Eric Huang on ‘Is your brand as important as your product?’

Oxford Publishing Conference

Interested in finding out more about the Oxfordshire Publishing Group Summer Conference? We are – so in the run up to the event BookMachine is running a series of speaker interviews. First up is Eric Huang, Director of Made in Me. Eric will be discussing: ‘Is your brand as important as your product?

1. Interesting topic. What made you focus on this area?

I have always been interested in this. For me, publishing has always been about the brand, or the story, before the format. My first real job was at Disney, and naturally this was the focus there – it taught me that the format isn’t the end of all the hard work, but the beginning. If you’re a publisher you make a book, but it really doesn’t end there.

2. Have you seen any examples where this isn’t the case though?

Most of publishing’s history has focused on delivering a single format. There are so many entertainment brands which have risen as a result of a book, where the publisher doesn’t participate outside of the book format. We often build these amazing brands and then let the industries who follow on after us make all the money. We talk about the publishing industry losing revenue – one reason for this is because only operate in one format. It is changing; but we have been limiting ourselves until now.

3. On branding. You have worked with some amazing top brands? Which experience are you most proud of?

I feel privileged to have worked at Disney. Whether you love them or hate them, they are undeniably amazing storytellers and have created/re-imagined formative stories for generations.

I also feel lucky to have worked with Penguin, Puffin and Ladybird.  They’ve each played memorable parts of so many childhoods and have stood the test of time as quality brands that consumers respect.

Disney knows the value of their brand, but many publishers don’t. For example, brands aren’t displayed on the front cover of books. At Disney, they know that anything with their brand on it – love it ornate it – will engage an audience. I feel publishers should behave more like entertainment companies and embrace their imprints – their brands.

It applies to marketing as well. If you are a kids division you market to kids and parents, but those parents are the same parents who buy literary fiction or cookbooks – why not market across divisions? Why leave each imprint to start their marketing from scratch?

4. Any other insights into what you might be talking about?

My interest is around publishing as a media industry. Publishing was the very first media industry and we have created some massive brands but I think it is a shame that we have let every other creative industry who have followed us get ahead, just because we are so stuck on our format. Let’s be storytellers first and booksellers second. Let’s be media companies too!

5. What advice would you give to anyone trying to develop a new brand?

Just think about your story first – create your world. Not every book brand should be a film, not every TV show should be a book. Create the characters of the story first and then you’ll figure out the best way to launch it. Don’t be too stuck to a format, the direction will become obvious later on.

You can hear Eric talk further about this topic at The Oxford Publishing Group Summer Conference on June 23rd 2015. Early-bird tickets are on sale until the end of March.