TKs Korner Masthead

July 2023

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

im•mu•ta•ble [i-myoo-tuh-buhl]

not mutable; unchangeable; changeless.

1375–1425; late ME < L immūtābilis. See im- 2 , mutable Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

The single, most important purpose of marketing today is BRANDING. If you can’t build a powerful brand in the mind of the prospect, even the slickest advertising campaign and the most attractive packaging will fail to ring up substantial sales.

According to marketing strategist Al Ries, author of such acclaimed books as Focus and Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind and The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, a seismic shift is taking place in business — the shift from selling to buying.

When most products and services are bought, rather than sold with the recommendation of a salesperson, customers make choices based on brands. The brand “pre-sells” the product or service to the customer.

A branding program creates the perception in the consumer’s mind that what you are offering is different and better than what the competition is offering.

By following The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, you can make your product or service the first choice of customers in your industry.


The Law of:

Expansion: The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope.

Contraction: A brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus.

Publicity: The birth of a brand is usually accomplished with publicity, not advertising.

Advertising: Once born, a brand needs advertising to stay healthy.

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

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

Quality: Quality is important, but brands are not built on quality alone.

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

The Name: In the long run, a brand is nothing more than a name.

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

Fellowship: In order to build the category, a brand should welcome other brands.

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

The Company: Brands are brands. Companies are companies. There is a difference.

Sub-brands: What branding builds, sub-branding can destroy.

Siblings: There is a time and place to launch a second brand.

Shape: A brand’s logotype should be designed to fit the customer’s eyes.

Color: A brand should use a color that is the opposite of its major competition.

Borders: There are no barriers to global branding. A brand should know no borders.

Consistency: A brand is not built overnight. Success is measured in decades, not years.

Change: Brands can be changed, but only infrequently, and only very carefully.

Mortality: No brand will live forever. Euthanasia is often the best solution.

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


Narrow the Brand’s Focus:

Among the most popular trends in marketing today are broadening the scope of a brand, widening the appeal, and extending the product line. All of these strategies are attempts to build market share. But the reality is that the broader the scope of a brand, the less powerful it is.

Customers want brands that are narrow in scope and easy to identify with a single word.

A 5-step Pattern that Retail Powerhouses Follow:

1. Narrow the focus. Contract the category, don’t expand it.

2. Stock in depth.

3. Buy cheap

4. Sell cheap. By buying at low prices, a category killer can sell at low prices and still maintain good margins.

5. Dominate the category. This is the ultimate objective of any branding program.

Own a Word in the Prospect’s Mind:

Once you’ve narrowed the focus of your brand, you need to get the message out to potential customers. The surprising truth is that advertising is not the way to build a product or service into a brand leader. Instead, you need publicity.

When consumers are bombarded by hundreds of commercial messages each day, they tune out the jingles and slogans. But, most people DO pay attention to news stories about new products.

The best way to generate publicity is by being the first brand in a new category. Since the news media want to talk about what’s new, a brand that is first in its category can generate enormous amounts of publicity.

Once the story grows stale, however, companies can no longer count on getting free publicity. At that point, and only at that point, the company has to shift to advertising. Advertising doesn’t build leadership of a brand. But, once the brand is on top, advertising keeps it there. Any new competitor that takes on a brand leader will have to pay heavily to compete.

Through both publicity and advertising, you must strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer. Once a brand owns a word, it’s almost impossible for a competitor to take that word away. Ideally, the brand name will turn into a household name for the product. Consumers then refer to the category by the brand name, even when they use a competing product.

Expand the Market, Not the Brand:

Instead of expanding the brand, companies succeed by expanding the market. Build your profits by expanding the market for its core.

Throughout history, the most successful brands have been those that kept a narrow focus, and then expanded the category. Instead of asking what share of the existing market your brand can capture, ask how large a market your brand can create by narrowing its focus, and owning a word in the consumer’s mind.

Creating a New Product Category:

When you narrow the focus so much that there’s no longer any market for the brand, you create something even better: a new category.

The paradox is that branding is usually thought of as the process of capturing a bigger share of an existing market. But its most useful aspect has nothing to do with increasing a company’s market share. Instead, it has to do with starting an entirely new category.

In this way, you can have the leading brand in a rapidly growing segment of the market.

This requires you to do two things at once:

1. Launch the brand in a way that creates the perception that the brand is the first, the leader, the pioneer, or the original. You should use one of these words to describe your brand.

2. Promote the new category.

i.e. Customers didn’t care about Callaway; they cared whether an oversized driver would cut strokes off their golf scores.

A Unique Brand Needs a Unique Name:

The most important branding decision you’ll ever make is what to name your product or service. With a strong, unique name, your brand can become the household name for the new category, and maintain its leadership when competitors introduce similar products.

To find a unique brand name, choose a regular word taken out of context that describes the primary attribute of your brand. Keep in mind that using the same name for two different businesses weakens the identity of the brand.

Beware of Line Extensions:

Reasons why line extensions typically fare poorly in the marketplace:

1. They often combine a brand name with a weak generic name.

2. Managers typically measure only the success of the extension, without measuring the erosion of the core brand.

3. Can tell consumers that there’s something wrong with the existing product.

What companies should do when they create a new market is to launch a new brand, rather than extending the existing brand. Therefore, before you launch a brand extension, think about what the customers of your current brand will think when they see it. If the market is changing, launch a second brand. If it’s not, continue building your brand.

How To Use the Company Name:

Should the company name dominate the brand name? Should the brand name dominate the company name? Or, should the company name and the brand name be given equal weight?

The answer is based on the fact that consumers buy brands; they don’t buy companies. When a company name is used alone as a brand name, customers see the name as the brand. When you combine a company name with a brand name in a clear and consistent fashion, the brand name is the primary name and the secondary name is seen as the company name.

The best branding strategy should be to use the company name as the brand name. If this is not an option and the company name and the brand name are different, then the brand name should dominate. Use only the brand name on the package, and relegate the company name to small type.

Launch Sibling Brands, Not Sub-brands:

Sub-branding takes the brand in exactly the opposite direction, destroying the image that the brand builds. The most effective way for a company with an established brand to introduce new products is by launching completely new brands, each with a unique name and a separate identity.

Follow 6 principles when selecting a sibling strategy for your brands:

1. Focus on common product areas.
Such as passenger cards, chewing gum, or over the counter drugs.

2. Select a single attribute to segment.
The most commonly used attribute is price, but you can also choose distribution, calories or flavors. This allows you to keep each brand unique from the others.

3. Set up rigid distinctions between brands.
Price is the easiest, because you can put specific numbers on each brand to avoid overlap.

4. Create different, not similar brand names.
Instead of creating a family of brands, create a family of different brands.

5. Launch a new sibling brand only when you can create a new category.
New brands should not be launched just to fill a hole in the line, or to compete directly with an existing competitor.

6. Keep control of the sibling family at the highest level.
If you don’t, your distinctive brands will slowly grow to resemble each other.

Welcome Competition:

In order to build a product category, a brand needs other brands. According to the law of fellowship, the dominant brand should not only tolerate competitors, but welcome them. When there is no competition within a category, the competition is with other categories. Competition makes customers more conscious of the product, and increases sales in the category. Without another brand as a comparison, consumers suspect that the category is flawed, or that the price is too high.

Build a Global Brand:

This allows you to keep the brand’s narrow focus in its home country, while growing sales through global distribution. Since every country has its own unique perceptions, a brand that is in sync with those perceptions, and the first to be exported, has the potential to become a global brand. It doesn’t even have to come from the country that carries that perception.

Don’t Change Your Brand Name to Keep Up with the Market:

The only way for a brand to get into the consumer’s mind is by standing for something. While markets may change, brands should stay the same. Therefore, whenever you hear the question, “Why should we limit ourselves?” remember this answer: The best brands have to be limited. The brand has to stand for something simple and narrow in the consumer's mind. This limitation is the essential aspect of branding. Limitation combined with consistency over many decades is what builds a brand.

A few rare exceptions when a brand can be changed successfully:
(It occurs inside the mind of the consumer and not inside the company.)

1. Your brand is weak or nonexistent in the mind. You have nothing to lose.

2. Wanting to move your brand down the food chain. Remember, though, that it is nearly impossible to move up the price ladder.

3. In slow-moving file, and if the change is going to take place over a long time. Very little change has actually occurred in the mind of the prospect.

No Brand Lasts Forever:

When a brand is no longer viable there's no use spending millions of dollars in advertising to keep it around.

A well-known brand that doesn’t stand for anything, or that stands for something obsolete, has no value. In contrast, a brand that stands for something has value even if it’s not well known, because it still has the potential to create a powerful brand.

A brand is most powerful when you can use it to ask for a specific product. Above all else, a brand is a singular concept or idea that you own inside the mind of the prospect.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief recap of, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries & Laura Ries.

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Tom Kubinski

Printing Consultant Who Helps You Make Good Impressions
Direct: 612-278-1568
Cell: 612-760-3700


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Did you miss an issue of TK's Korner? Click below to view!

Branding - 22 Laws Of
Brand Warfare
Clear Dry Ink
Creative Coatings Techniques
Desktop Techniques
Digital Printing - Variable Data or Business Development
Direct Mail Raise Response, Lower Costs
FSC Certification
In House Mailing Capabilities
Ink Tour—Everything you wanted to know
Marketing More Effectively
Paper Mill Tour - Coated
Paper Mill Tour - Uncoated
Picking the Right Paper and Substrate
PDF Formats
PDF Info & Quark vs. InDesign
PODi - Digital Print Success Story
Postal Changes, Mailing Requirements & Rates
Press Check Tips
PURL - Avoid Dog House Campaign
QR Codes
Save Disk Space
Social Media -- The Basics
Social Media vs. Print
Top File Issues
UV Burn
Ways to Save Money
What Sets Shapco Apart?
Why Print in a Down Market?
Why Work With TK?



Tom Kubinski
Printing Consultant
Direct: 612-278-1568
Fax: 612-334-5879
Cell: 612-760-3700
1109 Zane Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN. 55422
Phone: 612-375-1150
Fax: 612-334-5879
Toll Free: 1-800-230-2828

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