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McGhie holds the belief that every marketing problem or opportunity can be framed as a positioning exercise, and his new book BRAND is a Four Letter Word: Positioning and The Real Art of Marketing covers such topics as “What the Hell is a Brand Anyway?”, “Brand Architecture – A Positioning Puzzle” and “Advertising – And the Need for Radical Re-engineering”. McGhie discusses what the word “brand” means in our current society, and gives advice on how to create your brand – acknowledging that brands cannot be bought, and that a brand is a response from the marketplace, and not a marketer’s stimulus. “Unless youʼre a rancher, thereʼs no such thing as branding” McGhie tells us. “You canʼt just brand something. The idea should never be used as a verb. Brand is the prize. The outcome. Itʼs a noun. The actual work – the verb, if you will – is positioning.”


McGhie, who is currently the president of the Strategy Group at Sterling Brands, has a 30-year career spanning the marketing, sales and advertising industries and has worked for companies such as Ogilvy and Mather, Cole & Weber and Kellogg’s. McGhie’s team at Sterling has worked on projects with Disney, Nike, Google and Microsoft, among others. McGhie himself has worked on both sides of the fence – both as a client and as a strategist, and believes that strategy is where his strengths lie: “I almost feel guilty doing what I do now. I get to move from one strategic problem to the next. I get to try to solve puzzles every day. I get paid to do what I love to do.”

The book has received good reviews so far: Jack Trout, global marketing expert and author, said “I’ll tell you what I like about Austin’s work, and why it’s worth reading. He’s written an angry book about what’s not happening in the marketing world. To me, it’s time to get angry and restate what many overlook or just don’t get about building a differentiated brand.”


McGhie believes that the biggest mistake designers make is “starting any design project without fully understanding that position. Great brands, like great people, have a strong, clear point of view. A world view that is theirs and theirs alone.”

Brand-author.jpg“In the book I attack this idea of “thinking outside the box.” If you think of the strategy as the “box,” then coming up with out-of-the-box solutions is stupid,” McGhie explains. “Any idiot can ignore strategy and get outside the box. Similarly, the middle of the box is just boring—no one will pay attention. As a designer, your job is to bang the hell out of the inside edges of that box. Make it bigger. Expand it in unforeseen directions and ways. But always by pounding on the inside edges. Always with a goal.”

BRAND is a Four Letter Word is published by Advantage Media Group and can be found in bookstores and online now.

To read the full Q&A with Austin McGhie please click HERE.