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Al Ries tries on a pair of Gucci’s and they don’t fit

Al Ries - The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

In yet another installment of our peculiar branding version of Survivor, we pit Al Ries’ unassailable bestseller on branding, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, against another popular and successful brand, Gucci, to see if these laws are as immutable as Ries claims.

Al Ries’ central argument is that one brand must always and ever be one thing — fully half of his immutable laws relate in some way to this central argument. So we call this overarching idea, The Law of the One. But does it really apply in the real world? We’re finding, as we throw one random brand after another at the book, that the real world is, in fact, considerably more complex and malleable. So every time we find Ries lacking, we add another little corollary or principle to Ries’ immutable laws. And we’ve made a significant discovery: Al Ries completely ignores the fact that a “brand” is a source of opportunity, not a set of laws to be followed. As entrepreneurs all, we know that opportunity is what we chase, not immutable rules and regulations. So today we discover new opportunities as we try on some Gucci for size.

Gucci
Synonymous with wealth and luxury, the Gucci brand has adorned shoes, purses, scarves, gloves, and other men’s and women’s wear and accessories since the 1930s. Since its very earliest inception, the Gucci brand has not been associated with one thing, but several, flouting Ries’ core principle and several of the laws underlying it (Expansion, Contraction, Extensions, Siblings). However, the word that Gucci owns in the consumer’s mind is “exclusivity” and the brand alone, not the product, is a potent symbol of wealth. Gucci consumers buy the brand far more than they buy the product it’s attached to, so the line extensions do not hurt the brand as long as the products are high quality and enormously expensive.

Put in less businessy terms, the Gucci brand means this: You buy Gucci to prove that you can buy Gucci (and other people can’t, so there).

When management in the 1970’s increased production of less expensive items, the brand suffered since anyone could now own Gucci. Knock-offs also made the brand available to the general public and diminished its exclusivity – it didn’t matter that the knock-offs were inferior products because customers at both ends of the spectrum were simply buying the brand.

This leads us to reformulate our Principle of the Word and return to Ries’ core argument that the brand must be associated with one thing:

The new and improved Principle of the Word

The purpose of a brand is to create opportunity.

AND . . .

he best word to own in a consumer’s mind may not be a “thing,” but a quality to provide opportunities to compete across line extensions. But line extensions must always represent the quality word associated with 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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5 Responses to “Al Ries tries on a pair of Gucci’s and they don’t fit”

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

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

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

  4. [...] The Roundup May 29 Al Ries tries on a pair of Gucci’s and they don’t fit [...]

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


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