al ries interview

Al Ries

Positioning and Branding

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Al Ries is one of the all time greats in the world of Marketing, Advertising, PR and Branding. Al first founded his own marketing agency back in 1963. Since then he has worked with some of the worlds most famous brands including Apple, IBM, AT&T, Burger King, Xerox, Intel and Samsung to name just a few.

Al Ries has written some of the world’s most important books on the subject of marketing. He has co-authored books with his business partner Jack Trout  and also his daughter Laura Ries who is now ones of the worlds leading marketing consultants in her own right. His books include… Positioning: The battle for your mind, The 22 immutable laws of marketing, The 22 immutable laws of branding, 11 immutable laws of internet branding, Focus and Marketing warfare


Joey Bushnell: Positioning is a term we hear in marketing all the time, is it really true you coined the term?

Al Ries: Yes. The title of the article that started the positioning revolution was “The Positioning Era Cometh” by Al Ries and Jack Trout and it appeared in a three part series in April and May of 1972.

Joey Bushnell: What exactly do you mean by positioning and why it is to so important?

Al Ries: Before positioning, most marketing people considered marketing to be “communications.” But we argued that very little communications actually takes place. What normally happens is that a brand gets in the mind first and then occupies a position almost indefinitely. Hertz in rent-a-cars. Coca in Cola. Red Bull in energy drinks, etc. So the marketing process becomes one of looking for an open hole in the mind and then trying to become the first to fill that hole. Hence the name, positioning.

Joey Bushnell: What sort things do we want our prospects to associate with our brand?

Al Ries: The most important attribute is leadership. If the prospect perceives your brand to be the leader then the prospect also thinks it must be the best.

Joey Bushnell: Should we try to make our product appeal to everyone?

Al Ries: Any product that appeals to everyone is doomed to failure. That’s what got General Motors in trouble. Their leading brand is Chevrolet. What’s a Chevrolet? It’s a large, small, cheap, expensive car or truck. It’s also the leading brand of a bankrupt company.

Joey Bushnell: Can you give specific examples of how certain companies; have created certain positioning in our minds?

Al Ries: Being first is key. If you can’t be first, then be the opposite of the leader. Monster became a strong No. 2 energy drink brand by being the opposite of Red Bull. Red Bull came in small 8.4-oz cans, so Monster was introduced in a 16-oz. can.

Hertz is the leading rent-a-car brand, but Hertz focuses on airport locations. So Enterprise focused on the suburbs and became a strong No. 2 brand.

The leading mouthwash is Listerine, a bad-tasting mouthwash. So Scope became the good tasting mouthwash and a strong No. 2 brand.

Mercedes-Benz was the leading luxury car, but Mercedes were big, comfortable sedans. So BMW did the opposite. They became smaller, more nimble machines. “The ultimate driving machine.” BMW actually outsells Mercedes on the global market.

Joey Bushnell: Do we rank brands in our minds?

Al Ries: Normally we rank the No. 1 and No. 2 brands in every category. But all the other brands tend to be perceived as “also rans,” and virtually equal.

Joey Bushnell: How can we gain number one spot in our prospects mind?

Al Ries: By being first in a new category. The iPod was the first high-capacity MP3 player, for example.

Joey Bushnell: What should we do if there are other clear and established leaders already in our marketplace?

Al Ries: Be the opposite of the leader.

Joey Bushnell: What do you mean by publicity first, advertising second?

Al Ries: Advertising doesn’t have the credibility or believability to build a brand. Only PR does. Therefore a company should start with PR and only shift to advertising after it has established a position in the mind.

Joey Bushnell: Where can we find out more about your books and services?

Al Ries: Our website has a lot of information. Also check and

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