Liked this book very much. The irreverence and polemic were refreshing. Holt and Cameron practice what they preach, and don't pull punches. The ideas and thinking are solid. The cases are excellent. After reading I recommended to friends at ad agencies, many of whom no doubt face H & C's `brand bureaucracy'.
Style-wise, `Cultural Strategy' found a nice niche between scholarship and practice. I liked this approach. But if you prefer 1-2-3 books on brand and strategy, don't buy the book. You're going to get Max Weber and terms like `mimetic isomorphism' just as much you get stories on brands like Nike, Levi's, Vitamin Water and Fat Tire. I liked the combination, others might not.
As someone in strategy, I do have some beef with Holt and Cameron's stance against utility, or what they refer to as `mousetrap' thinking. They take the constructivist line of thinking too far, and it diminishes their argument. They need a foil, but of all their polemics this one feels more rhetorical than substantive. Ideally, value creation and cultural innovation work together. If subjectivity were all that mattered we wouldn't be in this recession. H & C have written particular kinds of cases-- products fighting it out in mature markets with homogeneous offerings. In these situations i think they're argument holds up better. In emerging markets where the there is still a great deal of diversity in offerings, i'm not as sure. The one outlier here is the freelancer's union case, which was quite good.
But on all other accounts, this book furthered my thinking. Even if you don't agree with the authors, they'll engage you. I'd read it.