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Al Ries downs a whole bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol!

Al Ries - The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

Our weird, wonderful, and wacky review of Al Ries’ The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding continues to smart up the slim volume by using brand case studies to paint a fuller picture of branding opportunities. We’re now in the process of totally revising the Ries framework and today, after a whopping dose of Extra Strength Tylenol, along with mighty draughts of Tyenol Cold Formula, we add yet another major principle to the branding picture.

Tylenol
Tylenol, which has been on the market since the 1950’s, has dominated the analgesic market for over thirty years. Originally an acetaminophen product, an alternative to aspirin, Johnson & Johnson from 1983 onwards moved to protect the brand from ibuprofen’s encroachment by expanding Tylenol line to include cold products, such as Tylenol Cold and Tylenol Sinus, Tylenol Extra-Strength Antacid, and Tylenol Cold Night-Time and Tylenol Cold & Flu, all against seemingly unmovably strong brand competitors such as Nyquil, Alka-Seltzer, and Theraflu, busting all of Ries’ core laws. And also busting our Blue Oceans qualification. In all these cases, not only did Johnson & Johnson move the brand into red oceans (contested areas), but ones with clear winners. These line extensions, however, widened Tylenol’s presence in the growing cold relief market as a successful strategy against its competitors.

More importantly, however, Tylenol owes its original market dominance to a line extension. Before the line extension (which Ries specifically forbids and names Tylenol as the worst culprit), Tylenol was an also-ran as a consumer brand. With only 2% of the market, Tylenol launched “Extra-Strength Tylenol” (breaking Ries’ Law of Extensions) which promised more bang in each capsule. Here’s how Ries would evaluate the strategy:

Many manufacturers are their own worst enemies. What are line extensions like light, clear, healthy and fat-free telling you? That the regular products are not good for you. “The Law of Extensions” 54

Indeed, that is exactly what Extra-Strength Tylenol was saying: original Tylenol wasn’t as good.

Here’s the key. The line extension implied that no-one else in the market was good enough, either. Tylenol was the first “extra-strength” pain reliever introduced into the consumer market. What did they have to lose? Since, after 20 years, they only had a smidgen of market share, why not bust every one in the chops, including your base brand? If everyone else gets bloodied, so what if you damage your brand?

Because acetaminophin was safe enough to allow higher doses, Tylenol could now roll out more powerful medicine – and the increased dose needed a base to be compared against, i.e., regular Tylenol. That line extension, because it indicted every brand in the market, rapidly vaulted the brand to its uncontested number one spot. The brilliance of the brand manager was to recognize that the brand extension didn’t just offer a line extension opportunity, it offered an opportunity to create a new and more valuable customer perception of the brand (Extra Strength Tylenol is better than regular Tylenol and every other brand — ergo, Tylenol is the best pain-relief brand on the market).

This case generates a new principle, the Brand Leadership Principle:

The purpose of a brand is to create opportunity.

AND . . .

The greatest opportunity a brand offers is category leadership; any use of the brand, including line extensions, that produces that outcome is the proper use of the brand.

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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18 Responses to “Al Ries downs a whole bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol!”

  1. FredJoul says:

    Has Read several times, but don’t care nothing have not understood.

  2. Jason C says:

    Don’t forget, Al also says line extension can increase sales if your competitor is weak. It doesn’t prove improve the brands power, it only proves the competitors weakness.

  3. Excellent comment about Al Ries saying that a line extension will increase brand equity if the competitor is weak. It’s similar to my Blue Oceans corollary. But the sheer gutsy brilliance of Tylenol is that all the competitors were strong in the market and Tylenol was the weak one, so by adding the new line, “Extra Strength” Tylenol, they made everyone in the market look weak. They simply manufactured the perception that all the brands were — quite literally — weak. So the line extension allowed them to go from distant third to category leadership. Ries doesn’t focus about grabbing opportunities like this. It’s the difference between thinking like a consultant, who always deals in authoritative knowledge and rules and best practices, and an entrepreneur, who always deals in possibilities and options and the never-tried. A consultant will come up with the one brand=one thing=one word law; an entrepreneur will say, “a brand offers opportunities, now let’s find them.” Somewhere between the two is where branding as a business activity happens, but I suspect it’s closer to the entrepreneur side of things than the consultant side of things.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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

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

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

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

  9. [...] 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: Ivory, or The Principle of Transcendence [...]

  10. [...] 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: Ivory, or The Principle of Transcendence [...]

  11. [...] 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: Ivory, or The Principle of Transcendence [...]

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

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

  14. [...] 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 [...]

  15. [...] 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 [...]


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