Thursday, May 7, 2020

22 Immutable Laws of Branding

What's a good brand? How do you make it better? How do you make it worse? Al Ries takes these questions on in The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.

Normally I'm not a huge fan of books in list format. I may remember one or two that shock me or that mean something to me, but how can I remember anything more than that? But contrary to its title, this book isn't like that. There is a major over-arching theme, and it does feel as though each member of the list fits in nicely with that theme. As a relative newbie when it comes to branding, I found this book highly educational. I wish I had read it a long time ago.

But, the author is far too confident in his assertions. He attributes branding to be the failure or success of a lot of products where there is obviously much more to the story - like the usefulness/quality of the product, distribution, customer service, manufacturing etc. The book takes a branding viewpoint to explain almost everything, which is ridiculous.

Because the book is a couple of decades old, readers can see just how bad some of the author's predictions were. Here are just a few predictions from some 20 years ago:

- A decline of internet search engines is on the way: "Why would anyone want to waste time checking in with a search engine when he or she can go directly to the site?"
- Internet search engines win by being first. A competitor cannot compete with Yahoo! just by having a better search engine, because not only would it have to compete with Yahoo! but also AltaVista, Excite, Infoseek and Lycos.
- The Internet will be the first medium to not be dominated by advertising as its form of revenue
- Amazon should not try to sell more than books and CDs

Predicting in hard. Even if you have a good process, because there are so many other factors involved (both known and unknown unknowns!), you can still look very foolish. I don't blame the author for going out on a limb to make predictions like these; what I don't appreciate is the lack of humility and the overconfidence.

Still, it's useful to see how an expert/practitioner views things so one can properly understand that point of view. It's an especially useful book for anyone who works in a large consumer goods company. But I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about branding.

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