Building a Brand

Regardless of what you are doing or selling this will help you build Your Brand


I am always attracted by books with “Marketing” in their title and constantly end up buying them. After all it’s part of my job to stay up to date and in touch with the latest thinking and ideas.

So when I saw a book called “Your marketing sucks” I had to buy it.

Unique title, that stood out from the rest and got my money.


Which brings me to a book, I nearly didn’t buy:

“The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding”, by Al and Laura Ries.

I thought it would have little relevance to everyday business owners / managers, but it turned out to have some real good stuff in it.

I have taken some of the Branding Laws which I think could be applied to all businesses to some extent and included some which debunk some of the popular ideas about branding and brand creation.

I’m not going to work through all “22 Laws”, so if you want to do that, you can buy the book.

What is a Brand?

A brand is nothing more than a word in the mind. It is a noun, a naming word, just like your own name. You name is a brand too, if you think about it. The value of a brand is what that word or name stands for and what you as a prospective purchaser think of when you hear it or see it.

To be labelled as successful your name or brand must create in the mind of the prospect the perception that there is no product on the market quite like yours.

It’s not the brand name on the packet that matters it’s what the brand name does in the mind that is important.

Have a think for a moment what your organisation’s name and branded products might mean to your customers. Is there something special that your business or that product does or stands for that makes it unique, different and ultimately better than your competitors?

How do you rate personally, is there something special about you that makes you stand out from the crowd?

The first Laws mentioned in the book are, “The Law of Expansion” and “The Law of Contraction”. The writers suggest that when an organisation with a successful brand tries to expand outside their recognised area of uniqueness, using their brand name, it weakens the value of the brand.

They also point out that almost all the successful brands started out by contracting their product or service range to concentrate on one particular category or aspect that was not done by other people. They then focussed on becoming known for that alone rather than trying to offer a number of different products. One example is Starbucks, where despite all the competition from thousands of coffee shops, they specialised in of all things “Coffee”. The founder Howard Schultz narrowed the focus.

InAustralia we seem to have a heap of different brands of coffee shop franchises now, but the standout to me is The Coffee Club which positions itself as the place to meet. I constantly find myself meeting clients in Coffee Club shops for no other reason that they have pushed that particular line. I personally think they could do better in taking the actual in-shop delivery of the “meet you at the Coffee Club” concept further to really own the position.

Think of “Subway”. The founder Fred De Luca took on the sandwich bars market and concentrated on only submarine sandwiches. The Subway Chain now has more than 13,000 stores worldwide. And by concentrating on that category they have got pretty good at making Subs too. That’s the other advantage of narrowing the focus.

Charles Lazarous owned one store called Children’s Supermarket, which sold children’s furniture and toys. He concentrated on toys only, added more toys and renamed the store Toys “R” Us. They now sell over 20% of all the toys sold in theUSA.

Have a look at your business. It doesn’t matter what size you are or whether you are in an industrial or consumer or service market. Have you been guilty of expansion outside your original direction or just to do the same as the competitors?

Could you gain by narrowing the focus and specialising in some area of unique strength?

The next insights are from “The Law of Publicity” and “The Law of Advertising”. We always think of a new brand being launched with an extensive advertising campaign, pushing the key positioning and benefits, backed up with some professional publicity to back up the image. The authors of the “Laws” however found that most of the most successful brands were successfully launched more as a result of publicity rather than advertising. Publicity gave the brands a level of credibility and exposure that would not have happened with advertising. This was the result of the brand’s uniqueness which provided the story line for the media.

The media wants to talk about what’s new, what’s first and what’s hot. There is huge publicity value in being first in any market. Think of Band-Aid the first adhesive bandage, Compaq the first portable PC, Dominos the first pizza delivery, Kentucky Fried Chicken first fast-food chicken, Rollerblade first in-line skates and Xerox the first plain paper copiers.

However once the brand became established, advertising became necessary to maintain the brand name and to keep a number one position in the market as the media quickly lose interest once the story is no longer fresh.

What works in Advertising?

“Leadership” Advertising that promotes the brand’s leading position in a market in some aspect, works better than advertising some aspect of the quality of the brand. It works because human nature questions quality claims in adverts (That’s what they all say) but accepts claims of leadership status, drawing the conclusion that if more people buy the brand “It must be better!”

People say they buy because a brand is better, when in fact they think it is better because it is leading.

Leadership is the most important motivating factor in customer behaviour.

Publicity – Have you got a “first” to brag about in the media or an exciting new category or product no one has heard of before? There is a lot more to the media than your newspaper, radio or TV Stations. Most Industries have publications often hungry for news about new products or services and just as keen on firsts as the mainstream media. I have often gained feature stories for clients simply by approaching the editors and submitting interesting articles and photos.

Advertising – Can you claim leadership for your brand in any area or category? Think about it. “The leading supplier of widgets to the waste recycling industry!”

The next Law that attracted me was “The Law of the Word” where a brand actually owns a word in the mind of the consumer. The classic one here is “which” as in “which bank” the Commonwealth. In cars, Volvo owns “safety”, Mercedes – “prestige”, BMW – “driving”. In other areas Kleenex is synonymous with tissues and Band Aid with bandages.

Think about whether you could own a word in the minds of your customers and potential customers. Santana the guitarist said he refined his own unique sound until he owned a single note. If you know his music you will know the note. It is the ultimate in brand positioning.

“The Law of Quality”. The perception of “Quality” is in the mind of the consumer rather than the item itself. A higher price is an indicator of higher quality to most consumers.

“The Law of the Category” is an interesting new look at brands and links in with “The Law of Contraction” The writers say that the strongest brands have been build when they have narrowed the focus so much that they had invented a new category or market segment. Dominos Pizza – home delivery, Rollerblade – on-line skates etc.

I think of this as part of focussing your business on the things you do better than competitors and ditching those you are not as good at.

“The Laws of Shape and Colour”. The shape of the brand name should be horizontal, to suit both eyes and be roughly 2.25 units across by 1 unit high. The authors say that the trademark or visual symbol is overrated because the real brand meaning is in the word itself not in a symbol associated with it. The NIKE tick or “Swoosh”, as they call it, doesn’t add much to the brand itself.

So don’t waste your time and money on a fancy symbol when it’s the name that matters.

Colours do matter. Choose an appropriate colour to your industry or image or one the opposite of your competitors. Red equals energy and excitement, Blue peaceful and stable, Orange is nearer red than blue, green nearer blue with environment and health implications and Yellow is bright but neutral, White is pure, Black is luxury, Purple is royal.etc.

Finally “The Law of Consistancy”. Brands, like businesses and business reputations are not built overnight. Success is measured over decades not months or years, so a commitment to the long term brand image and category / market segment is critical.

What works best for brand building is consistency over a long period of time.


We are all comfortable with some level of predictability in life.

Brands are like old friends, with consistent, sometimes endearing and irritating ways that make them who they are.

Building a brand seems to me to be a lot like designing a unique new friend with positive characteristics that will stand the test of time.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding is a useful reminder for all of us in business that our business, products and brand should have a unique and clear position in the minds of customers and prospects.

If it hasn’t then our job is to make sure we get one quickly and hang on to it.

Ian Godbold

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