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Branding 101: Where to Start?

by Doug Wesolek on ‎04-17-2014 11:12 AM (2,887 Views)

A few years ago, I shifted from a corporate marketing role to one focused primarily on branding. I’ve never really had any formal, classical brand training per se, but I’ve always been interested in branding as a discipline and I love to stay on top of branding-related business news.


So my first thought was how to get up to speed as quickly as possible. I started my research with the basics…looking for classical branding information just to gauge what I did and didn’t know.


I ordered some well-reviewed books on, beginning with a couple books from the Kellogg School of Management…and quickly found them to be extremely dry and academic. They were written for business school graduate students, and I suddenly felt sorry for all those students.


I checked out a few other popular books, but many were targeted at consumer markets and didn’t seem overly relevant to the corporate B2B market I needed to understand better.


Fortunately, I live close to one of largest independent book stores in the world, Powell’s Books, so I spent some time in the business book stacks. One book immediately caught my eye: The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al and Laura Ries.


The name sounded good. “Immutable” means “unchanging through time,” and that’s essentially what I was looking for. And when I saw how the chapters were set up (easy to read with lots of sidebars and graphics), I was sold. It was written over a decade ago (2002) but it still holds up pretty well (although references to success stories like Blockbuster Video and Blackberry are a bit humorous in retrospect).


The book effectively combines common sense concepts with strong real-world business cases. Although the concepts are fairly simple (see some samples in the bullet points below), the business cases add enough color to make them highly relevant. For instance:

  • The success of a brand is measured in decades, not in years or months
  • Brands can be changed, but only infrequently…and only very carefully
  • A brand becomes stronger when you can narrow its focus


The book emphasizes the value of brand differentiation (standing out in a crowded marketplace), consistency (providing a familiar experience for your customers), and simplicity (focusing on your core values rather than trying to be everything to everybody). Of the dozens of branding books I’ve read since then, it’s still my favorite.


It’s definitely a book you can use to build your branding expertise without a heavy lift. I won’t necessarily guarantee it like George Zimmer, the ousted leader/pitch man for Men’s Wearhouse. But I do think you’ll like it.