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The Origin of Brands: Discover the Natural Laws of Product Innovation and Business Survival [Paperback]

Al Ries , Laura Ries
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Oct 2004
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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1 edition (7 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060570148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060570149
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 14.7 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,727,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


“Illuminating examples and wry humor combine for a delightful read.” (Harvard Business Review) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About 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 ( has some simple tests that will help you determine whether you are a left brainer or a right brainer.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
THE "GREAT TREE OF LIFE" is how Charles Darwin described his metaphor for the origin of species. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Laughably Dated 6 Oct 2010
By Adetime
As well as covering exactly the same points in 'Positioning' (but in a slightly
different way) this books makes huge mistakes in its predictions.

During a chapter about converging existing products into one device, the authors
see fit to SCOFF at the prospect of:

- Mobile phones that also hold games and mp3s! (iphone has sold over 100 million units)
- People watching tv shows on their computer! (youtube anyone?)
- Tablet style PCS! (ipad?)
- Videophones! (iphone 4 face time?)
- 3D movies! (erm, 3D movies anyone?)

Whilst only written in 2004, it's clearly already dated.
Using examples of previous failures may seem smart, but what Al and Laura Ries
have failed to think about, is that good ideas are sometimes held back by technology. All
the products they deem destined to fail have improved because of technology.

A shame, as taking the book in this direction means the whole foundation behind
their thesis falls apart and becomes meaningless.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brand classic 27 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great to read as it is 10 years old and does not mention Apple as a major threat
Just goes to show what a New Brand can do
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Their work keeps getting better and better 25 May 2004
By John C. Dunbar - Published on
This latest book by Al Ries and his daughter Laura extends their previous work on positioning, brands, categories, being first in a category, and why publicity is more important now than advertising.
The authors draw an extended analogy to Charles Darwin's Origin of Species that runs through out the book.
In the business world Categories like computers evolve slowly through competition but also diverge rapidly through specialization. Over time those species that have won look quite different (lion vs. a tiger, for example). The same diverging is true with categories like computers where we now have desktops, laptops, palmtops.
The authors draw the parallel that this concept of divergence of the species also applies to categories in business. Understanding this similarity, they say, is your key to success in business. You just have to create new categories, and then dominate that category. But this book develops this positioning logic in ways that seemed much clearer to me than their previous works.
To succeed, you (the business owner/manager) must CREATE NEW CATEGORIES (palmtops), and doing this is MORE IMPORTANT than your creation of new brands (Sharp Zaurus). Creating a brand is more important because you must end up being 1st or 2nd in that category to be successful. (Sounds like Jack Welch's thinking of 'We're going to be 1, 2 or 3 in an industry, or else we sell that subsidiary.')
Through a slow elaboration of proof after proof, chapter after chapter, the Ries authors convince you to see the logic of what they have been advocating for the last 20 or so years on positioning, categories, brands and publicity. As a reader I found this slow elaboration of proofs to be slow reading, however, I'm sure it's required for the skeptics (advertising account reps, I'm sure).
In regards to publicity, they recommend a way to create a new category. This methodology requires the use of slow build up publicity rather than fast splurge advertising.
If you accept their thinking on categories and brands, and I do, then you will be against mergers that take companies into unrelated fields, and you will be against line extensions that weaken your brand. The chapter on "Pruning" was especially enlightening in this regard. Toyota's development of Lexus was a great example of how to create a new category. The company can sell off Lexus and not hurt the Toyota brand. The authors have other examples of good creation of categories. But their examples of poorly thought out brands was quite extensive, and sometimes overwhelming.
There are three big rewards from reading this book. First, you will get a deep grounding in why you must create Categories first, then create the first brand in that category. Second, in reading all the elaboration you will develop a working knowledge of seeing brands and categories, and where companies fit in that category.
In this manner when you see that McDonalds is adding DVD rentals (yesterday's WSJ) you will know that this is CONVERGENCE and it is bad. They should be DIVERGING instead. Such convergence will dilute their brand of hamburgers, fries, and shakes. Should we now call them "Blockaburger?"
In fact, I found it interesting that the authors described how In And Out hamburgers in California now has higher per store sales than McDonalds and that McDonalds per store sales are static, and perhaps dropping if their figures weren't deflated for inflation. Again, there's lots of examples and details.
And the third reward from reading this book is that the last three chapters of the book provide a methodology (albeit somewhat abstract) for you to follow. You will learn to DIVERGE NOT CONVERGE, create the Category first, then create a brand to be first in that category. You will learn that its OK to be second in an industry, if you only... well, you'll have to read the book to get all the other details.
This book is highly recommended.
John Dunbar
Sugar Land, TX
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REVOLUTIONARY! Think Divergence. 21 May 2004
By Adam G. Gerle - Published on
This is my first time writing a review because its not everyday I get so excited by a book. But this is Amazing! One of those books that completly changes the way you look at the world. So many lights came on. After years of struggling to come up with viable product/service ideas and after countless hours reading business books on how to run and market a business after you actually get one going, I finally know where to begin in coming up with business ideas.It fills in so many of the gaps left out of most other business books.
Put all your other books away start your business reading here! This is not some cute, ivory tower theory. The book is brimming with real world examples, much like Positioning. And it draws heavily from Charles Darwin and his theories of evolution and most importantly DIVERGENCE. Survival of a species and survival of a product are very similar.
I had no idea what Divergence meant 24 hours ago. Now I can think of nothing else. If you read only one book this year, make it this one. I even paid full hardcover price at the bookstore because I couldnt wait for the info.
If you want an edge, get this book!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Packed with Intelligent Marketing and PR Advice 5 Sep 2004
By Emanuel Carpenter... Author/Reviewer - Published on
What do WebTV, The Swiss Army Knife, and Miller Lite all have in common? If you said bad ideas, you're only half right. According to the new book "The Origin of Brands" from marketing experts Al & Laura Ries (The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR), they are also examples of convergence, which should be avoided whenever possible.

Convergence occurs when products produced separately are merged into one. The authors of this book offer an alternative, divergence or new products or services that stand alone. Relying heavily on examples from Darwin's "Origin of Species" the authors explain why creating separate categories are more beneficial to consumers, businesses, and the marketplace. The authors state "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." Instead, according to this book, divergence is the answer.

In the chapter titled "Survival of The Firstest," the authors give the best advice. They insist on the importance of launching a brand into a naught market, relying on the importance of being first. And if you can't be first in the market, the chapter "Survival of the Secondest," explains how to survive being second and how to overcome the competition. The authors explain how emulation is to be avoided and being the direct opposite of competitor's works best. They use The University of Phoenix, G.I. Joe, and Bud Light as successful examples.

Though this book tends to overlook some of the successes in convergence, like the car stereo and the caller ID/phone, "The Origin of Brands" is still an excellent book. It's packed with intelligent marketing and public relations advice that could be applied to practically every product, business, or service. Anyone in business will love this book and will not be able to put it down until the very last page. "The Origin of Brands" will make a wonderful desk reference for anyone who wants to practice sound marketing techniques. Buy it. Study it. And put in into action.

Emanuel Carpenter
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not-so-revolutionary strategies that go unnoticed 24 Jun 2004
By Winston Kotzan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Before reading, I expected this book to list historical examples of successful brand names and how they developed - Coca-Cola, Kleenex, GAP, etc. But after reading, I was delighted to find that this book had much more. "The Origin of Brands" is one of the most practical business strategy books I have ever read.
The book finds a niche by paralleling Darwin's book "The Origin of Species." The authors give a refresher in high school biology by showing the development of a product is analogous to evolution. Just as how the canine species evolved into many different breeds of dogs - Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Terriers; a product like the television can diverge into new categories - plasma, projection, LCD, DLP, etc. It is through this divergence in innovation that new products can be created and new brand names can come into existence.
Contrary to the belief that entrepreneurs must find unfulfilled markets and seize a business opportunity, Al & Laura Ries say that success can be found through creating new markets. Before the introduction of light beer, there was neither a market nor a demand for light beer. But a new market was created with Bud Lite as the dominating brand. The recently popular Red Bull drink found its success by creating a new market known as "energy drinks."
The book also gives good advice on battling with your brand. If you are competing with the #1 brand in a market, the book suggests you do the opposite of the leader. Target provides fierce competition with Wal-Mart by providing the opposite - clean, neat-looking displays and wide isles. Home Depot and Lowe's have a similar relationship. It is through uniqueness that business must compete - not by following a trend.
Near the end, the book somewhat reverts to basic marketing tactics - giving your brand an identity in the consumer's mind. Cadillac is able to keep a prestigious name by associating itself with the basic idea of "expensive American car." Products like Zima beer, introduced by the Coors company, are unsuccessful because do not identify with a simple basic image in the consumer's minds.
While I can't necessarily agree that the author's thinking applies to all business cases, this book definitely brings out some obvious truths in product development and marketing. It even points out psychological thinking on the customer's end. Unlike many other business books, this one supports itself with hundreds of real-world examples of successful and unsuccessful products. I enjoyed reading it because it was able to answer "why" to almost everything stated.
I recommend this for anyone in marketing, entrepreneurship, and even managers interested in making their business better. "The Origin of Brands" will provide you with ideas helpful in selling any product - no matter how large or how small. Best of all, it is enjoyable as much as it is informative.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Al Ries' Greatest Hits 29 Jun 2004
By Michael McCarthy - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While others who've read this book rave about it, I would come down more on the ambivilant side. No doubt there are a lot of good ideas and examples in this book. However, if you've read other work by Ries (including his work with Jack Trout) you've read almost all this stuff before. While the Darwinian metaphor seems apt, Ries (and his daughter, Laura) really just exploit it for a literary device to repackage a lot of Al's prior thinking with plenty of new examples from the marketplace. (By the way, Al, if you go off on the mismanagment of the Miller brand one more time, I'm going to scream.)
So my bottom line is this. If you've never read any of Al Ries' books, this one is a good contemporary overview of his thinking (which is, no doubt, of significant importance). However, if you've read more than two or three of his other books, you'll recognize most of this book is a rehash of earlier work, updated for today and you'll end up feeling like you bought a new album from a great classic rock band only to find out they've just remastered some golden oldies and invited in Kid Rock, 50 Cent and the cast of American Idol to give the songs a new spin.
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