Topic: Book Club

Ries: Second-place Brands

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
Al & Laura Ries explain how we should be thinking category first, brand second and how each new category has room for a leading brand and a strong second brand so long as those brands are 'opposite' one another in their identities (think Coke & Pepsi in the cola category or Wal-Mart and Target in the off-price category). They say "every brand needs an enemy."

Once competitors see opportunity in an entirely new market niche (a new category) there is usually an onslaught of competitive offerings that launch to reap some of the market share. Given these "second place" contenders all follow the 'opposite' rule that Al and Laura wrote of and have pretty equal budgets, is timing the key determining factor of which brand gets the coveted second slot? And if much time needs to pass between the launch of the first brand and establishing a second one? I would think that time to establish the new category is necessary before a second brand is viable.

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
    What if the second brand redefined the category in a way that the first brand didn't even envision? You see it happening all the time in conversations we have about topics. One person comes up with an idea; the other person builds on it in such a way that it evolves it to a completely new place.

    If we apply that to brands -- which at the origin are ideas -- we then have the kernel of a category up for grabs as soon as it shows its leaves through the ground. So this might not be the case of something directly opposite. Speed is of the essence to take the gold here.

    Another key ingredient is the right insight about the marketplace.
  • Posted on Accepted
    It's certainly possible that a second brand can "redefine the category" in a way that creates a totally new category.

    It's always better to be first in a new category rather than second in an existing category.

    This is what Nintendo has done with its Wii. Nintendo was actually third to Microsoft (Xbox 360) and Sony's PlayStation 3. But they introduced not a better videogame console, but a "different" one.

    So far Wii is outselling Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and I expect Nintendo to widen its lead.

    By the way both Microsoft and Sony built convergence concepts into their videogame consoles. Bad idea.

  • Posted on Accepted
    If Brand#1 has a diversified target audience, I would think that a second brand could come in right away, IF they define a distinct audience and sales channel.

    By target audience, I see one of two paths. Either the same general audience as Brand#1, except go upmarket/luxury. OR identify a unique industry sector and capture their hearts and minds with my focus on just serving their sector (my little hedgehog).
  • Posted by Drew McLellan on Accepted you believe there is more strength in being the 2nd (albeit strong) contender in a current category or re-defining the category to create an off shoot?

    In other words -- 2nd in an established, credible category or 1st in an unknown, yet to be discovered one?

  • Posted on Member
    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

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