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Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Al Ries is on the menu

Al Ries - The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

In yet another installment of our endless review of Al Ries’ The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, we explore a more delicate and feminine side of Ragin’ Ries as we lightly take him to Tiffany’s. Will his immovable, straight-from-the-mouth-of-god tawhid-like doctrine of one brand = one thing = one word hold up at the retailer that makes us all wish for the days when movie stars looked like Audrey Hepburn? And is that last sentence too long or what?

Tiffany & Co.
There’s absolutely no question that throughout its 150-year history, Tiffany’s has broken every single one of Ries’ core laws by attaching its brand to jewelry, glass works, silver works, and many other luxury items, as well as taken opportunities to expand the basic line into new categories. Yet, Tiffany’s remains to this day the Platonic form of “luxury” with perhaps the most widely known (and valuable) exclusive brand in the world. On the surface, the Tiffany brand and its history puts to the lie all of Ries’ book. Enough said. The book is garbage, right?

Well, our staff here it Shoestring Venture Pubs actually had quite a knock-down fight over this one with one side arguing that Tiffany’s as a brand is the retail store itself, more than the products for sale within the store. The manufacturing arm of the store can be seen as simply a vertically integrated merchandising department. In other words, rather than buy luxury products from other manufacturers in order to stock its shelves, Tiffany’s makes its own exclusive products. Why the vertical integration? By making products, they guarantee that those products are unavailable anywhere else.

Indeed, the brand concept is “a museum where the art objects just happen to be for sale.” This is a difficult brand concept to pull off — and Tiffany’s has done so. Why? Because there’s a world of difference between a mass market product and a work of art. Mass market products are driven by what consumers want (or what some marketer believes consumers want). Works of art, to paraphrase Jed Perl, are driven by something in the artist and are, by definition, singular, unique, sui generis. They are, in other words, one of a kind.

In other words, it should be impossible to brand a work of art.

But Tiffany’s has done it (as has Thomas Kincaide, albeit on a masser mass market stage). As a result, Tiffany’s can never be “one thing” — it must always be many different things or else it would be mass market rather than a work of art.

By manufacturing their own products and selling them only in Tiffany’s stores, they reinforce the exclusive artwork concept of the brand.

In this light, retail brands are more associated with a quality or a concept, rather than with things, and the concept Tiffany’s has striven to own is “work-of-art exclusivity.” So the Tiffany’s experience leads us to the Retail corollary:

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

BUT . . .

Life is different for retailers. The brand needs to be associated with a quality or concept, not a thing; that said, the brand must always communicate that one quality.

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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13 Responses to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Al Ries is on the menu”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  12. [...] 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 [...]

  13. [...] 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 [...]


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