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By ALF NUCIFORA American marketers continue to have a fascination with the making and breaking of brands. These are volatile and unpredictable times. Consumers are bombarded daily with an avalanche of new brand names and one has to suffer the sight of once-great brands being methodically destroyed by their masters. A return to sanity in the discussion of brand building is, therefore, a welcome relief. A recent interview with the father and daughter team of Al and Laura Ries was one such respite. Both Rieses, the prominent marketing author and his equally savvy daughter, have recently written the compelling and readable, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.” As one would expect, from a double dose of Ries, the writing is opinionated but right on the mark. The book is concise, the lessons simple and the pages packed with easy-to-comprehend anecdotes and examples. Most importantly, the Rieses reprise the basic tenants of brand development and positioning and are not hesitant in identifying the weaknesses in brand practice and communication that are so prevalent in today’s brand marketplace of shortcut and gimmick, typified by its talking dogs, anthropomorphic lizards and singing frogs. Al Ries, ever the brand traditionalist, firmly believes that brands are still important. “Today’s speed-of-life,” says Ries, “points us to the brands we know.” Ries’ 22 Immutable Laws provide a clear roadmap for developing and enhancing those brands. In “The Law of Publicity,” the Rieses claim that brands are born with publicity and not advertising. They point to The Body Shop, the worldwide cosmetic and bath goods chain, that has become a powerful global brand with no advertising whatsoever. One can make the point that the cynicism consumers currently attach to advertising accentuates the need for the more-subtle impact of public relations as a means of creating brand imagery. Interestingly, the Rieses note that no significant advertising agency has ever built its reputation on advertising. In “The Law of the Category,” the Rieses take a contrarian’s position and contend that a leading brand should promote the category and not the brand itself. They cite the case of the remarkably successful Brinker subsidiary, EatZi’s, a new brand selling quality takeout meals at affordable prices. Ditto with Starbucks and Amazon.com. In all three cases, the brands were first to market and did much to create as well as exploit their respective categories. In “The Law of Extensions,” the case is made that the easiest way to destroy a brand is to put its name on everything. The Rieses see Miller beer killing the name with too many line extensions (Regular, High Life, Lite, Genuine Draft, Genuine Draft Lite, Reserve, Reserve Lite, Reserve Amber Ale). Similarly, one could add other cases associated with brand dilution including fashion (Halston, Calvin Klein), pharmaceuticals (analgesics) and health and beauty aids (shampoos and conditioners). The book re-establishes the importance of visual cues in maintaining brand supremacy. In “The Law of the Generic,” the claim is made that one of the fastest routes to failure is giving a brand a generic name. To that point, General Video Rental fails as a brand name, while Blockbuster Video succeeds. “The Law of Shape” contends that a brand’s logotype should be designed to fit both eyes. The distinctive horizontal, dominantly red Avis logo works, while the narrow, vertical Arby’s fails. In “The Law of Color,” the Rieses note that a brand should use a color that is the opposite of its major competitor. They reference the distinctive Robin’s Egg Blue of a Tiffany box that helps burn the brand into the mind. The three most important of the 22 Immutables are the Laws of “Consistency, Mortality and Singularity.” It is here that the book provides its most compelling message. The Rieses are right on the mark when they state that a brand is not built overnight and that success is measured in decades and not years. BMW and Jack Daniels have followed the law; Burger King has not. The issue of singularity demands that the most important aspect of a brand is, as the Rieses state, its single-mindedness. All great brands possess a singularity of focus, a clarity of message. Volvo has done it with safety; Ritz-Carlton with class; Absolute Vodka with “hipness.” Where the Rieses turn accepted wisdom on its head is in “The Law of Mortality.” Here they state that no brand will live forever and that euthanasia is often the best solution. To support the argument, they point out that Kodak is a photographic brand that will not be as effective in the digital era. Their contention is that it is sometimes too expensive to remarket an existing brand and that Kodak fits that bill. It’s an interesting point that most marketers would prefer to ignore when faced with the decision to kill a brand with long-term familiarity and heritage. One may query the immutability of all 22 laws. But, as a primer on the fundamentals of brand preservation and protection, the Rieses’ latest effort provides a worthwhile addition to the branding library. This book’s worth buying. Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant. He can be contacted by fax at 770-952-7834 or e-mail at zubicon@aol.com.

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