The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding


Powerful branding advice. It's easy to see why this is a branding classic. It's more applicable to big (national or international) businesses than small ones. The examples are of Fortune 500 companies. But, most of the branding laws apply even to small businesses. Some of the laws overlap and repeat. I questioned some of the examples, because the authors seem to overemphasize the importance of branding in the success or failure of the companies, and they overlook the many other factors that
Powerful branding advice. It's easy to see why this is a branding classic. It's more applicable to big (national or international) businesses than small ones. The examples are of Fortune 500 companies. But, most of the branding laws apply even to small businesses. Some of the laws overlap and repeat. I questioned some of the examples, because the authors seem to overemphasize the importance of branding in the success or failure of the companies, and they overlook the many other factors that contributed to their success or failure.The laws go against a company's natural desire to expand its brand into a wide range of products and even other categories. The authors point out that doing so dilutes the brand. According to the authors, a brand is a singular idea that you own in the prospect's mind. Even better is if that idea can be represented by a single word, such as how Volvo owns "safety." The authors say that limiting your brand is the essence of branding; a brand must stand for something simple and narrow.The authors say that the most useful aspect of branding is creating a new category, not increasing market share. They advise narrowing your focus dramatically, and creating a new category. They say, "Ask not what percentage of an existing market your brand can achieve, ask how large a market your brand can create by narrowing its focus and owning a word in the mind."

I read this because I'm revisiting the branding of my web agency, OptimWise. I googled for the best branding books, and this one bubbled to the surface.

Notes


1. The Law of Expansion: The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope.Limit the number of products you sell under a brand. Chevy should have stuck with fewer models.

2. The Law of Contraction: A brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus.

Starbucks narrowed to coffee, Subway to sub sandwiches. A narrow focus makes it easier to dominate a category.Once companies become successful, they expand their brands, but they had narrow brands to become successful.

3. The Law of Publicity: The birth of a brand is achieved with publicity, not advertising.

The birth of a brand is achieved with publicity, not advertising. Advertising can maintain a high-flying brand, but generally won't launch one.A new brand must be capable of generating favorable publicity in the media. Best way is by being first brand in a new category.What others say about your brand is more powerful than what you say about yourself, which is why publicity is more powerful than advertising.High-tech companies especially are launched through publicity, not advertising.

4. The Law of Advertising: Once born, a brand needs advertising to stay healthy.

Phase 1: intro of new category (requires publicity)Phase 2: rise of company that pioneered new category (requires advertising)Advertise your brand leadership (that you are number one in your category); it's the most motivating factor in customer behavior.People don't believe the claim that "Our product is better." But if you say, "Our product is the leader," people think it must be better than competition.Advertising may not pay for itself, but it raises the price of admission, making it harder for competitors to steal your market share.

5. The Law of the Word: A brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer.

Mercedes owns "prestige." Volvo owns "safety."Once you own a word, it becomes nearly impossible for a competitor to steal it, even if they become a better match for the word.You can't become the generic (e.g., Kleenex for facial tissue) by overtaking the leader. You can only do it by being first and establishing the category.If you weren't first in category, create a new category by narrowing focus. Prego focused on thick spaghetti sauce to win market share from Ragu, leader in spaghetti sauce.To brand a prestige product, you need to make your product/service more expensive than competition, and find a code word for prestige (e.g., "engineered like no other car in the world.").The most successful brands kept a narrow focus and expanded the category, rather than expanding their name into other categories."Ask not what percentage of an existing market your brand can achieve, ask how large a market your brand can create by narrowing its focus and owning a word in the mind."

6. The Law of Credentials: The crucial ingredient to the success of any brand is its claim to authenticity.

Customers disbelieve most product claims, but they believe claim to authenticity ("it's the real thing").Customers tend to believe product claims only when they're closely related to the brand's credentials (what the brand "knows" or is known for).No matter how small the category, focus on becoming leader. Don't simply sell benefits of category.

7. The Law of Quality: Quality is important to have, but brands are not built by quality alone.

"There is almost no correlation between success in the marketplace and success in comparative testing of brands."Perception of quality is more important than actual quality. Best way to build perception of quality is building your brand.Having better name (reputation) than competition builds perception of quality. Specialists have stronger names than generalists.High price also builds perception of quality.

8. The Law of the Category: A leading brand should promote the category, not the brand.

Most efficient, productive, useful aspect of branding is creating a new category, not increasing market share. Narrow the focus to nothing, and create a new category.To build brand in non-existent category, launch brand in way that creates perception that brand was first, leader, pioneer, or original. Use one of these words to describe brand. Promote new category.

9. The Law of the Name: In the long run a brand is nothing more than a name.

Narrow focus to a slice of market. Then make your brand name stand for the category (the generic effect) and expand category by promoting benefits of category, not brand. Domino's promoted home pizza delivery, not its own name.

10. The Law of Extensions: The easiest way to destroy a brand is to put its name on everything.

Before launch, ask yourself what customers will think of current brand. E.g., Diet Pepsi means Pepsi isn't healthy.If market is moving out from under you, stay where you are and launch a second brand. Otherwise, just continue building your brand.

11. The Law of Fellowship: In order to build the category, a branch should welcome other brands.

Dominant brand should welcome competitors. Choice stimulates demand, because customers become more aware of category. Customers feel better about a category that contains choices.Similar businesses benefit from each other (e.g., car dealerships, fast food). They attract more customers, customers like comparison shopping, and businesses can learn from each other.

12. The Law of the Generic: One of the fastest routes to failure is giving a brand a generic name.

Generic names disappear into the ether. Only brand names register in the mind. "Microsoft" is better than "Security Software Systems."You don't need to invent a word. You can find a regular word taken out of context and used to connote primary attribute of brand. E.g., Blockbuster Video.Lexus is made from word "luxury." Staples used name of specific office product, which also means "essentials." Intel cut generic "intelligent" in half.

13. The Law of the Company: Brands are brands. Companies are companies. There is a difference.

Brand name should always take precedence over company name. Consumers by brands, not companies.Use the company name as the brand name, unless there are compelling reasons not to.If you must include company name on product or package, make it less noticeable than brand name.

14. The Law of Subbrands: What branding builds, subbranding can destroy.

A brand can be marketed in more than one model as long as they don't detract from the essence of the brand (singular idea that sets it apart from other brands in the consumer's mind).

15. The Law of Siblings: There is a time and place to launch a second brand.

Make each brand unique, with his own identity. Don't give them a family look or identity. Time Inc. has Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, etc.Launch a subbrand only when you can create a new category.

16. The Law of Shape: A brand’s logotype should be designed to fit the eyes. Both eyes.

"A logotype should have the same shape as a windshield, roughly 2 1/4 units wide and 1 unit high."Typeface of logotype barely matters; the words, and legibility, do. Logotype, trademark, or visual symbol also overrated; meaning is in words.

17. The Law of Color: A brand should use a color that is the opposite of its major competitor's.

It's more important to create a separate brand identity than to use the right symbolic color.

18. The Law of Borders: There are no barriers to global branding. A brand should know no borders.

19. The Law of Consistency: A brand is not built overnight. Success is measured in decades, not years.

Markets may change, but brands shouldn't, ever. They may be bent slightly or given a new slant, but their essential characteristics (once firmly in the consumer's mind) should never change. Coca-Cola shouldn't market beer. A French restaurant shouldn't serve fajitas. Little Caesars should have stuck with two-for-price-of-one takeout. KFC should stick with fried chicken.Beware question, "Why should we limit ourselves?" Limiting your brand is the essence of branding. Brand must stand for something simple and narrow.

20. The Law of Change: Brands can be changed, but only infrequently and only very carefully.

When changing brand is feasible:Brand is weak or non-existent in customers' minds.To move brand down food chain (lower price).Brand is in slow-moving field and change will take long time.

21. The Law of Mortality: No brand will live forever. Euthanasia is often the best solution.

When it's time for a brand to die (due to market shifts), don't resist it. Put money into new brand, not into prolonging dying one.

22. The Law of Singularity: The most important aspect of a brand is its single-mindedness.


A brand is a singular idea that you own in the prospect's mind. It's a proper noun that can be used in place of a common word.
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