Dissecting the 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

In 1998, [tag-tec]Al Ries[/tag-tec] and his daughter Laura produced a book their publisher called “the branding bible…the definitive text on branding…”. The book: [tag-tec]The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding[/tag-tec].

The 22 Immutable Laws of BrandingNow I’ve been a fan of Al Ries since the mid-1960’s when I “replaced” Al as an account exec and copywriter at Marstellar Advertising’s New York office. He had just gone on to form Ries Cappiello Colwell Advertising.

He and [tag-tec]Jack Trout[/tag-tec] published their ground-breaking book, [tag-tec]Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind[/tag-tec] in 1981, Before that, in the early 1970’s, Ad Age had published the articles that became the basis for the book, and made available a slide presentation which my then employer, Tallant/Yates Advertising had acquired. Right then I became an advocate of [tag-tec]positioning[/tag-tec] as the foundation for [tag-tec]brand development[/tag-tec].

But back to The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding: the book is ten years old today, and I wonder if those “laws” are still “immutable”. There was some argument upon the book’s introduction about using that word.

Immutable, according to my copy of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, is defined as, “not susceptible to change”.

So I’ll explore each of those “laws”, one law per blog entry, over the next month or two.

But in this initial post, I’ll comment on the writers’ intro and the assumptions and definitions they made in compiling this “bible”.

Here goes.

One major assumption was that [tag-tec]branding[/tag-tec] would dominate marketing and replace sales activities as the major mover of goods and services. This shift from selling to buying is only exacerbated by the Internet and the vast amount of readily available information that allows people to better assess the options available to them. In this arena alone branding has certainly replaced salesmanship – even in light of the large quantity of direct-response “salesmanship in print” efforts of entrepreneurs in cyberspace.

Another presumption Al and Laura espouse is that the brand is a concept that resides in the minds of consumers, and that the objective of the brand process is to make your brand meaningful and memorable to your target market segments. As they have stated in other forums, the brand should “own” a word – position – in your prospects’ collective mind.

Differentiation and focus are two main principles that underlay the brand process and the 22 immutable laws of branding. (As a sidelight, after Ries and Trout stopped collaborating, Al wrote a book called [tag-tec]Focus[/tag-tec], and Jack wrote [tag-tec]Differentiate or Die[/tag-tec] with Steve Rivkin.)
Al and Laura suggest that the forces that broaden the base, widen the appeal and extend the (product) line are the same forces that undermine the power of the brand. This book was meant to help brand managers direct and control those diluting forces – and focus.

With that, I’ll close this blog.

Next time I’ll tackle the first law (yes, they’re numbered), The Law of Expansion.

Martin Jelsema

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