Peter Arnell Writes a Branding Book

Martha Stewart, Frank Gehry, Donna Karan and Others Sing Praises of 'Shift'

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"It all started with oranges. Many oranges. If I were to reach out right now to shake your hand, you would probably be surprised to see the color of my hands. People always stare at the deep orange glow my hands give off. It's a loud, warm orange, not a color that anyone expects to see on someone's hands. But since I look fit and trim and healthy, people usually just wonder, ask nicely, or shrug it off. Fact is, my hands are orange-colored because for years I have been peeling and eating as many as fifty oranges a day."

That might sound like the latest detox diet advice from Mehmet Oz, but it's the beginning of chapter 1 of "Shift" -- a new book about branding by one of adland's most polarizing figures, Peter Arnell.

His obsession with oranges isn't the hugest secret. Mr. Arnell dubbed his 2006 innovation venture with the Home Depot "OrangeWorks" and a Newsweek profile last year mentioned his fondness for the fruit (though it pegged his average at around 20 per day, so it seems his regimen has expanded considerably).

But that Mr. Arnell would wax poetic about his love of oranges after the much-written-about Tropicana rebranding disaster is pretty much absurd.

The 208-page tome, which is published by Broadway Business and has a foreword written by Mr. Arnell's good friend Martha Stewart, is selling at a list price of $23 on Amazon.com. (To read more from the excerpt, just go here.) Its June 15 release is a long time coming, and like most things related to Mr. Arnell, is steeped in controversy.

Back in 2005, Mr. Arnell struck a deal with a different publisher, HarperCollins, to write a book a book on winning business strategies and branding. HarperCollins agreed to pay him $550,000, with $100,000 payable upfront. But according to a lawsuit filed -- and won -- by HarperCollins, Mr. Arnell never came through, despite calling in ghostwriters and enlisting the help of his wife, Sara Arnell, who works with him at the Omnicom-owned agency. The final draft that he turned in in late 2006 was said to be under 25,000 words, well under the 80,000 mandated in his book contract. He counter-sued, saying he didn't received the editorial support needed to write the book, but a judge ordered him last year to pay HarperCollins $100,000 plus interest.

It appears Mr. Arnell found the editorial support he wanted in Broadway Business (a Random House imprint that has published other marketing and advertising books such as "Buyology" by Martin Lindstrom and "The Power of Nice" by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval) and a writer named Steve Kettmann, a Berlin-based contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Some documents suggest that Mr. Arnell's book at one time was going to be named "Fish Where the Fish Are," which is now the name of one of the chapters in "Shift." Why they dropped that title, besides the fact that it's not so good, isn't clear, but it's strange that Mr. Arnell and Broadway Business would ultimately choose "Shift" as the title of Mr. Arnell's book. The same publisher was behind Renault and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn's 2004 book by the same name.

Ahead of the release, Mr. Arnell is slated to do a bit of PR to tout his book, including appearances on the "Today" show and on Martha Stewart. It's not the first time he's done her show. Here's a clip of him doing an awkward piece on automobiles, wearing goggles and gloves that mask his orange-shaded hands. For all of the vitriol that's hurled his way, Mr. Arnell has got a lot of well-known folks in his corner. Among those plugging the book for him? Frank Gehry, Donna Karan, Bob Nardelli, Gwyneth Paltrow and, puzzlingly, Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg. Says he, according to Amazon: "If you want to know how to change your life for the better, read 'Shift.' Peter Arnell is living proof that you can do it too."

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