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Formica takes on Al Ries and his 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

Al Ries - The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

Faithful readers of this blog know the drill already. We’re reviewing Al Ries’s The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by throwing a random collection of major, successful brands at his book to see if Al is right when he forcefully claims that one brand must always be one thing and one word. Break that rule, according to Ries gospel, and you hopelessly destroy your brand and decimate your business.

We’re not trying to stale all over Al Ries (well, kind of, but not totally), but rather take a good book full of useful guidelines and “smart it up” by applying it to the real, messy world of building and maintaining a brand.

Today, Ries locks horns with Formica — truly, the wonkiest battle of the titans ever recorded for posterity.

Formica
Formica is probably one of the best-known brands in America. The Formica Corporation has achieved this brand dominance by focusing on one and only product, laminates (it had dropped insulation products early in its history).

However, laminates are a raw material used in product manufacture. Normally, folks who make raw materials take a back seat to manufacturers higher in the value chain (and closer to the consumer), but through commercial advertising, Formica was able to create a consumer market for Formica. As a result, the Formica brand became stronger than many of its clients higher in the food chain in the same way Intel years later, by aggressively advertising its chips, became as strong or stronger than computer manufacturer brands, such as Toshiba or Asus.

But Formica isn’t in perfect lockstep with Ries’ one brand-one thing principle. The company, dedicated to the constant improvement of the laminate and building broad design extensions, routinely rolled out (and continues to do so) new products under new brand names, such as Realwood, Pregwood, ColorCore, and so on, violating Ries’ prohibition against subbranding (and expansion, contraction, etc.). However, like Jacuzzi, Formica’s line extensions represent improvements in design or engineering while retaining the focus on the Formica brand.

However, in spectacularly felonious violation of Ries’ Law of Singularity, the Formica brand covers consumer to industrial products, appliances to jewelry. Still, this violates the Law of Singularity in letter only – Formica is laminates no matter what you’re talking about, so the brand isn’t weakened by widespread application to all kinds of products. It has lost market share only because, in the B2B world it operates, it has not been able to compete against the time-based competence of Premark and DuPont, not because the brand is weak. The brand still holds the number one share in consumer’s minds, leading us to what we call the “Intel Inside” corollary:

The Intel Inside Corollary
One brand = one thing = one word in the consumer’s mind.

BUT . . .

Life is different for manufacturing products. The core brand should produce consumer pull; as a material, your brand can be associated with many things and still be one thing.

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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11 Responses to “Formica takes on Al Ries and his 22 Immutable Laws of Branding”

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  1. [...] 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 [...]

  2. [...] 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 [...]

  3. [...] 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 [...]

  4. [...] 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 [...]

  5. [...] 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 [...]

  6. [...] 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 [...]

  7. [...] 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 [...]

  8. [...] 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 [...]

  9. [...] 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 [...]

  10. [...] 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 [...]

  11. [...] 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 [...]


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