Categorized | books, the branding notebook

Al Ries gets a Fruit of the Loom wedgie!

Al Ries - The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

Faithful readers of our blog have followed with baited breath as we throw one case study after another at Al Ries’ formidable branding bible, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. So far, we’ve managed to qualify Ries’ central dictum — that one brand should always be one thing and always associated with one and only one word — with corollaries derived from our brand case studies.

We now, however, move to a different category of case studies: major brands that simply prove Al Ries to be wrong, wrong, wrong. So, in our noble effort to keep the book useful in our “smarting up” project, these brands add new “laws” to Ries’ 22 Immutable Laws, laws that we feel override Ries’ central commandments. However, we’re not quite so absolutist as Frere Ries, who is, after all, one of the greats in the marketing world (no sarcasm in that sentence at all). We’re much more humble folk, so we’ll step down from the immutable law perch and simply call them “Principles.”

And we start by giving Mr. Ries a Fruit of the Loom wedgie!

Fruit of the Loom
Fruit of the Loom is such a powerful brand in America with its solid ownership of the men’s underwear category, that it may seem odd that it essentially disproves just about everything in Ries’ book. There’s no question that the brand owns number one share of mind in men’s underwear in America, but the history of the brand, from its earliest days as a modest trademark for a small fabric company in Hudson Valley, the brand has been used by its owners to create opportunity.

What is most idiosyncratic about the brand’s history is its use, from its inception, as a “rental” brand licensed to clothing manufacturers around the world. When Jacob Goldfarb licensed the trademark for his underwear company, he promptly built it into a national brand, giving the brand its irrevocable ownership of the men’s underwear market.

Believe it or not, Fruit of the Loom manufactures absolutely nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. Not one t-shirt or pair of briefs ever goes out its shipping door. Instead, the brand is “rented” to manufacturers; all Fruit of the Loom does is manage the licensing and marketing of the brand.

As a result, it is raining money at Fruit of the Loom.

Eventually Fruit of the Loom and Goldfarb’s company were united and the brand took off in line extensions and licensing to other companies. In Asian countries, following a different brand logic where a brand’s credentials can be established across several lines, Fruit of the Loom covered just about everything that could be woven, sewn, or knit, and in America covered a line from fleece jackets to sweatpants without ever weakening its dominance in the men’s underwear category. These brand extensions and “rentals” violate the letter and spirit of Ries’ core principle and laws (Expansion, Contraction, Extensions, Siblings), but the brand had enough power to enter the women’s underwear market and unseat a powerful, number one brand in that segment (Hanes).

Something totally and utterly impossible in Riesland.

Fruit of the Loom embodies a principle totally missing from every single page of Ries’ book: a brand is an opportunity — indeed, the business of building the Fruit of the Loom brand originally fell to one of the licensees!

This leads us to formulate an important corrective to every molecule of Ries’ book, what we’ll call the Opportunity Principle:

The Opportunity Principle of Branding
The purpose of a brand is to create opportunity.

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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10 Responses to “Al Ries gets a Fruit of the Loom wedgie!”

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

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

  3. [...] ever there was a brand that embodied our Opportunity Principle, Rubbermaid is the poster [...]

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

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

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

  7. [...] extended the brand to cereal, ice cream, and, worse, licensed the brand to other companies (like Fruit of the Loom, Nabisco saw a great potential to not only make money but sell more product by licensing the brand [...]

  8. [...] The Roundup May 23-24 Al Ries gets a Fruit of the Loom wedgie! [...]

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

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


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