Topic: Book Club

Ries: Convergence Vs. Divergence In Books

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
I read The Origin of Brands at the same time I was reading "Here Comes Trouble" in the February 2007 issue of Wired. The author says this is a story about the guys who "…Kazaa'd the music industry and Skyped the telcos. Now Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström want to Joost your TV. (That's a good thing.)"

Since "Skype … demonstrated P2P’s ability to stream data, in real time, on a global scale" it led Friis and Zennström directly to Joost. Friis says “We’ve taken the best things about television and added the best things from the Internet.” And it appears they've done just that, while sidestepping the copyright problems and preserving the 30 second spot!

I had just finished reading the Chapter 6 "Swiss Army Knife Thinking" and I thought: isn't Joost exactly what Laura and Al said would not happen? So I went back to read the chapter again and discovered the answer to my question was no! They said the convergence of the PC and TV in the form of interactive television had not happened in twenty-seven years after its founding and it's net yet "ready for its first transatlantic flight, that's for sure."

The point is, you've got to be as careful in thinking and talking about convergence vs. divergence in marketing as Darwin was in biology. And even so, it's sometimes difficult to see the light. Especially if you're personally and professionally involved with a "new category" you just launched.

Which brings me to the section on "What Works in Books" in Chapter 11 "Survival of the Firstest." It stopped me in my tracks. This is after all a book club and everyone reading this is, by definition, a book worm (or at least a blog worm!). In this short section Laura and Al say "The key, of course, is advance publicity." Not a word about divergence here.

How do you define convergence vs. divergence in books? And does divergence pay off in books like it does in the market for other products? The answers to these questions are really important to me and should be to other authors as well. Can you offer any insight?

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!
To continue reading this question and the solution, sign up ... it's free!


  • Posted on Accepted
    I'm not an expert on book marketing, but I would imagine divergence in books could mean a few things. It could mean a new type of writing -- a new style, a new type of story line. Or using a new technology to expand on how you tell a story or convey information.

    Audio books, I suppose, could be a divergent book product. It's using a different form of media to deliver the content, making a book readable in the car or as you walk outside.

    Or, it now might be a vehicle that enables you to connect online for more information -- perhaps a video of the author discussing the book, or links to more information about the subject.

    Some of that technology might also be a way to market a book, reaching a wider audience -- or a more focused one -- than traditional book marketing techniques.

    Would be interesting to see what others say on this. It's a good question.
  • Posted on Accepted
    Of course, being first in books works. Divergence is all over the place. Writing a me-too book works no better than launching a me-too brand. Of course titles (names) are incredibly important. The title and cover art is just as important as what is inside the book many times.

    Al was the first to coin the word Positioning and the book declaring the arrival of the Positioning era was first in the mind. As a result, Al Ries is the real thing when it comes to Positioning.

    In later books, he did not simply line-extend that idea, but wrote new books with new ideas like Marketing Warfare, Bottom-Up Marketing, Focus, The Immutable Laws of Branding, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR and The Origin of Brands.

    If you have followed our careers you will notice that there is some line extension, but it was at the demand of the publisher that the Immutable book was launched in different varieties. We would have preferred something else.

    Being first with a new idea creates PR and PR builds brands. It also helps to have some competition. When we released the Fall of Advertising, Serigo Zyman also release the End of Advertising. Of course his was a line extension off the End of Marketing book. But having two books on the subject gave the idea legitimacy. And because our book was more pure with a better title and cover I think we had more success.

    What also works in books because it works in PR is controversy. Having a book say you need to build a better product, have good customer service at reasonable prices does not create controversy. The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR created a LOT of controversy. And we hope the Darwin analogy and divergence vs. convergence idea will create an equal amount of controversy.
  • Posted on Author

    Interesting ideas. Especially the idea of a new style or type of writing. Makes me think of Chris Anderson and The Long Tail. What began as an article in Wired soon became a blog where many writers contributed examples and data to amplify the core concepts in the original article.

    This is were your notion of online connections fits into the picture too. It also feeds into the idea of publicity being a key ... but a new kind of publicity ... social media publicity. As Anderson describes it in his blog the book was almost the product of a social media experiment.

    On the technological dimension I'm not sure your examples are divergent products: audio books seem to me to be products of convergence, while author videos are just another promotional medium.

    Thanks for your answers.
  • Posted on Author

    As I recall the word positioning and some of the graphics appeared in Ad Age as a series either before (or soon after) the book was published. There's the publicity factor again! I used the larger size slick graphics from Ad Age in my classes for many years.

    The title "Positioning: The Battle for your Mind" is itself a prime example of the importance of being first in mind. The psychometric technology behind positioning entered the literature with Kruskal's 1964 article in Psychometrica on "Non-metric Multidimensional Scaling," some eighteen years before the book. But with a name like that it went no where outside the tight circle of academics at Bell Labs and the Wharton School ... until your dad and Jack Trout coined the term positioning.

    This discussion reminds me of a book I read last week: Richard Posner's "The Little Book of Plagiarism." It's a fascinating (if complex read). I recommend it. It also speaks to the most of aggressive form of convergence in books.

    I was hoping you would jump into this and take the lead. And you sure did! Thank you Laura.
  • Posted on Author

    Yes, I hadn't made that connection. Firstness IS divergence. Couple that with a snappy title, strong publicity that reaches your audience, the hard work of authors and you've got a winner.

    But no one has addressed the issue of content. Except Laura and she says the title and cover are (many times) just as important as what's inside the book. I think there's more to content than that and as a successful author I'm sure she does too.

    In hindsight and from my perspective what made "Positioning" a best seller was the authors' ability to take an extraordinarily complex psychometric technology (non-metric multi-dimensional scaling) known to only a handful of scientists and make it accessible to everyone in marketing by the use of an appealing style of writing and examples everyone could understand.

    "The Origin of Brands" is based on one of the most important scientific works in history. But "Origins" is a much harder sell than "Positioning" because it represents a rather extreme form of divergence. Just like radical forms of product innovation run into adopter resistance, isn't it also true of highly divergent books?

Post a Comment