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The Origin of Brands: How Product Evolution Creates Endless Possibilities for New Brands

The Origin of Brands: How Product Evolution Creates Endless Possibilities for New Brands

by Al Ries, Laura Ries

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What Charles Darwin did for biology, Al and Laura Ries do for branding.

In their exciting new book, The Origin of Brands, the Rieses take Darwin's revolutionary idea of evolution and apply it to the branding process. What results is a new and strikingly effective strategy for creating innovative products, building a successful brand, and, in turn,


What Charles Darwin did for biology, Al and Laura Ries do for branding.

In their exciting new book, The Origin of Brands, the Rieses take Darwin's revolutionary idea of evolution and apply it to the branding process. What results is a new and strikingly effective strategy for creating innovative products, building a successful brand, and, in turn, achieving business success.Here, the Rieses explain how changing conditions in the marketplace create endless opportunities to build new brands and accumulate riches. But these opportunities cannot be found where most people and most companies look. That is, in the convergence of existing categories like television and the computer, the cellphone and the Internet.

Instead, opportunity lies in the opposite direction—in divergence. By following Darwin's brilliant deduction that new species arise from divergence of an existing species, the Rieses outline an effective strategy for creating and taking to market an effective brand. In The Origin of Brands, you will learn how to:

  • Divide and conquer
  • Exploit divergence
  • Use the theories of survival of the firstest and survival of the secondest
  • Harness the power of pruning

Using insightful studies of failed convergence products and engaging success stories of products that have achieved worldwide success through divergence, the Rieses have written the definitive book on branding. The Origin of Brands will show you in depth how to build a great brand and will lead you to success in the high-stakes world of branding.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This father-daughter marketing team, authors of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, believes that evolution is a useful analogy for marketers. Throughout the book, readers are encouraged to think of Darwin's tree of life. For example, the television tree used to consist solely of the three networks, but now comprises an array of cable and satellite offerings. The "phone" tree includes cellular, picture, computer, digital and other varieties. Using many examples, the authors explore this notion: "Competition between individuals (brands) improves the species. Competition between species (categories) drives the categories further and further apart." To survive in today's competitive market where technology makes innovations much faster than in the past, companies must continue to introduce new computers, cars, phones, food, etc. However, the drawbacks of expansion and innovation mean that some products and some corporations won't be profitable. Burger King keeps trying to launch new menus, essentially to compete with McDonald's. While McDonald's has had its own fiscal troubles, it continues to dominate the fast food market because it was first and has so many outlets. Along with their entertaining perspective on advertising and marketing, the authors offer specific advice including devising a new category rather than a brand. Innovative marketers will have a triumphant product if they create a category and launch with a clever name as well, such as Starbucks did for the high-end coffee-shop category. While the book is primarily directed at readers working in marketing, advertising and related fields, managers and executives at both large and small businesses will benefit from it as well. Agent, Black Inc. (May) Forecast: A 25-city national radio campaign, author tour, and lectures along with the paperback release of the authors' bestselling The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR should quickly launch this one onto business lists. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Harvard Business Review
“Illuminating examples and wry humor combine for a delightful read.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt

The Origin of Brands

Discover the Natural Laws of Product Innovation and Business Survival
By Ries, Al


ISBN: 0060570148

Chapter One

The Great Tree of Life

The "Great Tree of Life" is how Charles Darwin described his metaphor for the origin of species.

"The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree ... The green and budding twigs may represent existing species; and those produced during each former year may represent the long succession of extinct species. At each period of growth all the growing twigs have tried to branch out on all sides, and to overtop and kill the surrounding twigs and branches, in the same manner as species and groups of species have tried to overmaster ot her species in t he great battle for life."

How do new branches arise? By divergence of existing branches. How do new species arise? By divergence of existing species.

When he was just twenty-eight years old, Charles Darwin jotted down his view of nature in his notebook: "If we choose to let conjecture run wild, then animals, our fellow brethren in pain, disease, suffering and famine -- our slaves in the most laborious works, our companions in our amusements -- they may partake of our origin in one common ancestor -- we may be all melted together."

Melted together, looking backward but spread apart and diverging, looking forward.

The Great Tree of Products and Services

In the "great tree of products and services," how do new categories arise? By divergence of existing categories.

  • First there was a branch called computer. Today that computer branch has diverged and now we have mainframe computers, midrange computers, network computers, personal computers, laptop computers, and handheld computers. The computer didn't converge with another technology. It diverged.

  • First there was a branch called television. Today that television branch has diverged and now we have analog and digital television. Regular and high-definition television. Standard (4/3) and wide-screen (16/9) formats. Television didn't converge with another medium. It diverged.

  • First there was a branch called radio. Today that radio branch has diverged and now we have portable radios, car radios, wearable radios, and clock radios. Radio didn't converge with another medium. It diverged.
  • First there was a branch called telephone. Today that telephone branch has diverged and now we have regular telephones, cordless telephones, headset phones, cellphones, and satellite phones. The telephone didn't converge with another technology. It diverged.

Did you ever see a tree in which two branches converged to form a single branch? Perhaps, but this is highly unlikely in nature. It's also highly unlikely in products and services.

Some Categories Live. Some Categories Die.

Darwin explains: "Of the many twigs which flourished when the tree was a mere bush, only two or three, now grown into great branches, yet survive and bear all the other branches; so with the species which lived during long-past geological periods, very few now have living and modified descendants. From the first growth of the tree, many a limb and branch has decayed and dropped off; and these lost branches of various sizes may represent those whole orders, families, and genera which have now no living representatives, and which are known to us only from having been found in a fossil state."

A branch called typewriter, for example, diverged and formed multiple branches called manual typewriter, portable typewriter, and electric typewriter. Today the typewriter branch has decayed and is about to drop off, overshadowed by a nearby branch called personal computer.

The typewriter is a dinosaur. Today you find most typewriters, slide rules, and adding machines only in a fossil state. That is, in somebody's basement or attic and possibly listed on eBay. (Ebay recently had 1,314 typewriters for sale.)

The sailing ship, the steam engine, and the horse and buggy have all followed similar paths.

The Great Tree of Brands

If you want to build a successful brand, you have to understand divergence. You have to look for opportunities to create new categories by divergence of existing categories. And then you have to become the first brand in this emerging new category.

In the "great tree of brands," a successful brand is one that dominates an emerging branch and then becomes increasingly successful as the branch itself expands to block the sunlight from nearby branches.

Traditional marketing is not focused on creating new categories. Traditional marketing is focused on creating new customers. Traditional marketing involves finding out what consumers want and then giving them what they want, better and cheaper than the competition.

The high priest of a traditional-marketing company is the director of marketing research. To find out what consumers want, companies spend lavishly on research. In a recent year, American companies spent $6.2 billion on marketing research.

(If you've read some of our previous books, you know that we are big believers in public relations, yet PR is only a $4.2-billion business, a third less than marketing research.)

Are We Opposed to Marketing Research?

Yes and no. We're opposed to market research when it attempts to predict the future. This happens when you ask consumers what they will do rather than what they have done.

We're not opposed to market research that explores the past. Why consumers chose the brands they did, for example.

Consumers don't know what they will do until they are actually given the opportunity to make a decision. Another way of looking at the situation is that categories don't diverge until there is an available brand for consumers to purchase.

Today, four out of the five best-selling beer brands are light beers. Before the 1975 national launch of Lite beer, what good would it have done Miller Brewing to ask consumers if they would buy a watered-down beer? As a matter of fact, the 1967 launch of Gablinger's should have answered that question with a resounding no.


Excerpted from The Origin of Brands by Ries, Al Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Al Ries and his daughter and business partner Laura Ries are two of the world's best-known marketing consultants, and their firm, Ries & Ries, works with many Fortune 500 companies. They are the authors of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding and The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, which was a Wall Street Journal and a BusinessWeek bestseller, and, most recently, The Origin of Brands. Al was recently named one of the Top 10 Business Gurus by the Marketing Executives Networking Group. Laura is a frequent television commentator and has appeared on the Fox News and Fox Business Channels, CNN, CNBC, PBS, ABC, CBS, and others. Their Web site (Ries.com) has some simple tests that will help you determine whether you are a left brainer or a right brainer.

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