Author Interview The Physics of Brand

Author Interview: “The Physics of Brand”

The Physics of Brand” is a book due out this summer that’s at the top of my must-read list. It’s written by three of the best thinkers around: Aaron Keller of Capsule (a brand design firm), Renee Marino of Cupitor (a firm hired to value brands), and Dan Wallace of Idea Food (which develops brand strategies and marketing plans). Our team at Antenna has been hearing a lot of buzz about the ideas in this book from local CMOs:

“This should be your handbook for modern branding. “The Physics of Brand” is what most marketing books aren’t—fun to read right from the first page, engaging and generous in its trove of brand knowledge, and up-to-this-minute current with how the marketplace works today.”
— Mark Addicks, Former CMO at General Mills
“Making moments, accelerating velocity, building trust and creating value… The Physics of Brand mashes classic marketing and modern reality with thought experiments to provoke experienced and aspiring marketers alike.”
— Jeff Jones, Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at Target Corporation

We recently interviewed Dan Wallace to learn more.

What inspired you to write this book?
The book began over two beers between Aaron Keller and myself in 2002. We talked about ways the Internet might disrupt branding and marketing and how amazing the concept of experiential marketing was. Then a simple insight came to us: Brands and people interact across space and time, and those intersections were important areas of study.

The idea stuck in our heads, but frankly we didn’t know what to do with the insight until Aaron met Renee Marino, a former mathematician for missile scientists, who then became a CPA and finance professional with a focus on the appraisal of intellectual property, including brands. Renee liked the insight and offered to work with us.

What's your favorite takeaway or big idea from the book?
Tough question. There are so many. One big takeaway is that brands live and die in memories, and that multisensory stimulation by a brand across time and space creates stronger memories. Most people think of branding as communication, and communication is important to gain trial, but the brand really comes to life in the moments when people use the brand. We also came up with three logical frameworks that outline how brands work in time, space and in brains. And we did deep dives into neuroscience and big data. Renee’s data simulations proved that branded products provide an oversized return to brand owners, customers and society.

What did you learn while writing this book?
We learned a great deal about brands, of course, but for me the most exciting lesson was how to research, develop, and co-write new theory together with partners from different disciplines. We borrowed the U.S. Federal structure to help us contain conflict and spark creativity. Since Aaron had written two successful brand books, he was the lead writer, or our “President.” Aaron had final say on style and the book is written in Aaron’s voice. Since Renee testifies in court, she was our judge, and she added precision to our thinking. My role was legislative, to organize and develop ideas, and also to edit Aaron’s text. It was a lot of work, but we are a now a high-performance team. We also learned that the learning keeps going. Each time I speak I learn about how others interpret our ideas.

What did you want marketers to know and learn?
We want to help marketers become better at thinking through the interdependent systems behind brands and branding — to imagine how brands and people could better interact across time and space. The three new theoretical models we developed focus readers’ attention on the elements of brands that matter. Our reviewers have said that the book sparked their imagination. That’s success in our eyes.

What brands do you love? What brands do you keep an eye on for fresh ideas?
Aaron is a fan of Apple, Patagonia and Starbucks. Renee is a fan of Lifetime Fitness. And I’m a huge fan of Google Drive — we wrote the entire book in Drive, with no versioning at all. The big brand ideas seem to be coming out of the Venture Capital brands, such as Y Combinator and Kleiner Perkins. We are amazed by Slack, Uber and Airbnb. I find fresh ideas through my Twitter lists and my Digg reader.

“The Physics of Brand” is available on pre-order on Amazon and if you order, send an email to to receive a PDF of the introduction and chapter one, along with graphics of the time, space and Jacob’s Ladder models.


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