Al Ries and Laura Ries: The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding


(Includes The 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding)

5 stars (out of 5).

This is a very insightful, clear and convincing primer on the laws of branding, in general and, in a bonus section, on the internet. Each law is illustrated with multiple well-known examples, to the point where you'll likely find it very hard to argue with any of the authors' conclusions: the facts are plain to see. This edition (copyright 2002) is recent enough to reflect the dot.com crash of 2000, and dated enough to call out, in a P.S. to "The Law of Time" (internet branding law #8), "You probably noticed that it was AOL that took over Time Warner and not vice versa." There are just a couple of other anachronisms in the book, none remotely significant enough to detract from its value.

Two of the ideas in the internet branding section of the book particularly stood out for me because they so strongly go against the common wisdom. (Since I've spent most of my career in the internet space, vs. pure branding, I have a tad more common wisdom to be challenged.) The first was, again, from "The Law of Time" section, subtitled "Just do it. You have to be fast. You have to be first. You have to be focused." No argument here -- but when Al and Laura Ries say "Getting it right makes no sense from a branding point of view. Anything worth doing is worth doing in a half-assed way.", it raised my hackles. I get their point; I hate the fact that they're possibly right, and have fought doing things in a half-assed way for as long as I've been in a position to do anything about it. I'm all about the 80/20 rule -- and I do agree with their follow-on statement that "Anything not worth doing is not worth doing in a perfect way." It's just the "half-assed" thing that troubled me.

The second piece that really struck me is "The Law of Divergence" section (internet branding law #10), subtitled "Everyone talks about convergence, while just the opposite is happening." They smartly tie the Law of Divergence in branding to the Law of Entropy in physics, and the Law of Evolution in biology. The centre cannot hold. And they provide a wonderful vignette in a sidebar:

We were talking about divergence at a seminar in Helsinki when a man in the back row interrupted our presentation by pulling out his Nokia 9110 Communicator and shouting, "What are you talking about? Convergence is happening, I have it right in my hand." We stopped the meeting, walked to the back of the room, and compared our tiny Nokia cell phone with his 9110 Communicator. "Look," we said, "ours is the size and weight of a cigarette package and yours is the size and weight of a brick. Who wants to carry a brick to make a phone call?"

Over the years, I've probably been making the divergence case as strongly as anyone has, given that from a purely technical perspective, it's only logical -- but they're absolutely right. I have a cell phone with e-mail and web browsing features and I hardly ever use them. I get almost no mail, and surf very few pages, that fit well on the tiny screen. And typing out long messages, even with the predictive text input turned on, is still an exercise in frustration. Heck, I don't even use a web browser to read my e-mail unless there's no other way; only a dedicated e-mail client is fast and efficient enough to deal with the volume of mail I get and send. And I miss dtcm, the CDE Calendar Manager that was so much faster than anything that has to redraw an entire window just because a meeting gets pushed back 15 minutes.

You'll recognize the authors' command of their discipline throughout this fine book, and perhaps they'll open your eyes a few times, as they did mine. If you're interested in branding, advertising, or business strategy, it's definitely worth your time to read.

[GET IT]

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