I read Accidental Branding by David Vinlanuri yesterday. In the book he tells the story of a number of brands that were created and successfully developed by people with no background in marketing and branding. Included are the stories of J Peterman, Cliff Bar, The Art of Shaving, Baby Einstein and Burt's Bees.
Overall its a good read but the cases he present are uneven. There are a lot of insights and the rise and fall and re-rise story of J Peterman is full of insights and a colorful read. The chapter on Baby Einstein is flat and lacking.
The story he's selling is the "outsider's advantage", that there are rich lessons to be learned from those who forged brands from the depths of their character and passions.
Far from being the exception I believe that almost all great brands are the result of a single individual with a clarity of vision and a piece of steel pipe in their right hand. A quick listing bears this out: Steve Jobs, Martha Stewart, Andy Grove, Henry Ford, George Eastman to name a few. None of the great one's were MBAs or McKinsey wanks. Behind every great brand is a giant asshole raging againt the universe pushing their vision through the painful birthing process of creation and assasinating anyone who steps in the way.
(posted via iPhone from the comforts of my decadent and idle escape. Forgive the mispellings and pig knuckled keystrokes)