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June 2007



We marketers are often too smart for our own good. We get caught up in how we ourselves think and would make decisions, and often lose sight of what our target customers would do (which is often very different).

Putting categories before brands is natural consumer thinking. When I want a Snickers bar, I never start by saying I want a Snickers. I start with telling myself I want something sweet, I want a candy bar! And what's the best candy bar in the world? Snickers!

We always start by self-creating a need or desire for a category, even for a split-second, before we decide on which brand within that category is to our preference.

Great job, Laura.

Dennis Matthew Dewey

"Apple re-invented the MP3 player market...there is not an iPod market! The iPod is an Apple creation. And to say there is not loyalty to the Apple brand is just plain daft....."
- David Taylor

read this...
"Consumers love categories, but they refer to these categories by brand names."

"Much has been written about the success and brilliance of the Apple stores. How they demonstrate the power and consumer love of the Apple brand."
- Laura Ries (above)

I think Laura made some excellent points about categories and brands yet I'm of the opinion that consumers love either categories, brands or both.

I don't believe the fate of a company selling products can soley be determined by its focus on a particular category. However, I do think that it is a good idea for startups to focus on one idea/product/service while paying close attention to the market trends.

Re-branding like what Toyota has done is an excellent strategy for staying "focused". It seems as if this is something that MANY car manufacturers do and it works.

However, I don't know if this would work for a software/hardware company like Microsoft or Apple because people seem to have more brand loyalty in this market.

The Hotz(e)

I was in the process of responding to this article last week but this ridiculously hot girl walked in my office and started talking to me and I got completely distracted and just deleted my post. So now, I find myself on vacation taking the time to respond to your post.

For starters I completely disagree with your comment that basically you would make all of your stores Apple iPod stores and focus on music. What a mistake that would be.

To me, the Apple brand says more than just music. I love their Mac vs. PC commercials...it seems like you would be all over these. What a great positioning strategy. The commercial is basically about "squares" vs. "creatives." I love it. It totally embodies what the Apple brand is.

For me the Apple brand shouts innovative. It is more than just music players and computers. It is a technology company that launches innovative and creative products. I think they are on the right track.

My belief is that the iphone will be a success. Initially, it doesnt appeal to me because of the camera size and lack of music memory. But I believe that this product will appeal to a massive audience. I have been watching the commercials and it looks pretty cool.

I just purchased a Pocket PC and have to admit the thing is pretty addictive. Same with those Blackberrys (Crackberrys). OF course both of these are convergence products. I really think this phone has legs and it will run.

On a side note, I think you need to state that you will do something completely irrational if this product is a success....i.e. shave your head.

Anyhow, I have enjoyed reading your blog....keep up with the great work.

Robert Wicks

Dell is now offering 2 desktop computers for sale at a retail outlet. The first time ever for Dell. That outlet is Wal-Mart. It seems Dell is trying anything to boost sales.

David Taylor (from Where'sTheSausage)

Wow. This really is an jaw-droppingly flawed bit of thinking.

Whilst I agree that in some cases the whole "brand love" thing is over-done, going as far as saying its all about categories not brands is bonkers. And you have your cause and effect mixed up.

Apple re-invented the MP3 player market...there is not an iPod market! The iPod is an Apple creation. And to say there is not loyalty to the Apple brand is just plain daft. Yesterday 2 people came up to me in Starbucks to look at my MacBook pro...did they do that because the laptop market was booming? Of course not.

Do the 40% of who say NO when asked if they would buy own label instead of Heinz ketchup at any price do so because of the ketchup category? Of course not.

Great brands create markets. Not the other way round


its so annoying when ads say stuff like "dude youre getting a dell!" or "gimme another shot of turkey!" i think theyre just trying in a really really misguided way to follow your dads advice from 30 years ago and make their brand name the generic. but its so god awfully fake. advanced civilizations are going to look at ads like that and think "oh my god, these people must have been retarded." you know how ads from the 50's just look cheesy and stupid to us now? i don't think its gotten any better.

greg gillispie

Two points...

In my mind, Dell always has and still is THE laptop computer. I build my own (of course with their help) and I receive it within a couple of days. I'm not a computer expert - so maybe I'm in the minority - but the next time I need a computer I call Dell.

The reason kids don't hang at "record" stores is they do, just at a different location - the Internet. And if they find something they like, it goes to their iPod and then WOM to friends. Same as when I was a kid, except we really did buy records and play them on our turntables.

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By Al & Laura Ries

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