Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Origin of Brands

Review by Sria Majumdar

Harper Collins| Paperback Edition, Price Rs. 300 approx.

The name of Al & Laura Ries is enough to get a book on the best seller list for days together. That coupled with a name like ‘The Origin of Brands’, and you have got the attention of every marketer-bibliophile combination on the planet. Known as legendary marketing strategists, Al & Laura Ries have many books to their acclaim - The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding (1998), The 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding (2000), The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR (2002) and The Origin of Brands (2004). The dynamic duo consults for the top corporations around the world from Microsoft to Ford to Disney and Frito-Lay. Their books, including this one, are famous because they are revolutionary in their ideas and simple in the concepts.


What Charles Darwin was for evolutionary biologists, Al & Laura Ries are for branding specialists. The Origin of Brands draws from Darwinism and the similarity to the ‘Origin of Species’ is breath taking. The book takes the reader through the whole process of brand creation as well as sustaining the brand. Developing new ideas, the importance of being first, building new categories, competitive positioning, public relations as a weapon, brand protection and knowing when to exit a brand- the book discusses each process in excruciating detail. It has a healthy blend of examples and theory in every discussion to substantiate the authors’ point of view.

The book starts with the analogy to the great tree of life. Just like species diverged to give rise to other species, categories evolve and give rise to new categories over time. Replete with numerous examples, the book focuses on 5 key ideas- divide and conquer, survival of the firstest, survival of the secondest, the power of pruning and creating a category. Ries emphasizes that the ladder to success for a brand and business is divergence; not convergence. While most marketers tend to access the size of the market before entering a product category, the question Ries asks is ‘What was the size of the cola market before Coca Cola entered?’ The topics are listed in a sequential manner, and the Rieses explore every aspect of brand building through this wonderful book.


Rating: 4.5/5.

The book is sheer reading pleasure. It gets you hooked on because of the analogy to evolution and it manages to keep the interest alive right till the very end. The aptly named chapters, (‘Bad Ideas Never Die’ is my favourite!) and the easy to read language, makes a branding specialist enjoy the book. Unlike many other management books, this book is thrilling enough to make you finish it in one sitting. Some of the concepts discussed are certainly debatable, (and there are examples which contradict the theories propounded by the Rieses), but that’s the joy behind reading the book. It makes for perfect discussion at a marketing club gathering!


Must Buy! The book is easily available in bookstores or online stores. Priced at Rs.300, the book makes sense for every branding specialist who wants to understand the world of brands and logos.


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