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Innovation in Branding

Interview with Al Ries

ICMR India ICMR India ICMR India

Market leaders tend to fall in love with their brand name and launch only line extensions of their products, which is no way to build brands.

Interview by -  Pradip Sinha,
Associate Consultant,
ICMR (IBS Center for Management Research).

Al Ries is chairman of Ries & Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm that he runs with his daughter, Laura Ries. Al is a legendary marketing strategist and the bestselling author (or co-author) of 11 books on marketing including Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Marketing Warfare, Focus, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR and The Origin of Brands. Earlier, Al was president of the Association of Industrial Advertisers (now the Business Marketing Association) and the Advertising Club of New York. He was also chairman of the Club's Andy Awards. In 1989, Sales & Marketing Executives International gave him its "Tops in Marketing" award. In 1999, PR Week magazine named him one of the 100 most influential PR people of the 20th century. Al currently writes a monthly marketing column for AdAge.com and is an often quoted expert in many publications. He resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Mary Lou.

What is innovation? How will you define it?

Innovation is a broad term that can cover almost every improvement any human being has ever made. For the purposes of our latest book, The Origin of Brands, we define innovation as a product or service development that allows a company to establish a new category (and hopefully) a new brand. Some categories and the brands they produced are: Mainframe computers . . . IBM. Plain-paper copiers . . . Xerox. Computer operating systems . . . Microsoft.

Computer printers . . .Hewlett- Packard. Personal computers sold direct . . Dell.
Financial software . . . Quicken. Database software . . Oracle. Enterprise research planning software . SAP.

How critical is innovation for survival in the 21st century?

You can sell anything if it's cheap. To make profit in today's competitive economy, you need a brand. That's why companies (and countries) need to develop brands if they are going to survive in the world of tomorrow.
Look at the poor countries of Asia, Africa and South America. There is no hope for these countries to improve the economic life of their citizens with commodities such as agricultural products. They need to develop brands.
Take coffee, for example. Much of the world's coffee is grown in poor countries like Guatemala and Brazil. The coffee brands, however, are controlled by rich countries like Switzerland and the United States.

If you want to improve the economy of Guatemala, for example, you need to plant coffee brands in the mind, not coffee beans in the earth.

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