Summary of The Brand Flip by Marty Neumeier

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  • Post last modified:February 16, 2024


  • Digital connectivity is transforming the way customers shop and companies build brands.
  • Before, companies built brands that attracted customers. Today, customers build brands for companies.
  • Because we’re in a world of constant change, brands should remain liquid and adaptive. They represent one never-ending, constantly-evolving story.
  • Customers expect to find meaning out of the brands they buy from.
  • Customers want to be involved in the brand; they want to be the heroes of their own journey.
  • Companies should align their purpose, offerings, and values with customers’ identities, aims, and feelings of belonging.
The Brand Flip book cover

Summary: 10 min

Book reading time: 2h00

Score: 9/10

Book published in: 2015

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Table of Contents

What The Brand Flip Talks About

The Brand Flip was written by the branding consultant Marty Neumeier. It explains that connectivity changed the way companies built brands due to two-way communication between customers and businesses. The author emphasizes the need for branding managers to shift the focus from the product to the customer and from experiences and materiality to meaning.

Branding is by far the most important component of marketing and while I’ve always had an intuitive and abstract understanding of it, I’ve wanted to understand it in more concrete terms.

The book partly helped me do so as it focuses more on brand building than brand definition.

Get the book here!

Summary of The Brand Flip Written by Marty Neumeier


Peter Drucker said that the purpose of a business is to create customers. It should have two basic functions:

  1. Innovation.
  2. Marketing.

Customers are the new bosses, so we need to know what they want. The broad consumer category is driven by a small number of individuals with hopes, dreams, needs, and emotions (“influencers”).

This has changed the brand-building model.

image 12
Old model of brand building.
image 13
New model of brand building.

In the new model, the company first creates customers through products and social media, and the customers build the brand in return.

A brand is not owned by the company, but by the customers who draw meaning from it.

A brand isn’t what you want, but what your customers want it to be.

Customers no longer buy brands, but join brands.

We live in a world with ten new realities.

  1. Power shifted from companies to customers.
  2. People are not focused on products but on meaning.
  3. Customers buy products to build their identities.
  4. They hate being sold, but they love to buy.
  5. They buy in tribes to feel safe and successful.
  6. The battle is no longer between companies, but tribes.
  7. The company with the strongest tribe wins.
  8. Tribes are connected through technology.
  9. Brands need to flow through multiple technologies.
  10. The most successful brands are not static, but fluid.

Part 1: Flipping the Brand

Products ↬ Meaning

In the late 1800s, marketers advertised product features.

In 1925, they advertised the benefits of features.

In 1975, they advertised customer experience, which they still do today.

What the product has -> what it does -> how it feels.

But current customers want to know what the product means to them -> they want meaning, belonging, and creative control -> this is the meaning economy.

A brand is a feeling the customer has about a product, service, or company.

Brands contain:

  • A reputation
  • A relationship
  • A promise
  • The sum of all impressions a customer has
  • A product
  • A logo

Tangible ↬ Immaterial

People no longer buy something for what it is, but for the feeling it procures them with.

Here are 25 ways to add value to your brand.

  1. Authenticity – Offer the real thing
  2. Availability – Make it easy to get anywhere, anytime
  3. Belonging – Offer a sense of community
  4. Clarity – Make it very easy to understand
  5. Certainty – Remove all doubt about its benefits
  6. Control – Put the customer in charge
  7. Curation – Act as tastemaker on behalf of customers
  8. Delight – Deliver more than reliability
  9. Findability – Make it easy to see, choose, or discover
  10. Flexibility – Be eager to accommodate requests
  11. Guidance – Add support, learning, or interpretation
  12. Hope – Offer a chance at future success
  13. Immediacy – Give quick delivery or priority access
  14. Inclusiveness – Allow customers to contribute
  15. Lightness – Eliminate weight or density
  16. Optimism – Make customers feel positive
  17. Patronage – Help customers support a cause
  18. Personalization – Let customers configure their purchases
  19. Protection – Keep customers safe from extra costs
  20. Safety – Protect customers from physical harm
  21. Simplicity – Streamline the product or purchase
  22. Speed – Help customers save time
  23. Style – Incorporate beauty or personality
  24. Surprise – Disrupt expectations
  25. Symbolism – Help build customers’ identities

A successful brand can become a touchstone in a customer’s life—a vivid symbol of what’s useful, delightful, and even magical.

Selling ↬ Enrolling

Companies may sell products. But customers join brands. They sign up with companies that see them as people, and avoid companies that see them as targets.

Branding creates customer loyalty by inviting the customer to join the brand in its journey.

Peter Drucker said that “the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous”. Branding is the best way to do so.

Company Identity ↬ Customer Identity

To build your brand, you need to forget about yourself and focus on your customers. Who are they? Start from there. Then focus on figuring out who they want to be and help them achieve that.

Better Products ↬ Better Customers

Innovative companies want to invent new products. But in the brand flip, it’s not a new product the company should search for: it’s for new customers.

The battle is no longer between companies, but between the people who buy from them.

The companies with the best customers survive.

Instead of thinking about product improvement, think about customer improvement.

Customer Segments ↬ Customer Tribes

Segmentation is practical to target customers in an existing market. But it doesn’t work well in markets that change quickly or that don’t exist yet.

The best is to start with a tiny market and scale it up.

People now spontaneously form groups around the things they like online. These are your markets or your tribes.

A tribe is not just another type of segment. You don’t target a tribe. You support it. Grow it. Partner with it. Organize it.

To sell a product isn’t about finding a market but finding the people who will support you in your endeavors.

These are the people you need to strengthen and empower.

What makes a brand strong is the mutual commitment between companies and their customers.

The trick isn’t finding the biggest possible market. It’s seeking out the truest possible fans.

Fans like generosity and bravery.

Transactions ↬ Relationships

Building a brand requires millions of transactions and a huge number of relationships.

Keep your brand simple in the beginning.

Start with a document that maps out the basic contract between you and your customer.

The Brand Commitment Matrix is a simple tool that helps you out doing so.

For customers, map out:

  • Their identity
  • Their aims (what they want)
  • Their tribes’ mores (how they belong)

For the company, decide on:

  • Its purpose (why it exists)
  • Its “onlyness” (what it offers)
  • Its values (how they behave)

Customers’ identity should align with the company’s purpose, customers’ aims should align with what the company offers, and customers’ tribes should align with customer values.

image 3
The Brand Committment Matrix. Image from the book.

Part 2: Leading the Tribe

Authority ↬ Authenticity

We no longer accept authority based on the size or reputation of a company; we look for authenticity.

To achieve authenticity with your tribe, you have to begin with purpose.

A purpose is the reason why it exists and earns money. It should concern your customers and you should never change it.

When you align your purpose with your customer’s identity, you get something called fit.

Fit is what happens when a customer finds a company that resonates with his values. They like it because they’re like it.

The words people use to describe a dream product are the same words they use to describe themselves.

The Authenticity Scorecard. Image from the book.

Authentic companies have four qualities:

  1. They care and have the courage and confidence to listen without defensiveness.
  2. They are sincere in showing their needs and appreciation for their customers.
  3. They are so clear about their integrity that they show it openly and unashamedly.
  4. They have a distinct personality and community.

The world today is mainly virtual which leads people to crave what’s real.

What’s real begins with a purpose.

Competing ↬ Differentiating

Purpose, passion, and commitment are not enough: you also need to differentiate.

When you’re the “only” in your category, you can name the tune that fast-following competitors must dance to.

Get a unique selling point (Eg: Volvo and safety).

Onlyness enables you to start small and grow your niche as you grow yourself.

How do you know if you’re unique?

Complete the following sentence: My company is the only (Eg: cake company) that (Eg: makes sugar, dairy, and gluten-free cakes in France.)

Attention: what seems unique to you may not seem unique to everyone.

Make sure your product is not only unique but really unique.

Processes ↬ Values

In today’s age of customer control, company processes are still important. But they’re subject to increasing flux. They need to be invented and reinvented on the fly, according to the desires and dictates of customers.

To do so, workers should understand their customers and function according to a culture that resembles the mores of the customers.

You create cultures by encouraging adherence to a set of values. When the company culture goes bad, so does the brand.

Features ↬ Experiences

The best brands are vivid. They conjure clear mental pictures and powerful feelings in the minds and hearts of customers.

Brands get in touch with customers through touchpoints (contact with the brand).

image 1
The Brand Experience Map from the book.

If you find that an experience doesn’t reflect the essence of your brand, take it out.

Every experience, every touchpoint, should illustrate the meaning of the brand and offer another way for your customers to build their identities.

You should have as few touchpoints as possible; choose the most telling about your brand.

The more touchpoints you create, the more complexity and cost you introduce into the business.

To choose your touchpoints, write a list of all of the touchpoints that make sense for your brand then assign 1 to 5 points to each of them according to how well they fit with your brand. Finally, put them on the Brand Experience Map.

Punishment ↬ Protection

Don’t punish your customers as Ryanair does by charging on every occasion they can and selling more stuff to customers in the planes.

The 80/80 rule: 80% of business is service and 80% of customers report bad service.

Customers want 5 things when they buy something:

  1. To feel in control.
  2. Reduce the fear of making a mistake.
  3. To simplify the decision process.
  4. To offer clear and immediate emotional benefits.
  5. To be free of obstacles.

Feeling control is the best antidote to anxiety -> hence customer reviews. While positive reviews positively influence buyers’ decisions, 80% of customers changed their minds after reading a negative customer review.

You can avoid such reviews by protecting your customers. Investigate the hidden costs of buying from you.


  • Slow website.
  • Refusal of credit card.
  • Delivery costs
  • Etc

Provide for “forgiveness”, the possibility to cancel an order, come back to the previous step of your checkout flow, auto-save, or an “are you sure” window that appears before making an important decision.

Here are other questions to ask to decrease the hidden costs.

  1. Is the product hard to find or buy?
  2. Are there unseen costs that customers must incur?
  3. What are the hidden risks or obstacles?
  4. Are there features that cause anxiety or confusion?
  5. Can you deliver the product or service better?
  6. Can you save the customer some time?
  7. Does your store or business have easy parking?
  8. Is checkout fast and friendly?
  9. Can you make the product easier to understand?
  10. Is your instruction manual too long or hard to follow?
  11. Can you make customers feel better?
  12. Is the product or packaging easy to recycle?
  13. Are there opportunities to produce savings?
  14. Can you eliminate negative social consequences?
  15. Is it possible to offer a 24-hour service?

Part 3: Designing the Way Forward

Deciding ↬ Designing

A great customer experience is designed, but only 5% of designers are really good. If you’re not a designer, make sure to hire someone proficient.

A good brand name must pass seven tests:

  • Distinctiveness
  • Brevity (max four syllables.
  • Appropriateness (it fits the brand),
  • Easy pronunciation
  • Likability (nice to say)
  • Extendability (it lends itself to brand play?)
  • Protectability (can be trademarked)

Plans ↬ Experiments

Plans rarely work so don’t build your company based on plans. It’s much better to build a prototype and test the market right away to see if it responds.

A hypothesis, embodied as a prototype, beats market research because it can be tested.

The secret to great prototypes is to design them quickly and cheaply.

Overchoice ↬ Simplicity

People say they want choices but they don’t because it takes too much brain power to sort through them.

Stay simple. It’s not easy though. Simplicity has seven enemies.

  1. The urge to add.
  2. The desire to mark with “brand children”.
  3. The need to grow revenue: selling more stuff doesn’t necessarily mean more profits.
  4. Competition
  5. FOMO: if one company adds a hot feature, everybody does.
  6. The expediency of extensions: adding features drives short-term profits.
  7. The masking of weak design: it’s easier to add features than to design well.

Never add without subtracting. Messy design is counterproductive.

Keep vigilance against creeping messiness. Delight in the minimal, the ultra clear, the super simple. Never add without trying to subtract.

Static Brands ↬ Liquid Brands

We live in a time of “meta change,” a period in which the very nature of change is changing.

Branding is a continuing story told by both the company and its customers.

Plan the work, then work the plan.

Brands cannot be static but have to grow and flow into new areas. This is called branching.

Every brand is a running narrative, a story-in-progress whose hero is the customer.

Keep some features that you had in the very beginning to provide some sort of continuity.

Storytelling ↬ Storyframing

We live in a time where we’re not interested in the things that aren’t happening right now, which makes us interested in the things that are.

We have a short attention span and want to know the behind-the-scenes of things.

As a result, customers build their own stories. This is why companies need to leave storytelling for storyframing instead.

Storyframing is the discipline of building a structure that lets customers create their own narratives.

The framework includes:

  • The purpose, onlyness, and values of the company.
  • The IAM (personal identity, customer aims, and tribal mores) of the customer.
  • Touchpoints through which customers can find personal meaning and growth.

Now keep the framework alive by applauding and encouraging your customers.

All of the mini-stories of customers make one big story that gives a feeling of profluence (the story is going somewhere.)

Purchase Funnel ↬ Brand Ladder

Short-term revenues no longer predict medium or long-term success. You should be focused on building your brand, not on sales.

Instead of stuffing people into a funnel to squeeze out profits, companies should be empowering customers so they can help build the brand.

You can use the Brand Commitment Scale (BCS) to measure how satisfied and empowered your customers are by your brand.

  1. Customer satisfaction: where trust begins. The customer bought a product and is satisfied, but it isn’t enough for repeat purchases.
  2. Customer delight: the willingness of the customer to recommend. You must surprise with something more than baseline satisfaction
  3. Customer engagement: enrollment into the tribe and emotional attachment that goes far beyond patronage.
  4. Customer empowerment: The customer incorporates the brand into the deepest part of his life.
image 2
The Brand Commitment Scale (BCS). Image from the book.

Take-Home Lessons

  • Social media and the connected world are transforming branding, marketing, and companies.
  • The business world is going from material to digital.
  • Customers today don’t “consume.” They want to be, not have. They don’t want features, benefits, or experiences, but meaning.
  • Customers don’t buy brands – they join brands.
  • Customers want a say in what is produced and how it is delivered.
  • A successful brand can become a touchstone in a customer’s life— a vivid symbol of what’s useful, delightful, and even magical.
  • When a product becomes a symbol, the symbol becomes the product.
  • The customer is the innovation.
  • The company with the best customers wins.
  • The best brand builders see greatness in their customers and figure out ways to enable it.
  • Any effort to get customers is marketing. Any effort to keep them is branding.
  • The best question to ask a new product marketer is not “How big is the segment,” but “You and what army?”
  • To achieve authenticity with your tribe, you have to begin with company purpose—the reason you’re in business beyond making money.
  • Each brand experience should be the brand in miniature, a representative sample of what your customers understand about the company and its offerings.
  • A great customer experience is designed. Make it minimal, ultra-clear, and super simple.
  • Never add without trying to subtract.
  • When designing a prototype to test a product, don’t try to impress your customers. Let them impress you with their reactions, knowledge, and insights.
  • People no longer just want to watch – they want to be a part of it.
  • People no longer want to be told – they want to tell.
  • Customers want to be the heroes of their own journey.
  • Empowered customers will move heaven and earth to ensure your success, happily attracting others to the tribe with their magnetic sense of commitment.
  • A brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.

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