Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Book Review "The Origin of Brands"

I just finished reading an amazing marketing book by Al & Laura Ries called "The Origin of Brands." For years working at different Internet start-ups, I was a true believer in the convergence story - media, text, images, content and access will eventually converge into one huge, massive and accessible glob of stuff that will revolutionize the galaxy. Origin dispels that notion quickly and effectively by using Darwin's theory of divergence. The case the book makes is extremely compelling, and has forced me to start thinking about NPO branding in a new light - at the very least, it's given me a new framework and lens in which to look at things.

Granted, all of the books that I've read that lean on metaphors and analogies seem to come loaded with exceptions (cell/camera phone convergence) that bother me but the overall framework is very solid. The book handily explains these exceptions by pointing out that convergence success stories are mostly predicated on convenience factors (think Pert shampoo conditioner) and that convergence products are limited. I've been sold big time :)

As with all of my posts to this blog, I'll try to apply it to NPO marketing without giving TOO much away (I don't want to get fired any time soon), but enough to allow for some interesting comments and discussion (so post away!).

I created 2 graphics to illustrate divergence within "P2P" (person to person) fundraising:

Origin of NPO Brands
Graphic 1 (above) depicts overall P2P charity fundraising event categories. These categories include Walks/Runs, Extreme Walks, Endurance Events, Sports, Community/Volunteer, Online Shopping and Virtual.

Origin of NPO Brands
Graphic 2 (above) attempts to define the brand leaders in each of these categories. One of the things I've taken from the book is how to look for new categories that will emerge from existing categories (divergence). For example, Walks diverged into Extreme walks and Endurance events. The book makes a good point in talking about categories - owning categories is as important as the brand itself. For example, you don't think about drinking a Bud, you first think about having a beer - then immediately (perhaps even instantaneously) about Budweiser.

Interestingly, I think there are direct parallels in Charity event fundraising - I'm not sure that folks think to themselves about doing WalkAmerica or Light The Night as much as they think about someone they love who had a premature baby, and that they'd like to do something about that, and that WalkAmerica is the obvious choice. I know from research, that a large portion of our Team In Training participants are looking for help in running a marathon (training) and only fully understand the mission (cure cancer) during and after doing the event.

Finally, the book lays it out in simple terms how #1 and #2 brands position themselves. Simply put, #2 brands must be different, even opposite the leading brand in order to be successful. The best examples of this from the book include:

Home Depot (Masculine) vs. Lowe's (Feminine)
Coca-Cola (Older People) vs. Pepsi (Younger People)

I'm now taking a look at all of our brands, trying to map them to categories and looking at who are the leaders - if it isn't us - then we'll need to figure out a way to be a solid #2 or (gasp!) get out of the category altogether.

If you are reading this post, feel free to comment - especially on where you see differences in the NPO sector (if there are any). I suspect that many NPO marketers would like to believe this doesn't apply (I'd be happy to disagree and challenge you!).

While writing/spell checking and mulling over this post, I discovered the official blog/site which today is talking about Mel Gibson (unreal).

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