22 Laws of Branding
Below, we’ve summarized the 22 Laws of Branding from the Ries’ book, The 22 Laws of Branding: How to Build a Product or Service into a World-Class Brand (buy the book on Amazon). Use these laws as guidelines to help you as you build your business brand.
The Law of Expansion: The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope. When you put your brand name on everything, that name loses its power. In their minds, most people try to assign one brand name to each product. Customers want brands that are narrow in scope and are distinguishable by a single word, the shorter the better.
The Law of Contraction: A brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus. Fred DeLuca [Subway] narrowed the focus to one type of sandwich, the submarine sandwich. Toys “R” Us sells 20% of all toys sold in the U.S. Good things happen when you contract rather than expand your business.
Narrow the focus.
Stock in depth.
Dominate the category.
The Law of Publicity: The birth of a brand is achieved with publicity, not advertising. Starbucks doesn’t spend a hill of beans on advertising. Today brands are born, not made. A new brand must be capable of generating favorable publicity in the media or it won’t have a chance in the marketplace. The best way to generate publicity is by being first. In other words, by being the first brand in a new category. What others say about your brand is much more powerful than what you say about it yourself.
The Law of Advertising: Once born, a brand needs advertising to stay healthy. There’s no news story left to tell, so advertising takes over. Those massive advertising dollars don’t buy you anything; they just keep you from losing market share to your competition. Advertising is expensive.
The Law of the Word: A brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer. Mercedes owns the word prestige. Volvo owns the word safety. The ultimate word to own in the mind is the name of the category itself. Kleenex owns the category word. Kleenex is tissue. Jell-O owns gelatin dessert. Coca-Cola owns cola. Band-Aid owns adhesive bandage. You can’t become generic by overtaking the leader. If you weren’t first in a category, you may be able to create a new category by simply narrowing your focus. Federal Express narrowed the focus of delivery to only small packages overnight. Forget about the laundry list of wonderful qualities of your product. Reduce the essence of your brand to a single thought or attribute.
The Law of Credentials: The crucial ingredient in the success of any brand is its claim to authenticity. The one thing that elevates the brand above the competition is the claim to authenticity. Credentials are the collateral you put up to guarantee the performance of your brand. Successful brands promote themselves as “the leader” in some category. Never forget leadership. No matter how small the market, don’t get duped into simply selling the benefits of the category.... Never assume that people know which brand is the leader.
The Law of Quality: Quality is important, but brands are not built by quality alone. Quality of the product has little to do with success in the market. The perception of quality is in the mind of the buyer. You must build a powerful perception of quality. High price is a benefit to customers. It allows the affluent customer to obtain psychic satisfaction from the public purchase and consumption of a high-end brand. ..deliberately start with a higher price. Then ask yourself, What can we put into our brand to justify the higher price? [It’s hard to imagine Jesus saying something like this. I wonder how many of these “laws” are consistent with a Christian worldview. dlm]
The Law of the Category: A leading brand should promote the category, not the brand. The most efficient, most productive, most useful aspect of branding is creating a new category. In other words, narrowing the focus to nothing and starting something totally new. That’s the way to become the first brand in a new category and ultimately the leading brand in a rapidly growing new segment of the market. Customers don’t really care about new brands, they care about new categories. Prince began the category of oversize tennis rackets. Domino’s pioneered home delivery of pizza. EatZi’s has created an industry of high-end restaurant take-out meals. When you’re first,... you’re the only brand associated with the concept.
The Law of the Name: The most important branding decision you will ever make is what to name your product or service.” In the long term...all that is left is the difference between your brand name and the brand names of your competitors. Xerox was the first plain-paper copier. It is still the best brand by far and one reason is the name itself.
The Law of Extensions: The easiest way to destroy a brand is to put its name on everything. Once a brand finds success in its category, the leader generally tries to expand its range of products and services. This is a big mistake. Line extensions may generate more revenue short-term, but long-term, they destroy brands. And unfortunately, many leaders don’t realize this until it’s too late. Since it’s not something that happens overnight, a leader generally blames something else, instead of the line extension, for the brand’s downfall.
The Law of Fellowship: In order to build the category, a brand should welcome other brands. Customers want choice. They want something to compare your brand with. Otherwise, they get suspicious. Realistically, 50% is the highest amount of market share that any brand can expect to have. To achieve more than this, a leader will need to create multiple brands.
The Law of the Generic: One of the fastest routes to failure is giving a brand a generic name. The vast majority of brand communication takes place verbally and the mind responds to sounds. The name needs an easily recognizable sound. Blockbuster Video is a powerful brand name. General Video Rental is not. “Intelligent Chip Company is a lousy brand name, but Intel Corp. is terrific.
The Law of the Company: Brand names should almost always take precedence over company names. Consumers buy brands, they don’t buy companies. The name of the brand should be the name of the stuff inside the package.
The Law of Subbrands: What branding builds, subbranding can destroy.
The Law of Siblings: There is a time and a place to launch a second brand, if done correctly and under the right circumstances, it can be very effective.
The Law of Shape: A logotype is a combination of a trademark, which is a visual symbol of the brand, and the name of the brand set in distinctive type. The ideal shape is horizontal because your eyes are side by side. Legibility is the most important aspect of a typeface. A great deal of effort has gone into creating elaborate symbols for use in logotypes. For the most part, these efforts are wasted. There are only a handful of simple symbols that make effective trademarks. The Mercedes three-pointed star is one of them.
The Law of Color: It is best to stick to one of the five basic colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue). Red is the color of energy and excitement, an “in-your-face” color. Blue is peaceful and tranquil, a “laid-back” color. Red attracts attention. Blue connotes stability. White = purity. Black = luxury. Blue = leadership. Purple is royalty. Green = environment and health. Focus on the mood you want. Choose the opposite color of your competitor.
The Law of Borders: A brand should know no borders. In order to grow, keep the brand’s narrow focus in its home country. Go global. Be first. Make your product fit the perceptions of its country of origin. A brand name for use on the worldwide market had better sound OK in English. It doesn’t have to be an English word but it should sound like one.
The Law of Consistency: Success is measured in decades, not years. Brands shouldn’t change. They may be bent slightly or given a new slant, but their essential characteristics (once those characteristics are firmly planted in the mind) should never be changed. Brands are used as personality statements. What did introducing a station wagon do for BMW? Nothing, except erode the driving image in the mind of the consumer. You should limit your brand. That’s the essence of branding.
The Law of Change: Brands can be changed, but only infrequently and only very carefully. If your brand is “weak or nonexistent in the mind” of the consumer, to lower the price of your product (but doing the opposite—increasing the price—is almost impossible), if your brand is in a slow-moving industry (like banking or insurance) and the change is going to take place over such a long period of time that people won’t even notice.
The Law of Mortality: No brand will live forever. Euthanasia is often the best solution. As hard as it may be, at a certain point, you will probably have to put your brand to rest and move on. Don’t waste your money trying to keep alive a brand that’s dying or no longer relevant.
The Law of Singularity: The most important aspect of a brand is its single-mindedness. What’s a Chevrolet? A large, small, cheap, expensive car or truck. Once it loses its singularity a brand burns out. A brand is a singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect.