Topic: Book Club

Ries: What's Your Take On The Read?

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
Hey Bookworms: Please take 5 minutes and give us your "take" on the book...

Are you going to be applying the book’s principles in your own strategies? Did the book deliver clear information on what it takes to create powerful brands--and why it's essential to identify new brand categories?

You needn't answer the above per se, just provide two sentences or two paragraphs and let us know what you found through your reading.

Moderator Note: This discussion refers to the book The Origin of Brands by Al and Laura Ries (topic: branding). Click the title to learn more. Then join the conversation. We'd LOVE for you to participate!
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  • Posted on Accepted
    It's an interesting read and Al and Laura lay out a convincing case for divergence. I'd say, in general, their advice is solid. But I'd still caution marketers to think it through and take the advice that seems right for your situation. One example where I suggest caution is where they talk about discarding a well-known brand name that you've taken years and spent millions to build.

    Overall, the book makes a lot of sense.
  • Posted by Stephen Denny on Accepted
    I had a lot of trouble with this book for a number of reasons, the most pressing being its inconsistency. For each example of the superiority of divergence, an example of convergence is available but not shown; conclusions based on extraordinarily shaky logic abound; and a good number of rather pithy "truisms" are tossed about without much substantiation. After the first few dozen, I stopped taking notes. Force-fitting it into the Darwin framework didn't always work.

    However, if you pan back and look at the overarching idea of divergence -- telling people what you're not, creating space between you and Brand X, or the "Zag" strategy -- you can gain a good perspective on an important element of competitive strategy.

  • Posted on Author
    This book made an impact on me (and will continue to do so in my strategies). Since I first read it over a year ago I've noticed how much opportunity lies in divergence...and how convergence-crazed we are. But it's in identifying and exploiting new categories where I'll likely most benefit. As Ries & Ries advise "category first, brand second" is a branding imperative for me.

    I also appreciate how Al & Laura advise we focus on creating--not serving--markets (which is what Grad School swore by) and how we don't ask customers what they 'will' do but what they 'have' done (as who can really predict the future?). Worth the read and an enjoyable one, especially with the Darwin analogy.
  • Posted on Accepted
    The book did not read as a cohesive story and although I found myself nodding often about many of the concepts, I also found the analogy with Darwinism a bit restrictive and forced.

    The most useful take away was the idea of possibility. Let's face it, creating a new category and market has tremendous appeal and potential. That's where the optimism and energy of entrepreneurs come in. Making something new -- innovation -- is where the real growth and money are.

    Another powerful concept is that less can be more: pruning. We are not quite as disciplined about exiting unprofitable markets or relationships as we should be. And since there are only 1440 minutes in a day, where we spend our time can make the difference between success and failure.
  • Posted on Accepted
    I love the quote: " Face it. Convergence is mainstream thinking. Divergence is not. Opportunities never reside in the mainstream. They always reside on the edges where the competition is weak or nonexistent."

    I, like Valeria, took away that there does exist ample opportunities for new products and concepts. Look to the edges. Like a child's Easter Egg Hunt, don't go for the middle of the lawn where all the kids are pushing each other for a chance at the eggs, but rather look to the edges of the grass where the gems are hidden!
  • Posted by Mark Goren on Accepted
    I found the most powerful lessons in the book came at the end, when the authors make the case for creating a category. I like how they break down the difference between a category and a brand, and how they should be defined and named.

    The thought process a marketer should take to name a brand, create packaging and generally keep things simple when going to market is smart and well-stated. Agency folk and their clients should keep it on their wall, particularly when developing a brief for a new product launch.

    I overall enjoyed this book. I had some powerful "A-Ha Moments" – both positive and negative. Like Stephen, I felt that only half the story was presented – even though the authors make a real strong case for their "divergence beats convergence" argument.
  • Posted by r.heron on Accepted
    My review will fall in line with most of the prior contributors... Overall a very good read with important information to building both brands and sales.
    I also agree that some caution should be taken when implementing the book's examples into your strategy.
    A number of examples have not aged well since publication 3-4 years ago. The most glaring example, in my opinion, is TIVO. Described as a confusing combination of TV and computer, TIVO was billed as a sure-to-fail convergence. I believe TIVO has shown it created a new divergent branch titled "Digital Video Recorder (DVR)" and has been so successful, TIVO may have already become the generic name for DVR, following in the footsteps of Kleenex and Jeep.
  • Posted on Accepted
    Great to hear all your feedback.

    I'm not sure why you feel only half the story was told?

    Where you see the success of convergence is in the PR. The idea has gained support with the media but most of the brands, products and companies have not been successful. A few have had some success when convenience is important. But remember smartphones still only represent 8 percent of the market despite all the PR, advertising, rebates and promotions.

    The brands, products and companies that have had the most success have been from divergence. From iPod to Propel.

    In terms of letting go of names. It all depends on the situation. The immutable laws of branding may be simple but applying the right rule at the right time is difficult.

    The important thing to consider is whether or not the new idea is a new category or not. If it is in a new cateogy then a new name is needed. Toyota need a new name for Lexus. Gatorade needed a new name for Propel. Cingular was a great new name, going back to AT&T not wise.

    Sometimes brands do die. And massive line extension is one way to kill a brand. Read this post on my blog for more:
  • Posted on Accepted
    I liked the book. For me, most of the value came in the last third of the book. I had read about many of the companies and stories (middle of book) from case studies and from other books; for people unfamiliar with these, I'm sure it was of great value.

    To me, the mantra of thinking category first, then the the greatest takeaway. It connected with my personal mantra in critical analysis: "What is your core competency? What is your hedgehog concept? Let's position you in all your communications and actions around that".

    If we then go into a new category that isn't deeply connected with who the public, buyers, and agents think we are...let's create a new brand name so as to leave a clean and fresh first impression.
  • Posted by Carl Crawford on Accepted
    I enjoyed the book. I am typing this message from my PLASTATION 3. I just wish my textbooks were as fun to read as your book . Any way as a consumer I dont want cellphone that has all that extra crap added like cameras web broswers music players. The reason is because 90% of the time the features often end up being infeariour to the stand alone product and cost more.
  • Posted on Accepted
    I thought this book was absolutely fantastic. Al and Laura made a clear and convincing case for divergence and provided enough detail and examples that should help any marketing professional build the foundation for making this case to their boards.

    For me in particular, it helped me to clarify some thinking I was having around my own work and the struggle I have been having over whether or not to introduce something under the original brand or as a whole new brand.
  • Posted on Accepted
    Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the Marketing Profs Book Club review of our book The Origin of Brands which I co-wrote with my daughter/partner Laura Ries.

    And an extra special thanks to CK for all her hard work and dedication to the improvement of marketing minds everywhere.

    For more branding information and debates check out

    Laura's blog at:

    and CK's at:

    - Al Ries
  • Posted by Phoenix ONE on Accepted
    Being a Big Fan of Al's other works- many should be REQUIRED reading for any marketing student-

    I found this book very insightful and offered a clear and useful understanding of brands and convergence.
    The read was fast and did NOT read like the typical business text---it was revealing without being overbearing----the examples were many and offered a great visual to go with the words.

    I plan to use the concepts in client presentations and in our sales training seminars to spark debate and understanding of some key overlooked or misunderstood marketing principals.

    Great Book----when can we expect the next one! :)

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