaged: small format, large type, full-page illustrations. Unlike the first books, however, which covered branding, the latest in the series is devoted to encouraging companies to engage in problem solving through a design-oriented approach. No small task given that "Unfortunately, most business managers are deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to creative process."
This isn't a review of any of Neumeier's books (for a thoughtful one, try The Designer's Review of Books). But while reading The Designful Company I was intrigued to learn that Neumeier had created a short video based on all three books. Available from his publisher, Peachpit Press, it bears the rather unwieldy title of Marty Neumeier's INNOVATION WORKSHOP: Brand Strategy + Design Thinking = Transformation, with the 45 minutes of content available for purchase on DVD for $34.95. It's also provided in streaming QuickTime format on the Peachpit site, which is how I viewed it.
Curiosity being one of my hallmarks, I also visited the site of Neumeier's Neutron own firm, which has "Build your brand from the inside out" as its corporate byline. Rather than placing branding in the hands of an outside entity, Neutron's (Neumeier's) position is that this essential element of success should be managed from within businesses themselves, coupled with a culture of innovation. To that end, "Neutron’s programs are designed to draw executives and managers directly into the brand-building process. Working with our coaches, you’ll learn how to develop powerful market positions, become change agents, align the brand with business strategy, and build a culture of innovation that will generate long-term profits for your company and its stakeholders."
Not surprisingly, Neutron provides a variety of brand-development workshops that dovetail perfectly with Neumeier's books. In fact, one or more of his three books are required reading for those participating in the workshops, implying that the role of the books is to set the stage for individuals and companies to come to grips with a real understanding, and subsequent implemenation, of branding and innovation via the services of (ideally) Neutron or a similar firm.
Which brings us back to the video, which is marketed as providing "enough activities for a one-day workshop," a claim based on the half-dozen or so team exercises that Neumeier proposes during the segments. There is also supposed to be downloadable content that includes exercise sheets and supplementary material, although I wasn't able to locate that on the Peachpit site. Running through the three segments and pausing to work through the simple exercises will probably serve as a refreshing introduction to companies or individuals unfamiliar with such material (and the video is something I could see design firms simply giving away to warm clients up for subsequent conversations). But it's also an excellent introduction to Neumeier and the services of Neutron.
So at this point, as a provider of creative services you should be thinking: hmm, how do the three books, the video and Neutron all merge into one cohesive entity, to generate cash, build awareness and manufacture clients? And the second question should be, to what degree have I been able to put something like that in place for myself? And finally: what can I do today to move closer to achieving that? Careful observation of Marty Neumeier's approach might help you answer those questions.
Founding editor, Graphics.com