Topic: Book Club

Ries: Divergence - Ideas V. Products

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
Al and Laura, thanks for the amazing read, your work always stimulates me and this is certainly no exception. I think divergence is critical to the success of any business in this rapidly changing world. Where I would love greater clarity from you and all of the participants is whether or not these concepts only apply to new products or do they also apply to companies and organizations built on ideas and in my particular case, how this applies to non-profit organizations? Here is an example:

All of the world is currently consumed with the scourge of global warming, a problem of potentially catastrophic proportions, this has led to a mass convergence in the non-profit environmental community and in the philanthropic community. This convergence has potentially damaging impacts on a number of other important issues that are losing attention because of the mass appeal of global warming; issues like clean water, imperiled species and forests are getting lost in the mix and expectations have been created that all groups need to fall into line and converge around global warming.

In this case do you still think convergence is unhelpful? Is the only hope of surviving to converge as well? From my standpoint, I have helped to build a recognizable brand centered on Southern forest protection and I am hesitant to converge, but we do have a critical global warming initiative hatching that based on your advice, I am now thinking we should diverge this project and launch it under its own brand. Is that crazy?

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
    I think convergence can be a danger to nonprofits as well as traditional companies. You will lose focus if you encompass global warming with Southern forest protection.

    It's not just global warming either. You can be sure that there will be other environmental issues that capture the media's attention in the years ahead. If you try to fold in every issue into your branding strategy, you wind up with a very weak brand.

    Take Coca-Cola, for example. There are now 14 different "types" of Coke as the company tries to jump on every new artificial sweetener and every hot new flavor.

    Meanwhile the per-capita-consumption of cola continues to decline. That's the real issue and the real problem.
  • Posted on Accepted
    I'm not sure if what's happening with nonprofits hooking into global warming is convergence. Maybe it's more a distraction -- following the hype and trying to jump on board, even when jumping on board doesn't necessarily make sense.

    Good point, though, about the global warming issue -- as critical as it seems to be -- taking much needed attention away from other critical issues. Like some people, some organizations, for profit and non-profit, have ADD.
  • Posted on Author
    I really appreciate this amazing advice. What this seems to crystalize for me is that there is a need to market and promote how protecting Southern forests is critical piece of mitigating the global warming crisis. At the same time, we need to build and protect our brand that has been built on the crucial work of protecting Southern forests.

    Thank you for your input and please continue the dialogue. Even though the original question seemed to stray a bit from the concepts of the book, this is where my reading of the book took me based on where I am with my current projects.
  • Posted by Deremiah *CPE on Accepted
    Hi Scotq,

    thanks for an interesting question.

    I'd like to offer a different point of view to consider. While it appears Al and Laura Ries offer an inviting point of view (that I must say is a quite interesting perspective) we can not avoid a little counter thought on this subject.

    Yes, it appears that Coca Cola has lost some of it's spunk in the soft drink market but we must be careful in our analysis especially when we assume that their loss in market share value has been due to an influx of different "types" or a better choice of words "flavors" in the market place. We are in a "Strange Age" where we must be slow to draw conclusions but quick to change directions and create the future. Here's something else to consider (below).

    Any time anyone begins to hedge the market in our culture it appears by examination that a company could be operating in FEAR = False Expectations Appearing Real. While Coca Cola could be afraid of newer additions to the flavor market and consider it good judgement to jump on board to protect itself from losing market share ---by trying other flavors--- there could be other alternatives (besides the additional flavors) that are adding to the shift and decline in consumer interest.

    by Paul Zane Pilzer he communicates an effective argument in describing that often times whole industries are dieing out, as whole new entire other industries are rising up to take the place of the industries that are slowly passing right before our eyes.

    What we could be failing to recognize is a change in market trends which will also reflect a decline in interest. The same kind of decline in interest Coca Cola is experiencing.

    Maybe we are experiencing the decline the death of a "Dinosaur Favor". And maybe Coca Cola is trying to adapt to an inevitable process like many of us do when we are fighting to resist the coming of "Old Age". Maybe we are just beholding in slightly subtle ways the death of a Dinosaur Flavor

    What if Coca Cola never changed it's flavor but still showed signs of decline or death, then what?

    Let's imagine that Coca Cola never offered the other flavored drinks but found that their market was still dieing what would we assume then? What would we blame their demise on then?...would we blame it on marketing, branding, a poor uncontemporary logo or a bad sales force? I gaurantee you that we would still be quick to pass judgement...It seems to be human nature among all my friends regardless of their level of eduction to judge.

    Consider if whole entire flavors are becoming obsolete. We need to remember that even animals have to make adjustments to ecosystem changes or die out sooner.


    A decline in market value should not be left to one perspective. Even Leonardo Da Vinci looked at the human body from three different persepctives before he passed judgement. Maybe we should take a lesson from the maestro. Maybe we should all delay judgement until we've judged from three perspecives.

    I have to give Al and Laura Ries much credit on what they have presented because they have did a great job on presenting a persuasive point of view.

    Here is what Peter Fisk said about Coca Cola in Marketing Genius.

    The company now offers a portfolio of over 400 different drinks, bringing significant challenges in knowing where to focus its efforts. Which markets are the most attactive now and in the future? Which products should it invest in most?

    Coca-Cola approaches this challenge in two steps: first, by understanding the global drinks market in terms of growth and profitability. This indicates that most of the current industry- and Coke - profits come from carbonated soft drinks, yet there is little growth in the market. Sports drinks, meanwhile, show a very high growth and present a highly profitable opportunity. Water too is high growth, but with much lower margins.

    The second step for Coke is to understand how these opportunities fit with its own business, its capabilities and product portfolio, brand positioning and desired strategy. It can then prioritize its strategic market objectives based on the best fit in the most attractive markets. This market focus then drives the business strategy, which in its case includes the need to build new capabilities and accelerate its entry into fruit drinks, sports drinks and ready-to-drink teas.

    Well Scottq, I believe that you should live out your passion for the field you are in as much as possible. Converging would not be an option for me if I were doing what you are. I do think that you can only live out your dream to the degree that you remain as single focused as possible. Don't follow but have others follow your lead and REMEMBER... our only real problem in life is our failure to be "MORE Creative" than we’ve ever been. If you “Invent” your opportunity YOU WILL most definitely create your future. I'm only an email away from you if you need my help. Is there anything else I can do for you?

    Your Servant, Deremiah, *CPE (Customer Passionate Executive)

    *Caring Promotes Exuberance
  • 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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