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The Origin of Brands: How Product Evolution Creates Endless Possibilities for New Brands Paperback – September 27, 2005
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From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Illuminating examples and wry humor combine for a delightful read.” (Harvard Business Review)
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Top customer reviews
This concept leads Ries into a chapters long rant against the theory of convergence, which argues that different technologies and brands will combine into a limited number of brands or products over time. Ries argues in favor of divergence, which states that new brands will emerge by way of creating new markets and products to serve those markets. Red Bull is a great example of how Ries' argument does hold water in many circumstances.
The premise of the book begins to break down when he continues to ramp up the insults against executives who have predicted convergence at some point in the past. The wheels really fall off the argument when he begins predicting the failure of brands and technologies because they are adopting convergence strategies rather than divergence. The almighty seer Ries peeks into the grim future of smartphones, a convergence technology, with this gem: "And how smart is it to combine a cellphone with a video-game machine and an MP3 player, as Nokia's new N-Gage does? How many teenage gamers can pay $300 for the phone plus $25 a month for a voice plan, $10 a month to play online games, $30 to $50 for each new game, and $50 for a multimedia card so they can listen to MP3 tunes?" You're right Al, no one will ever buy smartphones. What was Apple thinking? Then he follows by asserting that the $100 Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, the smartphone's divergent competitor, is "selling like hotcakes." No...it's not actually. The smartphone is eating the handheld video game market's lunch. This is one of several examples where Ries is either entirely wrong or just lies to make an example fit his theory.
If he would have gotten off his soapbox and quit trying to make every aspect of branding fit into his theory of divergence, this would have been a much better read. Don't get me wrong, I wholeheartedly agree that anyone trying to establish a new brand should pursue divergence, not convergence, and try to create a new market as Ries suggests. The rewards are great if you accomplish this, as the first entrant into a new market is generally rewarded with long-lasting leadership (think Red Bull vs Monster and Rockstar). I just found it exceedingly annoying that he insisted on making every one of the numerous examples fit the theory of divergence. He actually goes on a rampage against the clock radio at one point, claiming it's the source of modern convergence thinking. He also tells a story about his engineer friend who unplugs the clock radio from the wall the minute he steps into his hotel room because it's too complicated. Really? I've never had a problem with one. They're easy to use and convenient. It's like the Bed of Procrustes with this guy. If the example doesn't fit his theory, he just alters the facts or observations. Is it so hard to believe that sometimes convergence does work?
I think $3 would have been a fair price for this book because roughly 30% of the information was useful to anyone trying to establish a brand.
The only merit I find in the book is the claim that divergence is a source of competitive advantage because by diverging you create a new market that you can dominate. A new edition is absolutely necessary!
However, the fact that the authors decided to attack the concept of convergence with a vengeance made the key points in this book biased and weak. For example, the authors went on to make bold predictions that no consumers would want a device that is a gaming machine, an MP3 Player, a web browser, a email client, and a phone. Right after the book was launched the iPhone was launched. It is difficult to argue if the iPhone converge or diverge the marketplace (or which marketplace). The success of the iPhone also fundamentally challenged the concept of convergence being more important than divergence. There are other highly opinionated viewpoints that gave me the impression that the authors had tried too hard to seek for evidence and examples to only support their case.
Prior to purchasing this book (and other works by the authors), one could also visit some of the authors' blog posts to better understand their viewpoints on branding and PR, plus the overall theme of their support for divergence here[...]. I would also suggest potential buyers to look at how the authors predicted the failure of the iPhone, and how they continued to explain their views on the eventual (at least in the short term) success of the iPhone and Apple . [...]
Has a few factual errors (Hefeweizen is not a brand of beer like Guiness, it is a style. Pg 137 of the ebook version.)
The factual errors and broad stroke 'arguments' make it difficult to see how this could be a useful read and the only entertainment value in this book is seeing how wrong his predictions have turned out to be. Time makes fools of us all, but this one seems to have had a head start.
While reading, take some of the "Apple is doomed" narrative with a grain of salt, because we now know Apple succeeded. The missing update chapter pertains to how Apple's success since its bleek period came from following the advice of this book.
This is a must-read for marketers, product engineers, and start-up executives.