Book Review: Consumer Republic by Bruce Philp

A few postings ago I recommended 5 Essential Reads for the New Year.  One of them was a not-yet-published (but highly anticipated) book by Bruce Philp, “Consumer Republic:  Using Brands to Get What You Want, Make Corporations Behave, and Maybe Even Save the World ”  If you’ve read Bruce’s blog, seen him speak, or perhaps have read his first book, “The Orange Code: How ING Direct Succeeded by Being a Rebel with a Cause,” (co-authored with Arkadi Kuhlmann) you’ll know that Bruce Philp is one of corporate America’s leading authorities on creating brands.  That’s precisely what makes “Consumer Republic” such a neat read.  Rather than speaking as an outside observer on the malevolent evil of brands, Philp brings an insider’s view on how brands really operate.  He takes us on a fascinating guided tour of the inner workings of brand advertising, and along the way, shows us how to make brands listen to us, give us what we want, and create a better world.

“Consumer Republic” posits that brands feel intense accountability to how we perveive them, and that this acts as a kind of insurance policy for quality and authenticity.  Brands, Philp asserts, have a lot riding on our willingness to believe in their ability to deliver what they claim to deliver, and will go to great lengths to protect their interest.  This includes making better products or services, treating the environment better, or even being nicer to us on the phone.  Our role as consumers is to communicate what we want, and purchase brands that align to our desires.  Then tell our friends.

Unlike some authors on this subject, Philp doesn’t need to guess at the motivations of brands or the companies behind them, because he was often involved in the process of analysis and promotion of many well-known brands in the first place.   This is what sets “Consumer Republic” apart.  Reading “Consumer Republic” is a lot like having a cup of coffee with someone who really knows what they’re talking about.  And the conversation is refreshingly optimistic.  Rather than the “brands are evil” approach we have often seen, “Consumer Republic” suggests that brands can be exactly what we want them to be, that it’s our choices that make the difference.  What we make of the brands in our lives is up to us.

Read “Consumer Republic” if you want a unique perspective of the occasionally absurd, and refreshingly human, world of brand marketing as told from someone with the inside scoop.  Also, read this book also if you are thinking about the choices you make at the cash register, and have wondered about whether you can leverage those choices as a force for change in the world.

For more information, below is an interview with Bruce about “Consumer Republic.”  And if you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your comments below.  Thank for reading.