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Al Ries (and his 22 Immutable Laws) sumo wrestles Aunt Jemima! Thrills! Chills! A big mess!

Al Ries - The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

In our unusual book review, where we take on Al Ries’ 22 Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, we’re striving to “smart up” the book, to make it more useful to folks like you and me who have a vested interest in building and maintaining a brand. We’re hoping that each time Big Al takes on some big brand, that we can provide just a smidgen more insight into the nature of brands that his broad brush strokes ignore. Because Al Ries categorically forbids branding practices that are not only common, but highly successful, we take him on in the spirit that breaking the rules is always fertile territory for success.

So, without further ado, Al Ries steps into the sumo ring with Aunt Jemima and things get, well, a little sticky . . .

Aunt Jemima

Aunt Jemima originally built a brand around easy-to-prepare pancake mix using aggressive, innovative advertising strategies. Still, the company in the early decades of the 20th century successfully extended the brand to pancake syrups, building an even more powerful and valuable brand, breaking in the process a pile of Ries’ immutable laws.

Were he around all those decades ago when they were thinking about rolling out Aunt Jemima Pancake Syrup, Ries would have slammed the table with his fist and demanded a separate syrup brand, like maybe, “Uncle Mose’s Pancake Syrup.” No sibling brands, no time, not ever. And all that money would have been left on the table.

In the later decades of the 20th century, as consumer tastes changed to low sugar and low calorie foods, Aunt Jemima successfully kept the pancake and syrup market alive by producing “light” versions of its syrup. What would Ries had said in that meeting. No line extensions! By making an Aunt Jemima Light syrup, you’re implying that there’s something wrong with the non-light version. Never, no how, no time.

Yet, Aunt Jemima successfully extended the brand to light syrups and made a pile more money — and saved their brand from losing market share.

It would seem that it was a darn good thing Big Al wasn’t consulted on this one.

But rather than rejecting Ries’ core principle out of hand, let’s be measured and merely qualify it. You remember that the core principle of Ries’ book is that one brand must alwasy equal one and only one thing and one and only one “word.” Leaving things like pancake syrup and light pancake syrup completely out of the Aunt Jemima universe.

But Aunt Jemima succeeded in extending the brand not only because of weak brand competition (as per our Blue Oceans corollary), but because the word, “pancakes,” in a consumer’s mind means both pancakes and the syrup – in other words, a brand owner can own a word in that includes two or more things and so can successfully extend the brand.

It’s simple: pancakes = pancakes and syrup.

All the time. Every time.

One word, after all, can mean more than one thing.

However, Aunt Jemima’s foray into frozen breakfasts in the 1980’s was less successful in part because of strong brand competition already in the category, but also because “pancakes” doesn’t include “frozen French Toast.”

So we add yet another corollary (or exception) to Ries’ Law of the One –- we’ll call it the “Love and Marriage” corollary (remember Sinatra? “You can’t have one without the other/Try, try, try to separate them/It’s a delusion”):

The Love and Marriage Corollary

One brand = one thing = one word in the consumer’s mind.

BUT . . .

Sometimes one word means two or more inseperable things — it’s the whole concept, not the thing, that matters.

Breaking The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1
Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary
Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary
Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary
Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary
Part 6: Formica, or The Intel Inside Corollary
Part 7: Tiffany’s, or The Retail Corollary
Part 8: Vaseline, or The Reinforcement Corollary
Part 9: Fruit of the Loom: The Opportunity Principle of Branding
Part 10: Tylenol, or The Brand Leadership Principle
Part 11: Maytag, or The Principle of the Word
Part 12: Gucci, or The New and Improved Principle of the Word
Part 13: Rubbermaid, or The Blue Oceans Principle of Branding
Part 14: Yamaha, or The Cultural Principle
Part 15: Ivory, or The Principle of Transcendence
Part 16: Al Ries on how to build a brand
Part 17: Al Ries on how to maintain a brand
Part 18: The Final Word

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12 Responses to “Al Ries (and his 22 Immutable Laws) sumo wrestles Aunt Jemima! Thrills! Chills! A big mess!”

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  1. [...] building a top brand in washers, Maytag successfully expanded the brand first to dryers (see our Love and Marriage corollary), but then to dishwashers, refrigerators, and other household appliances – and, by doing so, [...]

  2. [...] Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1 Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary Part 6: [...]

  3. [...] Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1 Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary Part 6: [...]

  4. [...] Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1 Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary Part 6: [...]

  5. [...] stands for “quality” low-value commodities. They use that association to pursue a hyperkinetic Blue Oceans brand strategy, constantly moving into areas and products where there’s no brand competition — with some [...]

  6. [...] Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1 Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary Part 6: [...]

  7. [...] Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1 Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary Part 6: [...]

  8. [...] Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1 Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary Part 6: [...]

  9. [...] Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1 Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary Part 6: [...]

  10. [...] Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1 Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary Part 6: [...]

  11. [...] Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1 Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary Part 6: [...]

  12. [...] Immutable Laws of Branding one brand at a time, part 1 Part 2: Jello, or The Blue Oceans Corollary Part 3: Aunt Jemima, or The Love and Marriage Corollary Part 4: Campbells, or The Brand Value Corollary Part 5: Jacuzzi, or The Model Corollary Part 6: [...]


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