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The Edge: 50 Tips from Brands that Lead by [Allen P. Adamson, Steve Forbes]

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The Edge: 50 Tips from Brands that Lead Kindle Edition

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Editorial Reviews


“How do the top brands stay on top in such a remarkably fast-evolving market? In his new book, Allen Adamson gives readers answers from the inside. Filled with lively interviews and valuable tips directly from some of the top minds in the fields of marketing, social media, technology and popular culture, The Edge reveals what’s required to become and stay a leading brand. Both entertaining and instructive, it’s a must-read for every marketer.” --Beth Comstock, Senior Vice President, CMO, GE


“I always learn something from my interviews with Allen Adamson..... to gain an advantage, it's necessary to go the extra mile, act with greater ambition and determination. Average is over. Companies must ask themselves: Is our product something that is distinctive enough that we feel proud enough to put our name on it?" --Thomas Friedman, The New York Times


“Once again, Allen Adamson brings to life the rules of smart brand-building in simple, no-nonsense, fast-paced style, pulling together tips and insights from an impressive list of the most successful names in marketing, media, technology, and entertainment.” --Eric Kessler, President and Chief Operating Officer HBO


“As Allen Adamson makes clear in The Edge, it's only getting harder for a brand to maintain leadership. As such, the power of a brand idea has never been more important. We may influence the messages around our brands, but we can quickly lose control. A brand's story better be tight to turn cacophony into music.” --Antonio Belloni, Chief Operating Officer, LVHM


“Adamson's latest book is a great guide for any marketer navigating the rough waters of the future. With good humor, strong examples and a frank tone, he is on-point with The Edge. This is a fast and intimate view of what makes successful brands and the icons behind them. Truly news you can use.” --Faith Popcorn, CEO, Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve


“What would you give to know the inside tricks of dozens of today's power brands?  Allen's book lets you in on them...many in the words of the creators themselves. You read Allen's book and you understand how virtually all of this new century's cool brands got that way.” --Edward Vick, Chairman, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America


"Social media has dramatically accelerated and changed the way consumers get and share information. If people love your brand they’ll talk about it. If they hate your brand they’ll talk about it. Assessing the use of social media is only one of the many topics of critical importance to today’s marketers that Allen Adamson addresses in The Edge. It’s a smart, enlightening and very accessible look at how brands get built and managed in a business landscape that only continues to become increasingly complex." --Deepak Advani, Vice President of Business Analytics Products, IBM


"Allen Adamson captured enduring brand concepts in BrandSimple. The Edge adds new tips and fresh examples to show what it takes to stay on top." --Ken Roman, Former Chairman/CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide


“Allen Adamson captures the importance and instructive value of storytelling with lessons to help the reader understand how to build and grow a great brand across a wide variety of products and services.  The winning rules are the same: ‘A brand is as a brand does.’ The Edge illustrates the art and science of brands and branding from a 360 degree perspective, engaging the reader in not only the core elements required to built a strong brand but does so through real life stories and relevant analogs.” – Peter Flatow, president and founder of CoKnowledge


“In The Edge, Adamson has beautifully captured a number of important insights from some of the very best CMOs.  The book offers a nice set of guiding principles for any marketer trying to navigate our new economy.” - Greg Welch, Global Consumer Goods & Services Practice, Spencer Stuart


The Edge is Adamson’s strongest book yet on building successful brands. Filled with great, practical advice and vivid case studies, it reflects the latest, most progressive thinking in the industry.” John Gerzema, Executive Chairman, BAV Consulting


“No one knows more about brands and the process of how products and services create indelible marks within the hearts and minds of today’s distracted consumer.  I know.  I worked directly with Allen during Forbes’ own journey to reinvigorating its brand over the past few years.  His writing for the Forbes CMO Network and now his new book The Edge brings his innovative thinking and every-day solutions to building brands to life in entertaining and informative fashion. It belongs on any CMO’s must-read list.” – Bruce H. Rogers, chief insights officer, Forbes Media


"While the world we live in is increasingly complex, these simple'tips' are as relevant today as thery were decades ago. What a text book!  Adamson's The Edge should be required reading for marketing students and creative advertising folks." – Bill Bergman, former vice president, P&G


"Allen Adamson skillfully blends the accumulated wisdom of executives who manage some of the world’s top brands, with his own insights gained from years of experience as a brand professional. The Edge is highly readable and a quick tutorial on what it takes to develop and sustain world class brands. Timely and topical, the books provide one stop shopping for brand advice. The book contains 50 tips for developing strong brands; the 51st tip should be, read this book to learn what it takes to gain a competitive edge for your brand. --C. Samuel Craig, Marketing Professor, New York University, Stern School of Business


"The Edge does a great job of uncovering how brands succeed in a dramatically changing environment; describing how to manage difficult branding issues while maximizing the value of your brand." --Clive Chajet, Chairman and CEO of Chajet Consultancy


"The Edge is thoroughly enjoyable, well-researched, and up-to-date in a fun and informative writing style. Allen Adamson uses interviews with brand marketers to bring a behind-the-scenes look at the making of some of our favorite brands. In the end, it’s an honest view of what success and failure looks like." – Gary Elliott, Former Vice President, Global Marketing, Hewlett-Packard and Chair of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA)

"Tips are good, and Adamson serves them up in an accessible, no-nonsense guide for every marketer who aspires to build a great brand.  With good humor and relevant examples from smart marketers and real brands, this is a great book for marketers looking for inspiration and business building ideas." – Becky Saeger, Marketing Strategist and former CMO, Charles Schwab


"A leading marketing expert summarizes the ABCs of building brands. Adamson (BrandDigital: Simple Ways Top Brands Succeed in the Digital World, 2008, etc.) smoothly preempts anticipated laugh lines by confessing at the outset that, “like many people in the marketing business,” he enjoys watching Mad Men. The author makes use of the series as a productive foil to develop his own case that there is as much difference between building brands and advertising them as there is between the business of advertising and its televised image. Adamson makes no bones about his own interest. He has worked for some of the companies he discusses, like Proctor and Gamble, Verizon and PepsiCo. The author shows that advertising a product or company is the end result of a different kind of process, branding, which involves many different aspects. He discusses the importance of recognizing what's missing in the market place—e.g., Proctor and Gamble's 2008 jump into dry cleaning with Tide Dry Cleaners—and the involvement of consumers in the development of the brand—e.g., General Mills’ popular Box Top University, where consumers mail in coupons and the company donates to education. As a veteran in the business, Adamson's discussion with Faith Popcorn (CEO of marketing company BrainReserve) on the way young women “are influencing society, the economy and our culture” is particularly illuminating, as are the author’s views on social networking for self-activating consumers and branding. Aimed at readers in search of specialist expertise, but ordinary consumers will also find the book informative and entertaining." --Kirkus

--This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Edge

50 Tips from Brands that Lead

By Allen P. Adamson

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2013 Allen P. Adamson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-230-34224-8


Foreword Steve Forbes,
ONE To Have an Edge, a Brand Has to Be Different, Relevant — and Have Energy,
TWO To Have an Edge, a Brand Must Start with a Simple Idea Based on "Who" and "Why," Not Just "What" and "How",
THREE To Have an Edge, a Brand's Actions Must Tell Its Story,
FOUR To Have an Edge, a Brand's Customers Should Want to Tell Its Story,
FIVE To Have an Edge, Gear Up for a Marathon, Not a Sprint,
SIX To Have an Edge, a Brand Must Know Where It Can Play and Win,


To Have an Edge, a Brand Has to Be Different, Relevant — and Have Energy

Kevin Plank knows how to build a brand, and he knows how brands get built. No, these thoughts are not redundant. They each, in their own way, have something to do with what it takes to gain an edge in the marketplace. Let me explain.

For those who may not be into sports, or even sporting goods, Kevin Plank is the founder and president of Under Armour, a company he launched in 1995 when he was a walk-on special-teams football player for the University of Maryland. Tired of constantly having to change during the course of a game when the T-shirt he wore under his jersey would become heavy and sweat-soaked, he noticed that his compression shorts stayed cool and dry — they were made of a polyester blend that wicked away moisture. Like many brand entrepreneurs, he had an "aha!" moment. Or, as Jerry Seinfeld might put it, "Ever wonder why no one's ever developed a T-shirt using the same moisture-wicking fabric out of which the shorts are made?" Working in his grandmother's basement, Plank set out to see if he could come up with a shirt that would remain drier and lighter and perform well under the most extreme conditions. After a year of fabric sourcing and product testing, he created just what he was looking for — times three: a shirt, a new category of sporting apparel called performance apparel, and a brand that would rocket in revenue from $17,000 in 1996 to more than $1 billion today. Under Armour now holds nearly 3 percent of the sports apparel market in the United States, holds a significant place in the global market, and sells everything from shirts (of course) and shorts to cleats, to underwear and outerwear, to gloves and shoes. Its clothing is worn by teams at more than 100 universities, and by professional players of football, baseball, basketball, golf, rugby, ice hockey, and even mixed martial arts, and its products have been proudly placed in movies, including Any Given Sunday, and television shows, including Friday Night Lights. The Under Armour logo, an interlocking "U" and "A," is fast becoming as recognizable as the Nike swoosh.

Plank launched a new sportswear brand that is now among the category's fastest-growing sectors. He did it by identifying something different that people, specifically athletes, really cared about. He saw the opportunity to fill a gap in the sportswear market to which no other company, not even Nike or Reebok, had laid claim. And he did it with products that don't just promise to be relevantly different but are different — they perform like champs. More than this, Plank is determined not to become a one-hit wonder. His product development teams are focused on coming up with new fabrics, applications, and designs that will keep the brand in the center of its field. Athletes of both the professional and weekend variety swear by this brand of gear, and they're fierce advocates. Under Armour's trademarked rallying cry "Protect This House" can not only be heard at athletic events worldwide, it's the heart of the brand's bold idea.

Kevin Plank built a brand on a relevantly different idea. And from a procedural point of view, he understood that this is how great brands get built. Unlike the premise pitched by The Pitch, and assumed by many folks, building a brand does not start with awareness — a great advertising campaign or promotion that alerts consumers to the fact that you're out there. In terms of building a brand, this is backward. To achieve success in brand building, the first thing you need to do is identify a differentiated meaning for your brand and determine if it really matters to anyone. Is there a large enough audience of people who will care? It's only after you do this that you can think about generating awareness. Consumers need a way to make a distinction between one brand and another. This is how they form preferences and make choices.

One of the most respected proprietary tools in the industry proves this point. Named Brand Asset Valuator (BAV), it was created by Y&R, an agency that is part of the same communications family as Landor, the company for which I work. BAV is an incredible diagnostic tool for figuring out how your brand is performing relative to all other brands in the market — not just the brands in your category. More important, however, is that, unlike many other brand valuation tools that attempt to place a current dollar value on the brand, BAV indicates what you must do to keep your brand strong. BAV can gauge the current health of your brand, project its future health, and indicate prescriptive actions. Why is this important? Ask Kevin Plank or the leaders of any other brands with an edge. Odd as it may sound, Wall Street doesn't just care about the value of your brand today. It cares about whether you can increase its value tomorrow.

The key challenge for brands has always been the ability to increase their dominance. BAV is a great indicator of whether this will happen and how this will happen, and the way it works is actually pretty simple. It's based on the interrelationship of what started out as four criteria, but as the result of how the marketplace has changed over the past few years, now includes a fifth.

• Differentiation — what makes your brand unique

• Relevance — how meaningful this difference is to the people who matter

• Esteem — how well regarded your brand is in the marketplace

• Knowledge — how well consumers know and understand your brand

• Energy — how dynamic the brand is, reflective of its ability to adapt and evolve

Brands generally get built one dimension at a time, with differentiation being the first, most critical step, and relevance an obvious second. A healthy brand has high levels of both difference and relevance. It's unique in a way that's meaningful to lots of people. Target is a perfect example, as are Dove, Clorox, and Gatorade. A strong niche brand has a high degree of differentiation and is relevant to a smaller group of people. This might be a brand like lululemon athletica, which with almost no advertising has cultivated a devoted group of yoga enthusiasts, or a luxury brand, such as Rolex, whose devotees are likely to have deep pockets and an appreciation of fine timepieces. If a brand stays relevant but starts to lose what made it different, it will become a commodity. Wall Street begins to worry. If it loses what made it relevant, same story. All healthy brands have a greater degree of differentiation than relevance, which gives them room to expand both their offerings and their audience.

Esteem and knowledge, the second pair of criteria, make up a brand's stature. If a brand has a higher level of esteem than knowledge, it means that while not a whole lot of people know about the brand, those who do really love it. Bang & Olufsen, for instance, is a Danish company well known for its finely crafted audio products, television sets, and telephones. People have heard a lot about the company, and, based on its solid reputation, they'd like to know more. Too much knowledge and not enough esteem? Well, ask the Kardashian sisters.

In the case of leadership brands, those with an edge, all four of these criteria must be strong. But the experts on the BAV team, those who study brands, have come to the realization that for a brand to be healthy and stay healthy, it's got to have something else. It's got to have energy. Shaped by the accelerated pace of the marketplace and by consumer change, it's become evident that the difference between the success and failure of a brand is due in part to its ability to generate buzz, mojo, momentum — call it what you will. Energy is like a steroid for all other brand valuation criteria. If a brand has energy, it means that people are talking about it. It helps draw attention to what makes the brand relevantly different and helps build knowledge about the brand. Metaphorically, it helps the brand achieve lift-off velocity. It encourages brand loyalty and makes the brand more valuable. Consumers want a brand that's going somewhere.

Now lest you think that energy is the stronghold criterion for just the latest and newest and funkiest brands like Facebook or Instagram or Red Bull, consider this: IBM, Disney, GE, Ford, and even the venerable Procter & Gamble are all brands that keep their edge because, in addition to being at the top of the charts on the four original criteria for brand health, they've got energy. These companies constantly keep their brands invigorated and sparked with innovation; as a result, they remain global leaders. As one of my colleagues said to me, "A brand is not a place, it's a direction." In this chapter, you'll read stories about brands who know that the only directions are "up" and "ahead." They all started their journeys, and achieved an edge, by establishing something that was different and meaningful to the people they wanted to reach. And they've all recognized that, in this fast-moving, fast-talking, contagious world, it takes more than this to keep the edge.


The stories in this chapter are about brands that have achieved an edge by establishing something that is different and meaningful to the people they want to reach. These brands keep their edge by ensuring that the ideas on which they are based remain different and relevant; they have the energy required to propel the brand forward. More than this, these ideas are brought to life consistently and brilliantly wherever and however consumers experience the brand. While simple in concept, as many things are, "passing go" is a bit more complicated. Here are a few tips to guide your own thinking on the matter:

• A different feature is not a different idea (not to mention the fact that features can be easily copied or become obsolete overnight).

• Relevance is relative. There is no long-term value in a brand if people can't use it to make their lives better in some significant way.

• You won't find a relevantly different idea on which to build your brand by staring at a computer screen. Get out from behind your desk and talk to people. Walk the supermarket aisles, go to the food courts in shopping malls, and listen to folks in coffee shops (in Cedar Rapids and Fresno, not just New York City.) Get your hands dirty.

• In your search for a brand idea, wonder why. The most innovative brand ideas have come from people who refused to accept "it is what it is" for an answer.

• Frame your idea as a compelling story. The power of a great story cannot be underestimated as a way to engage people.

• Your story must be simple and focused. You need to be able to pitch it before the elevator doors open.

• Your story must be sticky. People have to able to hear it once, remember it, and pass it along, intact.

• Make sure you deliver on your brand idea consistently and brilliantly, not just on your best day, but every day. A brand is a promise. Keep it.


Remember when airlines served breakfast? In coach? It was during those days, way back when, that I was a regular on a 6:15 a.m. flight to Cincinnati to visit my clients at Procter & Gamble as an ad guy on the Dawn dishwashing liquid account. I thought about this period in my early professional life while watching an interesting documentary that aired on CNBC titled "Behind the Counter: The Untold Story of Franchising." I wasn't surprised to see that while many things in the world of business have changed, some haven't, key among them Procter & Gamble's reputation as a master marketer and builder of great brands. Most pertinent to the topic of this chapter, as made clear in the documentary, is P&G's ability to look at a category, even a category as mundane as dry cleaning or car washing, and figure out how to make the experience different and better in a way people care about. The company's jump into dry-cleaning and car-wash franchises confirmed for me that P&G is still as good as it gets when it comes to unlocking consumer insights and delivering something both innovative and relevant. They're champs at asking the question, "Ever wonder why?" about a situation and doing something about it.

Here's what I mean. Think of all the dry-cleaning places you've frequented in your life. Unless you've encountered a really great proprietor — someone who will replace buttons you didn't even know were missing — they all probably register in your mind as pretty much the same: dingy and small and smelling of chemicals. P&G, with its typical due diligence, looked at the same-old-same-old dry-cleaning experience and asked, "Wonder why, with all our fabric-care expertise, we couldn't go into this line of work and improve it in a way that makes people's lives a bit better?" Well, in typical P&G fashion, it stopped wondering and figured out how to make it happen.

In 2008 it launched what has become a quickly expanding Tide Dry Cleaners franchise business. Wonder why these P&G retail venues have caught on so well? For the same reason other P&G products catch on. The folks at Tide Dry Cleaners don't just get clothes clean and pressed — the obvious cost of entry — they've been able to put in place all the advantages of Tide's well-respected research and development, which ensures the most up-to-date color guarding, stain release, and fabric restoration. More than this, at Tide Dry Cleaners, as is true of all P&G brands, there is a purpose that transcends the obvious benefits. With its commitment to improving people's lives beyond just giving them clean and well-pressed clothing, Tide Dry Cleaners uses environmentally friendly solvents and GreenEarth processing, among other planet-safe cleaning products and services. As one franchisee said in the documentary, "No start-ups go to the levels that P&G has to understand the consumer, the industry, and the operations. As a result, we don't just clean it, we make it better." At newly launched Tide Dry Cleaners franchises, owners not only benefit from the instantly recognizable and trusted Tide name, built on more than 60 years of fabric-care experience; they benefit from P&G's expertise at identifying new ways of looking at things people have been doing the same old way for years and giving them an innovative and socially responsible spin.

The same is true of P&G's Mr. Clean Car Wash franchises. While there's generally not much difference between one car wash and another, and hasn't been for years, with the possible exception of green versus non-green cleaning agents, P&G, with its "wonder why" perspective, took a long, hard look at the category and discovered ways to make the experience more effective, more efficient, and even more fun. While the owners of these enterprises, again, benefit from the P&G name Mr. Clean, an iconic brand since 1958, they also reap the benefits of P&G's copious research into what consumers expect from a car-wash experience, down to the towel drying and the mats on the newly vacuumed floors.

More important than the actual details I took away from working on any one particular P&G brand, back in the days when I traveled to Cincinnati, it was the overall thinking process that P&G follows when establishing and growing a brand that was, and remains, so impressive to me. The ability to look at something and ask, "Wonder why?" is a key to the company's success. The ability to look at a category that's been the same for 20 years and see something that others haven't is what keeps its brands fresh and their names top of mind. Taking Tide to the cleaners and driving Mr. Clean into hot water are just par for P&G's winning course of brand building.


The Olympic Games are about competition. Not just among the incredible athletes, but among the incredibly (ridiculously?) diverse group of brand names hoping to reap the rewards of "official sponsorship." There is, however, one more competition relative to the Olympics that's a must-watch for anyone interested in the game of brand building. And that is the bid to host the games. As in any other industry category, the metric for success in this branding effort is very much the same: find a simple and compelling story that helps set your brand apart from all the others. I happen to think that the folks who were in charge of the Olympics branding strategy in Rio de Janeiro did a phenomenal job differentiating Rio's promise from the other cities in contention and then clearly establishing its relevance to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). (And, having worked on the bid made by New York City, I can personally appreciate the effort.) In other words, the "Brand Rio" team followed a couple of the basic rules of smart brand management and gained an edge as a result.

(Continues...)Excerpted from The Edge by Allen P. Adamson. Copyright © 2013 Allen P. Adamson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
--This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00A7URJ1Q
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ St. Martin's Press (January 8, 2013)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ January 8, 2013
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 4744 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 285 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 22 ratings

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Allen Adamson, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Metaforce

“The number one reason for organizational success or failure is the ability to stay relevant. Having the wherewithal to strategically shift ahead of accelerating marketplace changes is the single most critical skillset an organization can possess.”

Allen Adamson is a noted industry expert in all disciplines of branding. He has worked with a broad spectrum of consumer and corporate businesses in industries ranging from packaged goods and technology, to health care and financial services, to hospitality and entertainment. With his perspective and depth of experience, Allen has helped his clients understand and activate strategies that enable them to shift ahead of the market and the competition, generating long-term value and increased brand equity. Allen and his teams help clients identify what truly matters to the audiences they serve - what is relevant to their audiences - and to brilliantly deliver on it.

How organizations do – or do not - stay relevant is the subject of Allen’s most recent book, Shift Ahead. Using fascinating first-hand accounts and detailed case studies, Shift Ahead explains how the best organizations recognize when it’s time to change direction, and how they pull it off while bolstering their brands. Following the approach of Allen’s previous books, BrandSimple, BrandDigital, and The Edge:50 Tips from Brands That Lead – which are used in universities across the country - Shift Ahead offers up practical and readily applied lessons learned.

Allen is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Metaforce (, a disruptive marketing and product consultancy which, unlike traditional firms, takes a multi-disciplinary channel-agnostic approach to marketing challenges. It was created to help leaders understand all the forces at work inside and outside their businesses in order to identify strategies yielding the highest returns. Once determing the best strategy, Metaforce’s consortium of partners, each industry experts in their fields, pivot to help clients brilliantly act on and execute in market. Metaforce combines the best aspects of brand management, strategy, and experience consultancies to deliver solutions that ensure its clients shift ahead of the dramatic changes in the marketplace in order to meet fast-evolving customer needs.

Prior to this Allen was Chairman of Landor Associates, a global communications and brand strategy consultancy. Under his leadership, the company partnered with a wide array of iconic brands, including Accenture, GE, Johnson &amp; Johnson, FedEx, HBO, Marriott, MetLife, P&amp;G, Sony, and Verizon. Additionally, he provided guidance for non-profit organizations including the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the Central Park Conservancy, and the Council on Foreign Relations, among others.

Before leading Landor, Allen worked on both the agency and the “client side” of the industry. At Unilever he was a marketing executive across a number of major packaged goods brands. He also held senior management positions at Ogilvy &amp; Mather and DMB&amp;B.

A sought-after industry commentator, Allen has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CNBC’s Squawk Box and Closing Bell, and Fox Business Network. He is often quoted in publications including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age, USA Today, the Washington Post, and Forbes, for which he also regularly writes a column on current branding topics. He is a frequent guest lecturer at New York University’s Stern School of Business, the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, and the Harvard School of Continuing Education. He is a member of the American Management Association and speaks on branding for a range of professional organizations, corporate events, and at industry conferences.

Allen received his BS from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Allen Adamson

Co-Founder and Managing Partner




Visit Shift Ahead:

Author Adamson on ABC Nightline:

San Francisco Review of Books:

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Interview at AMA Quarterly:

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