Peace Corps Writers
Talking with . . .
Nick Wreden


An interview by John Coyne
I DON'T KNOW NICK WREDEN (Korea 1974–76). We’ve never met, never spoken on the phone, never “taken a meeting” as they say inPrinter friendly version New York, or had a power breakfast or business lunch, but one day up popped an email from him, and better yet, word about his new and first book, FusionBranding: How to Forge Your Brand for the Future, a management book that came out in September. I don’t know anything about business, but books like this, with funny titles: FusionBranding (sounds like science fiction) appeal to me. After several email exchanges, I decided to interview Nick because (1) he knows about stuff I never think about, and (2) most RPCVs are hopeless when it comes to business. I thought all of us writers might learn a thing or two about the “real” world. I began the interview with some simple questions just so I could get the answers straight.
  What were your Peace Corps years and your assignment?
    I was an English teacher from 1974 to 76 in a middle school in southeast Korea.
   What is your academic background?
I graduated from Washington & Lee University days before stepping on the plane to Korea. After getting out of the Peace Corps and spending some time in Asia, I came back to the US and earned a graduate degree in journalism from the University of Missouri/Columbia. In 2000, I received an MS in Technology Management from Mercer University in Atlanta.
Tell us a little about how you got into this field of “branding”?
I was asked to teach a class on marketing. For some perspective, I picked up a marketing textbook from the 1970s and another one that had been recently been published. I was shocked at how similar they were. While management, financial, manufacturing and supply chain practices had advanced dramatically in 30 years, marketing books were still talking about “awareness,” “positioning” or other fuzzy concepts. I started reading a lot of books on branding and marketing. Most were little more than recaps of personal experiences or careers. There was little hard research, and little integration or even recognition of the vast advances in other areas of business. So I figured there was a market for a fact-based, holistic look at branding from a business — not a “creative” — viewpoint.
For those of us who know nothing about branding, what is it?
Branding is a word that is frequently misused. It is not about ads, logos and slogans. It is not about new brochures or press releases. Branding is a long-term profitable bond between an offering and the purchaser. This relationship is based on trust and loyalty, backed by everyday operational excellence and measured by customer equity. A lot of companies try to brand on the cheap with, say, a lot of advertising. But the level of marketing has little to do with a brand. Take Starbucks, for example. A well-known and respected brand, yet it does almost no advertising.
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