Category Archives: Branding Strategies

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

Differentiating your Brand: provide leadership

Another strategy for [tag-tec]brand differentiation[/tag-tec] is assuming a leadership role in your market. [tag-tec]Jack Trout[/tag-tec] and [tag-tec]Steve Rivkin[/tag-tec], in their book, [tag-tec]Differentiate or Die[/tag-tec], claim it’s THE most powerful differentiator.

Leading the chargeLeadership establishes credentials for your brand better than any other method. So people tend believe your message and assume quality, reliability, service and innovation are automatically delivered.

But how to establish leadership is the big question, particularly in local retail markets and in business services.

The first principal: proactively take a leadership position. Become a leader in your own mind first. Imbed this idea in employee training and orientation. Make being a leader a high priority.

Second, actively solicit publicity. Participate in industry associations, local chambers, charitable efforts. Whenever there’s an opportunity, make your opinions known about issues and events of interest to your market. Speak with passion publically. Speak often.

Third, participate in competitions. Public recognition by peers can be leveraged in this way.

Fourth, look to the long haul. Wresting leadership from today’s front runner will be difficult. They’ll want to continue wearing that mantel.

Like all other strategies, you’ll have to assess your market and the present positions of you and your competitors. As I’ve said often, paraphrasing [tag-tec]Ries[/tag-tec] and Trout in [tag-tec]Positioning: the Battlefield for Your Mind[/tag-tec], find a position not now occupied by a strong competitor. They have the advantage of “being there” and establishing their reputation over a period of time.

But if no one’s taken the lead and you have the resources to challenge and sustain that role, go for it.

Martin Jelsema

Advanced Brand Strategy Masterclass

Want a top-notch branding resource?

Here’s a site, Innovation Playground, that’s jam-packed with solid strategic content. The site owner is Idris Mootee, “a business and innovation strategist”.

I’m particularly excited about his eight-part slide show entitled, Advanced Brand Strategy Masterclass.

At Innovation Playground you’ll get the text of the material. The slides that go with the text are located on the social site called SlideShare.

Martin Jelsema


Brand platform: a definition

Brand platform tool kit Those who’ve followed this blog – and a hearty thanks for that – know I’ve been periodically posting about the elements of the brand platform.

While preparing a presentation today, I created a concise definition of the brand platform, and it occurred to me that I have never defined it as distinctly on this blog.

So here’s the most succinct definition I’m capable of authoring” Continue reading Brand platform: a definition

Differetiating your brand – Own a desirable attribute

I’ve written several blogs about how important differentiating your brand is, and how a differentiation strategy should be included in your strategic brand platform. I offered several approaches, and here’s yet another one.

You can differentiate your brand by owning an attribute.

Here you concentrate on a particular characteristic of your offering, whether that be a product or a service. That’s just what Volvo has done, and the attribute they own is safety. Continue reading Differetiating your brand – Own a desirable attribute

Differentiate your brand by being first.

One of the most important “ingredients” in your brand platform is a definition of how you will differentiate your brand from competitive brands.

It was first in its timeAnd, according to Trout and Rivkin in the book, Differentiate or Die, one of the most powerful differentiators is being first in your product category or industry.

Now obviously only one brand can legitimately claim to be first. But if you can reposition your product or service into a new category, you can be first.

Here’s an example: Continue reading Differentiate your brand by being first.