The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding: How to Build a Product or Service into a World-Class Brand
Written by: Al Ries and Laura Ries
Summarized by: Amie Hansen
Part 12 – The Recap! Here are chapters 1 – 22.
What is branding?
To differentiate your product from every other product and to create in the mind of the prospect the perception that there is no other product on the market quite like your product.
In the short term, conventional marketing strategies (expansion and line extension) can increase sales, but in the long run they usually undermine the power of the brand and decrease sales.
Marketing is not selling. Marketing is brand building.
The power of a brand lies in its ability to influence purchasing behavior.
Chapter 1 – The Law of Expansion
The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope.
The emphasis in most companies is on the short term. Line extension, megabranding, variable pricing and a host of other sophisticated marketing techniques are being used to milk brands rather than build them. Milking will bring in money in the short term, but in the long term it wears down the brand until it no longer stands for anything.
Customers want brands that are narrow in scope and are distinguishable by a single word, the shorter the better.
If you want to build a powerful brand in the minds of consumers, you need to contract your brand, not expand it. Expanding will diminish your power and weaken your image.
Chapter 2 – The Law of Contraction
A brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus.
Narrow the focus.
If you want to have a successful company you have to do what successful companies did BEFORE they were successful.
FOCUS= narrow vision and product concept, don’t extend the line just to create more profit today, it won’t survive tomorrow. Consistency is the key.
Chapter 3 – The Law of Publicity
The birth of a brand is achieved with publicity, not advertising.
The way to build brand leadership is to have a superior understanding of the consumer, which leads to better, fresher, more powerful creative work that ultimately builds brands.
Advertising won’t get a new brand off the ground.
Today brands are born, not made. A new brand must be capable of generating favorable publicity in the media. The best way to generate publicity is by being first…the first brand in a new category.
The best way to make news is to announce a new category, not a new product.
What others say about your brand is much more powerful than what you say about it yourself. That’s why publicity (PR) is more effective than advertising.
Public relations has eclipsed advertising as the most effective force in branding. Today brands are built with publicity and maintained with advertising.
Brands don’t create publicity, people do.
Chapter 4 – The Law of Advertising
Once born, a brand needs advertising to stay healthy.
A brand will outlive publicity.
First publicity and then advertising is the general rule. Market leaders advertise their quality, if you say you are the leader than everyone thinks you’re better without having to say you’re better- such claims are quite rare.
People state that they won’t buy a product just because it’s “the leader”, they go out of their way to avoid it…unless that brand is well established in their mind. Consumers say they chose the leading brand, not because it was the leader but because “it’s better”.
Chapter 5 – The Law of the Word
A brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer.
Focus on owning a word in the prospects mind…..a word that no one else owns.
- Volvo = safety
- Mercedes = Prestige however they have violated the law by making less expensive cars to broaden the base which is an error
Jello owns gelatin dessert, hand me a q-tip, pass me a Kleenex, Reynolds wrap, Xerox and scotch tape all examples of this “owning” the brand
Narrow the focus.
Expansion hurts the brand, not the company (it just weakens it)
- Every brand that was really big went from owning a specific category and once they established that category they move into other realms gradually
Words are the key to brand building!
Brand name and it’s associations that create a lasting effect and create meaning in the consumers mind. To get into the consumers mind you have to sacrifice. You have to reduce the essence of your brand to a single thought or attribute – an attribute that nobody else owns in that category = highly qualified appointments, top-of-the-line, growth
To be successful in branding a “prestige” product or service you need to: 1.) make your brand more expensive than the competition; 2.) find a code word for prestige (Launch’s code word?)
The most successful are those that narrow their focus first to build the brand.
Ask how large a market your brand can create by narrowing its focus and owning a word in the mind.
Chapter 6 – The Law of Credentials
The crucial ingredient in the success of any brand is its claim to authenticity.
The real thing, the claim to authenticity; the brands credentials.
The right credentials the prospect is likely to believe anything you say about your brand.
Never assume people know which brand is the leader.
Chapter 7 – The Law of Quality
Quality is important, but brands are not built by quality alone.
You can’t build a quality product on sand, you can build greatness into it, but it’s still on sand.
If you want to build a powerful brand you have to build a powerful perception of quality in the mind- by following the laws of branding (contraction: narrow the focus and become a specialist rather than a generalist and a specialist is perceived to know more and have higher quality; have a better name, you will come out on top)
Expanding the brand and being a generalist tend to destroy your ability to select a powerful name.
Having a high price gives perception of high value, the customer who wears a rolex watch does so to show that he can afford it, not to tell the time better.
Chapter 8 – The Law of the Category
A leading brand should promote the category, not the brand.
Introduce a brand-new category.
The most efficient, most productive, most useful aspect of branding is creating a new category. In other words, narrowing the focus to nothing and starting something totally new. That’s the way to become the first brand in a new category and ultimately the leading brand in a rapidly growing new segment of the market.
Launch the brand in a way to create the perception that that brand was the first, the leader, the pioneer, or the original and use one of these words to describe your brand.
You have to PROMOTE the new category.
It might be easier to promote the brand and just forget about the category but it’s NOT as effective.
If the manufacturer doesn’t know what the category is, the prospect won’t either. Answer that question before you launch a new brand rather than after.
Customers don’t really care about new brands, they care about new categories.
By first preempting the category then aggressively promoting the category, you create both a powerful brand and a rapidly escalating market.
Promote the category, not the brand.
When you’re first, you can preempt the category. You are the only brand associated with the concept. You need to put your branding dollars behind the concept itself, so the concept will take off, pulling the brand along with it.
Leaders should continue to promote the category, to increase the size of the pie rather than their slice of the pie. The rightful share of a leading brand is never more than 50 percent. Instead of fighting competitive brands, a leader should fight competitive categories.
Contrary to popular belief what would help every category pioneer is competition. The rise of competitive brands can stimulate consumer interest in the category. Leading brands should promote the category, not the brand.
Chapter 9 – The Law of the Name
In the long run a brand is nothing more than a name.
Don’t confuse what makes a brand successful in the short term with what makes a brand successful in the long term.
In the short term, a brand needs a unique idea or concept to survive. It needs to be first in a new category. It needs to own a word in the mind.
In the long term, the unique idea or concept disappears. All that is left is the difference between your brand name and the brand names of your competitors.
Example: Xerox was the first plain-paper copier. This unique idea built the powerful Xerox brand in the mind. The difference between brands is not in the products, but in the product names. Or rather the perception of the names.
The most valuable asset of the Xerox Corporation is the Xerox name itself.
Rampant line extensions are destroying brands. (When you expand a brand, you reduce its power. When you contract a brand, you increase its power.)
Brands are the essence of the company itself. A company’s very existence depends on building brands in the mind.
Chapter 10 – The Law of Extensions
The easiest way to destroy a brand is to put its name on everything.
More than 90 percent of all new products introduced in the U.S. grocery and drug trade are line extensions. Many of those line extensions (at least in supermarkets) sit on the shelf and father dust.
This plethora of line extensions is the reason for the increased demands from retailers for trade promotions, slotting fees and return privileges. With so many products to choose from, retailers can force manufacturers to pay for the privilege of getting their products on the shelf. If one company won’t pay, the retailer can always find another company that will.
Example: There are 3 major beer brands – Budweiser, Miller High Life and Coors Banquet. Today these 3 brands have become 14. Have these 14 brands increased their market share over that obtained by the original 3 brands? Not really. Has the availability of these 14 varieties increased beer consumption? No.
When your customers are not exactly rushing our to buy your product, why would you need more brands to satisfy those customers?
Logic would suggest you would need fewer brands. But that’s customer logic. Manufacturer logic is different. If volume is going nowhere, the manufacturer concludes it needs more brands to maintain or increase sales. When a category is increasing in sales, there are opportunities for new brands, but manufacturer logic suggests they’re not needed. “We are doing great, we don’t need any more brands.”
As a result, the marketplace is filled with line extensions in areas where they are not needed and is starved for new brands in areas where they are needed.
One reason 90 percent of all new brands are line extensions is that management measures results with the wrong end of the ruler. It measures only the success of the extension. It never measures the erosion of the core brand.
Big powerful brands should have market shares approaching 50 percent, like Coca-Cola, Heinz, Pop-Tarts, Jell-O and Gerber’s. But it’s hard to find more than a few such brands. Most big brands have been line extended to death.
It’s the difference between building brands and milking brands. Most managers want to milk. “How far can we extend the brand?”
Many manufacturers are their own worst enemies. What are line extensions like light, clear, healthy and fat-free actually telling you? That the regular products are not good for you.
Let sleeping brands lie. Before you launch your next line extension, ask yourself what customers of your current brand will think when they see the line extension.
If the market is moving our from under you, stay where you are and launch a second brand. If it’s not, stay where you are an continue building your brand.
Chapter 11 – The Law of Fellowship
In order to build the category, a brand should welcome other brands.
Greed often gets in the way of common sense. The dominant brand in a category often tries to broaden its appeal in order to capture every last bit of market share.
Not only should a dominant brand tolerate competitors, it should welcome them. The best thing that happened to Coca-Cola was Pepsi-Cola. Choice stimulates demand. The competition makes consumers more conscious.
Competition increases the noise level and tends to increase sales in the category. Competition also broadens the category while allowing the brands to stay focused.
Customers respond to competition because choice is seen as a major benefit. If there is no choice, customers are suspicious. Who wants to buy a brand if you don’t have another brand to compare it with?
You seldom see a big, growing, dynamic market without several major brands. Instead of welcoming competition, companies often feel threatened. They think, let’s try to drive out competitors before they get too established. In the process, however, they fall victim to the laws of branding. Expansion, line extensions and other strategies that broaden a brands appeal will ultimately weaken the brand.
Market share is not based on merit, but on the power of the brand in the mind. In the long run, a brand is not necessarily a higher-quality product, but a higher-quality name. Of course, customers can have too much choice.
For each category, two major brands seem to be ideal (Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, Listerine and Scope, Kodak and Fuji, Nintendo and PlayStation, Duracell and Energizer). Too much choice, consumption suffers.
In any large city, you can see the law of fellowship in action. In New York City, for example, the garment district on Seventh Avenue, the financial district on Wall Street, the diamond district on Forty-seventh Street.
It makes sense for similar businesses to be located close together for 3 reasons:
1.) To attract more customers to an area to shop
2.) Customers can easily comparison shop among stores
3.) Allows companies to keep an eye on each other
The best location for a Burger King franchise is often across the street from a McDonald’s.
Your brand should welcome healthy competition. It brings more customers in the category. No brand can ever own the entire market.
Chapter 12 – The Law of the Generic
One of the fastest routes to failure is giving a brand a generic name.
History often leads us astray. In the past, some of the most successful companies (and brands) had generic names (General Motors, General Electric, General Mills; American Airlines, American Motors, American Express, etc.).
In the past companies thought they needed big, scopy, generic names. The fact is, these brands/companies are successful in spite of their names.
Being first in the marketplace gave these companies such a head start and such a powerful presence in the market that it overcame the liability of their generic names.
The vast majority of brand communication takes place verbally, not visually. The average person spends nine times as much time listening to radio and television than he or she does reading magazines and newspapers. Furthermore, in order to give meaning to the printed word, the mind processes sounds. The printed word is secondary to the sound that it generates in the reader’s mind.
The problem with the generic brand name is its inability to differentiate the brand from the competition. Generic names disappear into the ether. Only brand names register in the mind.
Nobody is saying that you should always invent a new name for an established brand, although that’s often a good strategy for a product or service that is truly revolutionary and unlikely to be copied for some time. Kodak and Xerox are good examples of that.
What you should generally do is take a regular word and use it out of context to connote the primary attribute of your brand.
Budget is a powerful brand name for a car-rental service. The word suggests that it rents cars at low prices. Low-Cost Car Rental is not a good brand name.
The Luxury Car Company would have gone nowhere, but Toyota took the word “luxury,” tweaked a few letters and came up with Lexus.
One reason that line extensions fare so poorly in the marketplace is that they generally combine a brand name with a generic name.
The mind doesn’t deal in letters or words. It deals in sounds. You can capitalize all you want, but a generic word is a generic word in the mind, no matter how you spell it.
Chapter 13 – The Law of the Company
Brands are brands. Companies are companies. There is a difference.
The issue of how to use a company name is at the same time simple and complicated. Simple, because the laws are so clear-cut. Complicated, because most companies do not follow the simple laws of branding and end up with s system that defies logic and results in endless brand-versus-company debates.
Brand names should almost always take precedence over company names. Consumers buy brands, they don’t buy companies. So, when a company name is used alone as a brand name (GE, Coca-cola, IBM, Xerox), customers see these names as brands.
When you combine a company name with a brand name in a clear and consistent fashion, the brand name is the primary name and the company name is seen as the secondary name: General Motors Cadillac.
Customers will seldom use a company name…when they have been given a viable brand name to use. “How do you like my new Cadillac?” Nobody says, “How do you like my new General Motors luxury car?”
A company is a company as long as the name is not being used as a brand. A brand is a brand. There is a difference. A company is the organization that manufactures or produces the brand. It is not the brand itself. Microsoft isn’t Word, Proctor & Gamble isn’t Tide.
While this makes sense, it’s not usually the best branding strategy. The best branding strategy should be to use the company name as the brand name. The Coca-Cola company produces the Coca-Cola brand. Neat, simple, straightforward, easy to understand.
Management is company-oriented and customers are brand-oriented.
The view from the inside is totally different than the view from the outside. Managers must constantly remind themselves that customers care only about brands, not about companies.
The brand isn’t just the name the manufacturer puts on the package. It’s the product itself. To a customer, Coca-Cola is, a dark, sweet, reddish-brown liquid. The brand name is the word customers use to describe that liquid. What’s inside the bottle is the most important aspect of the branding process. Coca-Cola is branding the liquid itself.
It’s not a cola made by the Coca-Cola Company. The cola itself is Coca-Cola, the real thing. This distinction is at the heart of an effective branding strategy.
Most issues involving company names versus brand names can be solved by asking yourself two questions:
1.) What is the name of the brand?
2.) What is the name of the stuff inside the packaging?
Both names had better be the same or you have big problems.
As a general rule, you want a brand name to be as short and as memorable as possible. (Short names greatly improve your word-of-mouth possibilities.) When customers feel they have to use both your company name and your brand name together, you usually have a branding problem.
As far as the customer is concerned, the easiest, simplest way is the Proctor& Gamble way. Use just the brand name boldly on the package and relegate the “Procter & Gamble Company” to tiny type at the bottom.
For many brands one answer is to put the company name in small type above the brand name. Customers who are strongly motivated to use only the brand name will hardly notice the company name.
The brand name should dominate the company name.
The brand itself should be the focus of your attention. If you have to use the company name, use it. But do so in a decidedly secondary way.
Chapter 14 – The Law of Subbrands
What branding builds, subbranding can destroy.
Holiday Inn wanted to get into the upscale hotel segment.
Cadillac wanted to introduce a smaller car.
Waterford wanted to market a less expensive line.
Donna Karen wanted to market less costly and more casual clothes.
What to do? Invent a subbrand. So we have Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, Cadillac Catera, Marquis by Waterford and DKNY. We can use our well-known core brand at the same time as we launch secondary or subbrands to move into new territory.
Why would a customer expect Holiday Inn to have an upscale hotel? Why spend all that money and still stay as a Holiday Inn! The thinking is, If I am forking out the big bucks, I want to stay with a top hotel brand.
Subbranding is an inside-out branding strategy that tries to push the core brand into new directions. It captures management’s attention because of what it promises, not necessarily because of what it delivers.
Marketers are rethinking the concept of subbranding and calling it the masterbrand or megabrand strategy. “Dodge is not our brand. Our brands are: Avenger, Intrepid, Neon Stealth, Stratus and Viper.” What’s a Dodge then? “A Dodge is a megabrand.”
When you feel the need to create subbrands, you are chasing the market, you are not building the brand.
The essence of a brand is some idea or attribute or market segment you can own in the mind. Subbranding is a concept that takes the brand in exactly the opposite direction. Subbranding destroys what branding builds.
Subbreanding, masterbranding, megabranding are not customer-driven concepts. They have no meaning in the minds of most consumers.
Think simple. Think like a customer and your brand will become more successful.
Chapter 15 – The Law of Siblings
There is a time and a place to launch a second brand.
Keep the brand focused and ignore opportunities to get into new territories. But there comes a time when a company should launch a second brand. And perhaps a third, even a fourth.
A second-brand strategy i snot for every company. If handled incorrectly, the second brand can dilute the power of the first brand and waste resources. Yet, in some situations, a family of brands can be developed that will assure a company’s control of a market for many decades to come.
Take the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. Wrigley had dominated the chewing gum market, but not with one brand. Wrigley has a family of brands (Big Red, Doublemint, Extra, Freedent, Juciy Fruit, Spearmint, Winterfresh).
The key to a family approach is to make each sibling a unique individual brand with its own identity. Resist the urge to give the brands a family look or a family identity. Make each brand as different and distinct as possible.
Wrigley’s first three brands (Juicy Fruit, Spearmint and Doublemint) are too much like line extensions. They need the Wrigley name to support their generic brand names. Big Red, Extra, Freedent and Winterfresh, however, can stand on their own, each as totally separate brands.
Time Inc. became the world’s largest magazine publisher, not by launching line extensions of its core brand, but by launching totally separate publications. Time Inc. has seven publishing powerhouses:
2.) Fortune (not Time for Business)
3.) Life (not Time for Pictures)
4.) Sports Illustrated (not Time for Sports)
5.) Money (not Time for Finances)
6.) People (not Time for Celebrities)
7.) Entertainment Weekly (not Time for Entertainment)
The strength of a brand lies in having separate, unique identity – not in being associated in the mind with a totally different category. Having a totally separate identity in the mind doesn’t mean creating a totally separate organization to handle each brand. Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company doesn’t have seven separate manufacturing plants, it has seven brands and one company, one sales force, one marketing organization.
When General Mills decided to get into the Italian restaurant business it did not do a spin off of its Red Lobster name. No Italian Red Lobsters. General Mills invented a separate brand called Olive Garden. With this strategy, the company was able to create the tow largest family-restaurant chains in America.
In the past, companies have created families of brands based on the principles behind the law of siblings. As time goes by, they forget why the brands were created in the first place. Instead of maintaining separate identities, the brands are mashed together and a layer of corporate frosting added on top. Instead of becoming stronger, the brands become weaker.
Many CEOs believe that a sibling strategy works best when the organization itself is decentralized. “Let the brands fight it out among themselves.” Not so.
A sibling strategy requires more top-management supervision, not less. The urgent, long-term need is to maintain the separation between the brands, not to make them all alike.
Corporate management should keep the following principles in mind when selecting a sibling strategy for its stable of brands.
1.) Focus on a common product area. Passenger cars, chewing gum, etc
2.) Select a single attribute to segment. Price is the most common. By segmenting a single attribute only, you reduce the potential confusion between your brands. Keep each brand unique and special.
3.) Set up rigid distinctions among brands. Price is the easiest attribute to segment because you can put specific numbers on each brand.
4.) Create different, not similar brand names. You want to create a family of different brands. Alliteration is the curse of a sibling family.
5.) Launch a new sibling only when you can create a new category. New brands should not be launched just to fill a hole in the line or to compete directly with an existing competitor.
6.) Keep control of the sibling family at the highest level.
A family of sibling brands is not a strategy for every corporation. But where is is appropriate, a sibling strategy can be used to dominate a category over the long term.
Chapter 16 – The Law of Shape
A brand’s logotype should be designed to fit the eyes. Both eyes.
A logotype is a combination of a trademark, which is a visual symbol of the brand, and the name of the brand set in distinctive type.
Logotypes come in all shapes. But all shapes are not created equal in the eyes of the consumer. The ideal shape for a logotype is horizontal, roughly two and one-fourth units wide and one unit high.
This is true whenever the logotype is used: on buildings, brochures, letterheads, advertisements or calling cards.
Logotype designers often go way overboard n picking a typeface to express the attribute of a brand rather than its ability to be clearly read.
The truth is, the words (Rolex, Ralph Lauren, Rolls-Royce) are what communicate the power of the brands. The typefaces used in their logotypes can help or hinder the communication process, but only slightly.
Legibility is the most important consideration in selecting a typeface used in a logotype.
It’s a vicious cycle. In order to get the average prospect to notice the “mood” of the logotype you have to exaggerate the characteristics of the typography. And when you do that, you lose the logotype’s legibility. It’s not worth the trade-off.
The trademark, or visual symbol, is also overrated. The meaning lies in the word, or words, not the visual symbol. It’s the Nike name that gives meaning to the Swoosh symbol. The Swoosh symbol doesn’t give much meaning to the Nike brand.
The power of a brand name lies in the meaning of the word in the mind. For most brands, a symbol has little or nothing to do with creating this meaning in the mind. There are only a handful of simple symbols that make effective trademarks.
Chapter 17 – The Law of Color
A brand should use a color that is the opposite of its major competitor.
Make a brand distinctive with color.
There are 5 basic colors (red, orange, yellow, green and blue) plus the neutral colors (black, white and gray). Stick to one of these 5 primary colors.
All colors are not created equal in the eye of the beholder. Red colors appear to move toward your eyes while you’re looking at it while blue colors appear to move away from you. Because of these physical reasons, red is the color of energy excitement. Blue is the opposite of red. Blue is peaceful and tranquil. Blue is a laid-back color.
In the world of brands, red is a retail color used to attract attention. Blue is a corporate color used to communicate stability. For example, Coca-Cola red and IBM blue.
Orange is more like red than blue. Green is more like blue than red. Yellow is a neutral color, but it is also the brightest color used to communicate “caution”.
When selecting a color for a brand or a logo, managers usually focus on the mood they want to establish rather than the unique identity they want to create. While that is important, other factors should over-ride a choice based on mood alone.
It’s more important to create a separate brand identity than it is to use the right symbolic color.
There is a powerful logic for selecting a color that is the opposite of your major competitors. When you ignore this law of color, you do so at your own risk.
Be the opposite. Kodak is yellow, so Fuji is green.
Think of the unmistakable color of a Tiffany box. By standardizing on a single color and using it consistently over the years, you can build a powerful visual presence in a clutter-filled world. Women hug their husbands as soon as they see the robin’s-egg blue box – without opening it they know it will be wonderful.
Color consistency over the long term can help a brand burn its way into the mind.
Chapter 18 – The Law of Borders
There are no barriers to global branding. A brand should know no borders.
Most companies strongly believe 2 things:
1.) Their brands’ market shares cannot be substantially increased in their home countries.
2.) They need to grow.
As a result, they fall victim to the first law of branding, the law of expansion. “Expanding our line may be dangerous, but it’s the only way to grow.” It’s NOT the only way to grow. In fact, the perfect solution to achieving both goals is to build a global brand. That means:
- Keep the brand’s narrow focus in its home country.
- Go global.
Crossing a border often does add value to a brand. Since value lies in the mind of the consumer, the perception of where the brand came from can add or subtract value.
Every country has its own unique perceptions. When a brand is in sync with its own country’s perceptions, that brand has the possibility of becoming a global brand. The world is becoming one big global market and your product had better get on the global bandwagon or risk losing out altogether.
To be successful as a worldwide brand, you need to do two things:
1.) You need to be first.
2.) Your product needs to fit the perceptions of its country of origin.
The perception of a country is important. There is no such thing as a global brand with a global perception.
It doesn’t matter where your brand is conceived, designed, or produced, it’s name and connotations determine its geographic perception.
A trend in global branding: the use of English words for brands that may have no connection with the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, or any other English-speaking country.
English has become the second language of the world. If you are going to develop a brand name for use on the world-wide market, the name better work in English. It doesn’t have to be an English word, but it should sound like one.
Chapter 19 – The Law of Consistency
A brand is not built overnight. Success is measured in decades, not years.
A brand cannot get into the mind unless it stands for something.
Markets may change, but brands shouldn’t. Ever. They may be bent slightly or given a new slant, but their essential characteristics (once those characteristics are firmly planted in the mind) should never be changed.
Tanqueray is the leading high-end gin. But Absolut and Stolichnaya have created a trend toward high-end vodkas. So Tanqueray introduces Tanqueray vodka. Will Tanqueray cut into the Absolut market? Of course not. Will Tanqueray vodka undermine the Tanqueray gin market? Ultimately, yes. Tanqueray should stick with gin and hope the market swings in its direction.
Brands are used as personality statements (sometimes called “badges”). Your choice of a badge is often determined by the statement you ant to make to friends, neighbors, coworkers, or relatives.
When kids grow up, they inevitably want to make a statement about their newfound maturity by changing brands…from Coca-Cola to Budweiser, for example. If Coca-Cola decided to try to retain these customers by “moving with the market,” it would then logically introduce a product called Coca-Cola beer. As foolish as Coca-Cola beer might seem to you, conceptually it’s no different from Tranqueray vodka.
Markets may change, but brands should stay the same.
Brand building is boring work. What works best is absolute consistency over an extended period of time. Volvo has been selling safety for thirty-five years. BMW has been the ultimate driving machine for twenty-five years.
Run up a red flag whenever you hear the words: “Why should we limit ourselves?” You should limit your brand. That’s the essence of branding. Your brand has to stand for something both simple and narrow in the mind. This limitation is the essential part of the branding process.
Limitation combined with consistency (over decades, not years) is what builds a brand.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither is a brand of Romano cheese.
Chapter 20 – The Law of Change
Brands can be changed, but only infrequently and only very carefully.
There are always exceptions to every rule and the law of change is the biggest exception to the laws of branding.
Brand changing does not occur inside a company. Brand changing occurs inside the mind of the consumer. If you want to change your brand, keep your sights on your target: the consumer’s mind.
There are three situations where changing your brand is feasible.
1.) Your brand is weak or nonexistent in the mind. There is no brand, so you can do anything you want with the brand name.
2.) You want to move your brand down the food chain. If you are permanently lowering the price of your brand, you can often move it down the price ladder without hurting the brand. Customers will believe they are getting a lot of value by purchasing your brand. Sometimes prices get out of line and permanent adjustments need to be made.
3.) Your brand is in a slow-moving field and the change is going to take place over an extended period of time. The key concept to keep in mind is that little change has actually occurred in the mind of the prospect. Instead of “changing” minds, you allow enough time to pass so that the natural process of “forgetting” takes place.
What you think your brand is really doesn’t matter. It’s only what your customer thinks your brand is that matters.
If you want to change your brand, first look into the prospect’s mind. Where are you? Perhaps you’re not in the mind at all. Fine, change away.
But if you are in the mind, and if you have a unique and distinct perception, then change your brand at your own risk. It’s going to be a long, difficult, expensive and perhaps impossible process.
Chapter 21 – The Law of Mortality
No brand will live forever. Euthanasia is often the best solution.
While the laws of branding are immutable, brands themselves are not.
Once you understand the nature of branding, you’ll know when it is time to let your old brand die a natural death.
Opportunities for new brands are constantly being created by the invention of new categories.
It’s like life itself. A new generation appears on the scene and goes off in exciting new directions. Careers are born and blossom. Meanwhile, the old generation withers and dies.
Don’t fight it. For brands, like people, there is a time to live and a time to die. And, ultimately, there is a time to put the brand to sleep.
Companies make serious errors of judgment when they fight what should be a natural process.
Don’t waste money on walkers and wheelchairs. Spend your money on the next generation. Invest your money in a new brand with a future.
Many managers make poor financial decisions because they fail to distinguish between two aspects of a brand’s value.
- How well known the brand is
- What the brand stands for
A well-known brand that doesn’t stand for anything (or stands for something that is obsolete) has no value. A brand that stands for something has value even if the brand is not particularly well known.
When a revolutionary new category develops, the inevitable winner is a revolutionary new brand name.
Chapter 22 – The Law if Singularity
The most important aspect of a brand is its single-mindedness.
What’s a Chevrolet? A large, small, cheap, expensive car or truck.
What’s a Miller? A regular, light, draft, cheap, expensive beer.
What’s a Panasonic? At one point in time, Panasonic was a computer, computer printer, facsimile machine, scanner, telephone, television set, and copier, among other things.
These are all burned-out brands because they have lost their singularity. Loss of singularity weakens a brand.
It’s this singularity that helps a brand perform its most important function in society.
What’s a brand? A proper noun that can be used in place of a common word.
Instead of an imported beer, you can ask for a Heineken.
Instead of an expensive Swiss watch, you can ask for a Rolex.
Instead of a thick spaghetti sauce, you can ask for Prego.
Instead of a safe car, you can ask for a Volvo.
Instead of a driving machine, you can ask for a BMW.
What’s a brand? A singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.