Categorized | books, the branding notebook

Al Ries on branding: the final word

Al Ries - The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

Just two days ago, Brandweek released its list of 2009 Superbrands (it is not happenstance that our marathon review of Al Ries has ended on the day the 2009 Superbrands were announced). Just a cursory glance over the category winners gives you a veritable rogue’s gallery of Al Ries felons. Scofflaws who not only busted one or more of Al Ries’ immutable laws, but in many cases directly trashed his most fundamental idea that one brand must always equal one thing (or, in Al Ries terms, one word).

We’ve already tested your patience throwing random brands at Al Ries to see if his immutable laws are as immutable as all that, but let’s take a brief run through the Superbrands list to come to our final conclusion about the book.

Of the 22 Superbrand category leaders, two of the brands (Bud Light and Coke Classic) are line extensions, not the actual brand itself (in fact, Al Ries thinks “Bud Light” was a bad idea). So, right away we’re confronted with the problematic fact that some line extensions make for better brands than the original (of course, Coke Classic is the original Coke product, but making your original product into a line extension and a different product into your original brand is probably as perverted as you can get in Ries land).

OreO's was supposed to be the begining of the end of Oreos
1998: OreoO’s signals the death knell of a great American brand. Fat chance.

Oreos (Food category leader), although an iconic Ries brand for over sixty years, since the late 70′s has been a Ries Nightmare on Elm Street, having 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 to restaurants and other companies, like Post). Yet, despite dire predictions about the brand’s demise, here it sits on top of its category with many, many truckloads of money in its future.

Today, the hand-wringing by “experts” over OreoO’s cereal, which to them was the nail in the brand coffin, looks like juvenile self-indulgence masked as principle. And Nabisco is laughing all the way to the bank (actually, since 2000, it’s Kraft laughing all the way to the bank).

Irish Spring (Health & Beauty — Colgate-Palmolive), Pine Sol (Household Cleaners — Clorox Corporation), and Marlboro (Tobacco — Kraft) all defy Ries’ immutable laws concerning line extensions or sibling brands. And they even do absolutely-guaranteed-to-kill-your-brand line extensions such as Marlboro Light (implying the original brand is bad for you) and Irish Spring deoderant.

So how can Ries be so wrong? How did so many branding experts go so terribly wrong when Nabisco went crazy with the Oreos brand and made a mint doing so?

Part of the answer, of course, lies in our first immutable law of bestsellers. You remember that one, the one we nicknamed, The Law of the Lowest Common Denominator: “Nobody ever lost money dumbing down their book.”

But that only explains part of the problem. Al Ries is a consultant. He makes more money than I can count by being an expert in branding, advertising, and sundry relatables. His job is to evaluate and analyze and tell managers what they should do. Which means that his job is to be an authority.

The consulting mindset is poles apart from the entrepreneurial mindset. Consultants (especially consultants that publish bestsellers, like Ragin’ Ries) put food on their table and Ferraris in their garage by thinking in rules and systems. Yes, even the iconoclasts folks like Seth Godin are out there peddling systems, rules, regulations, and thou-shalt-not’s. These iconoclasts earn their titles and get their mojo by saying that all the accepted rules are invalid and that people should adopt instead . . . their rules. But rules are rules, whether they are “accepted” or “out-of-the-box.”

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are more likely to think in terms of opportunities. And opportunities and “rules” rarely go together; instead, finding opportunity involves thinking in terms of options and choices. When an entrepreneur is confronted with a “rule” or a “thou-shalt-not,” their mind instinctively goes to the exception. “Since everyone else is playing by this rule, what if I do it this way? Will that work? And, if it does, will people bite? Can I make money?”

The world of opportunity, unlike the world of authority, is complex, nuanced, dynamic, plastic, and volatile. In the most simplistic terms, the world of opportunity is a bigger, richer, more populated world than the world of authority. It’s a distinction Emily Dickinson describes perfectly:

I dwell in Possibility–
A fairer house than Prose–
More numerous of windows–
Superior–for doors–

For opportunity-chasers, then, there are precious few “immutable” laws. And authorities? They’re the folks who tell you “no.” The history of innovation and entrepreneurship from time immemorial shows that the biggest opportunities often lie well outside the rules, whether traditional or iconoclastic. At the heart of every entrepreneurial project is a contrarian soul.

In short, consultants and bestselling authors traffic in authority and entrepreneurs traffic in opportunity. These worlds can be as far apart as Mars and Earth. Nothing expresses that difference better than the difference between Ries’ insistence that one brand always equal one thing (which we have nicknamed The Law of the Word) and the core of our argument with Ries, that the first principle of branding is that brands are an opportunity, what we call the Opportunity Principle of Branding.

The purpose of a brand is to create opportunity.

And that, more than anything, summarizes the difference between the entrepreneurial mindset and the “authority” mindset. It explains why Nabisco (and later Kraft) were able to make a mint off of Oreos by breaking all the rules. They saw opportunity outside the rules and seized it.

But, if you’re going to break the rules, you have to know them. That’s why the crucial difference between entrepreneurs and authorities isn’t our last word on Al Ries and his (no irony here) splendid book.

Many moons ago, when I taught writing at Stanford University, I had an obnoxious, too-bright-for-his-britches 18-year old hand me an utterly unreadable essay, which I generously rewarded with an F. He bulled his way into my china shop of an office and demanded that I regrade the essay, for it was obvious I didn’t appreciate his genius. He was, in his own words, “experimenting” with the essay form. “Gertrude Stein broke all the rules; Pablo Picasso broke all the rules!” he thundered. “That’s right,” I responded, “but Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso knew the rules before they broke them. If they had broken the rules without knowing them, as you did, they would’ve failed, as you did.”

Chasing opportunity, then, means thinking in options but knowing the rules. And there is no better or readable summary of branding “rules” than The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.

But, as we’ve found out, it is not holy writ. God didn’t speak to Al Ries from a branding bush. When there is a conflict between “rules” and “opportunity,” the race often goes to the opportunity chasers (in hindsight, OreoOs was a great idea in terms of generating income).

You could say that I’ve lighted on the First Immutable Law of Reading Business Books: “You’ve got to know what they say, but that should never stop you from doing the opposite.”*

*Unless, of course, you’re talking about taxes. It is a cosmological law of the universe that thinking in opportunities and options about paying your taxes strikes you out every time.

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

Be Sociable, Share!

8 Responses to “Al Ries on branding: the final word”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] 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: Ivory, or The Principle of Transcendence Part 13: Al Ries on how to build a brand Part 14: Al Ries on how to maintain a brand Part 15: The Final Word [...]

  2. [...] 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: Ivory, or The Principle of Transcendence Part 13: Al Ries on how to build a brand Part 14: Al Ries on how to maintain a brand Part 15: The Final Word [...]

  3. [...] 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: Ivory, or The Principle of Transcendence Part 13: Al Ries on how to build a brand Part 14: Al Ries on how to maintain a brand Part 15: The Final Word [...]

  4. [...] 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: Ivory, or The Principle of Transcendence Part 13: Al Ries on how to build a brand Part 14: Al Ries on how to maintain a brand Part 15: The Final Word [...]

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

  6. [...] 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 Principle of Transcendence Part 13: Al Ries on how to build a brand Part 14: Al Ries on how to maintain a brand Part 15: The Final Word [...]

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

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


Leave a Reply

Shoestring Book Reviews

Shoestring Venture Reviews
Richard Hooker on Jim Blasingame

Shoestring Fans and Followers


Categories

Archives

Business Book: How to Start a Business

Shoestring Book

Shoestring Venture in iTunes Store

Shoestring Venture - Steve Monas & Richard Hooker

Shoestring Kindle Version # 1 for e-Commerce, # 1 for Small Business, # 1 for Startup 99 cents

Business Book – Shoestring Venture: The Startup Bible

Shoestring Book Reviews

Shoestring Venture Reviews

Invesp landing page optimization
Powered By Invesp
Wikio - Top Blogs - Business