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BRANDING 101 The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding


Who we are  At SmartWrap we design and install vehicle wraps.   Our clients are mainly small to medium sized business looking to enhance their brand.   Our clients usually fall into one of two categories:  –

Either they are just starting out and they need to create the impression in the public eye that they are an established brand…OR…

They are an established brand that has outgrown their original image and they need to design something to catch up.

 With that said, branding is top of mind at SmartWrap.  Here, we’ll walk you through some of our thoughts and advice on creating a brand that your customers will remember.

Effective Branding: Epic Landscape Construction


What is “branding”?

Am I interested in branding?

What is branding?

How can I build a better brand?

 These are some of the questions that entrepreneurs often face at one point or another.   The term “branding” has become quite a popular buzzword in recent years and there are many new experts in the field who offer useful information. 


Pioneers of branding  There are two people in particular who really pioneered the modern understanding of branding: Al Ries and Jack Trout.   These two gentlemen began writing about branding and positioning in 1972 for Ad Age magazine.   Eventually, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding was born and the rest they say, is history.   Part of that history is Al Ries’s impressive portfolio of major brands from Apple, to Xerox. 

TIP: I highly recommend reading the actual book, as it will change the way you think of your business. (You can find the book at your local bookstore or online.)


Today’s focus  Over the next several months on the SmartWrap blog we are going to take a look at these “Immutable Laws” and see how the information might be useful for businesses considering vehicle wraps and graphics.  Here, we’ll look at four laws:

The Law of Expansion

The Law of Contraction

The Law of Shape

The Law of Color


Law #1: The law of expansion  “The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope.”    Another way to say this is  “Trying to be all things to all people undermines the power of the brand.”   To me, this means:  being known for doing one thing is a lot more effective than being known for a number of different things.  If you can get people to think about your brand with a single word, and have them think of that single word when thinking about your brand, then you have a really really powerful brand. 


If you were a restaurant…  Let’s think about this in terms of a restaurant.   Do you want to be known as a great steakhouse, or a place that has everything, but is not known for being great at anything?  Do you want to be a Morton’s, a Flemings or Ruth’s Chris, or do you want to be thought of as a buffet?  It’s okay if you want to be a buffet, but just realize that how people perceive your brand has a tremendous impact on the value of your brand when it comes time to sell your business. 


The skippy example  A great example of this is Skippy peanut butter.   Hormel recently acquired the Skippy brand from Unilever for $700 million dollars CASH.   This is just about double Skippy’s yearly sales, not profit, but sales.   Could you imagine selling your business for double your yearly sales?   That is what the power of a great brand will do for you.   Skippy is known for peanut butter.  Smooth, and chunky.  That’s it. Just peanut butter. 

$700,000,000, CASH


Law #2: The law of contraction  “A brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus.”  Al Ries says this another way by stating: “By narrowing the focus to a single category, a brand can achieve extraordinary success.”    One very good example of this is In-N-Out Burger.   Most fast food restaurants have lots and lots and LOTS of different foods on their menus.   In-N-Out Burger just has hamburgers and French fries. No chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches, chicken nuggets, salad wraps, baked potatoes, soups.  If you visit an In-N-Out burger you will notice their drive-thru is lined up around the corner, and inside the restaurant there are customers lined up to buy from a very limited menu.   This goes against conventional wisdom that giving consumers more choice is good.   The lines at In-N-Out Burger say otherwise.


Charles Krug winery example

 Another great example is the Charles Krug winery in Napa Valley.    Although, the Charles Krug winery is not a powerful, universally recognized brand like Coca-Cola or Apple, among wine consumers and aficionados it is one of the most recognized brands in the world.   The Charles Krug winery is the oldest commercial winery in Napa Valley, and one of only 3 remaining original family owned and operated wineries in Napa. 


Charles Krug winery example  I was lucky enough to have dinner with the owner, Peter Mondavi, earlier in the year and we discussed branding, marketing, and positioning.    Peter said that back in the 1950′s and 1960′s the winery produced more than 50 different kinds of wines. Basically, they wanted to be able to sell a bottle of wine to anyone.   A few years ago, they made a strategic decision to drastically reduce their product line and limit their focus.  Today, 65% of the 70,000 cases produced every year are red (Cabernet).   As a result of becoming well known in the wine world for red wine, the Charles Krug Winery’s entry-level wine is priced at $20 a bottle. Their mid range wine is $50 while their high-end wine is $100 a bottle.    Your brand doesn’t become strong in a category by being in every category and producing everything that any potential customer might want.

Premium Wine: $1oo per Bottle


Application at smartwrap  In terms of the relevance to SmartWrap, we have taken to heart these first 2 laws.   At SmartWrap we have made a strategic decision to not to try to be all things to all people, and to narrow our focus and scope of business.   This is why at SmartWrap we no longer do simple racing stripes, motor cycle wraps, or small personal water craft wraps.   We also do not make signs, business cards, letterhead, or website design.   At SmartWrap we want to be known for vehicle wraps, and in particular the vehicle wraps with the best, smartest, and most effective designs, and the highest quality installs.   As difficult as it was to turn away paying customers in the beginning, in the long run it served all of our customers better to have us focus strictly on cars, trucks and vans and we are happy we made the decision.


Law #3: the law of shape  The Law of Shape states: “A brand’s logotype should be designed to fit the eyes. Both eyes… For maximum visual impact, a logotype should have a horizontal shape. The ideal shape is 2 1 /4 units wide by 1 unit high.”    This means you should try to keep the shape of your logo wider than it is tall.   Just think of driving down the street, and trying to read a tall skinny sign vs. a short wide sign.    If the tall skinny shape were effective, you’d probably notice that billboards are shaped that way right? 

! e m Read

Re m ad e?

 But they’re not.  


The law of shape in mobile graphics and advertising  Most vehicles are the ideal shape. They are longer than taller, especially vans and boxy mini vans like the Scion xB.   In addition to the shape of the logo, the type of font used is of significant importance. But not in the way you might think.   Al Reis says that it does not matter what type of font you use, it matters only that you can read it.    He sums it up very well by asking us whether we know what type of font Rolex or Rolls Royce use.  We don’t know.   If the font was different, but still legible, we wouldn’t think any different. So pick a font that can be easily understood.    This is especially true in the vehicle wrap business. The vehicle is a moving billboard, and people have little time to try and figure out what they are reading.


Law #4: the law of color  The Law of Color states:  “A brand should use a color that is the opposite of its major competitor.”  Al Reis gives us some big examples; Coke and Pepsi.  Coke is red, Pepsi is blue.   Hertz is yellow, Avis is red.   Furthermore, Al recommends to sticking to five basic colors: red, orange, yellow, green and blue.    Although a combination of colors can be used, it will be more effective and memorable in the mind of the consumer to stick to one color (i.e. UPS is brown, Caterpillar is yellow).  There are exceptions that work, take a look at Fedex for example. They use purple and orange.   Take a look at McDonald’s, although the predominant color is red, people remember the golden arches.   The main point of the law of color is be the opposite of your competition if you want to stand out.


The power of a logo  At SmartWrap we believe that a great wrap vehicle wrap design starts with a great logo.   Even a great, exciting vehicle wrap will have difficulty overcoming a poorly designed logo, whether it be due to the type being un-readable or the shape or the colors being too similar to the competition.   Our own market research backs this up.   In a side by side 5 second test only 58% of people remembered the name of a business when it was written in simple black lettering compared to 85% recall when a well designed two color logo was used.

Logo Design 101: Shape and Color


summary  Brands are powerful symbols for customers to recognize and understand your company and products.  Here, you learned about some of the fundamental principles of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, including the Laws of Expansion, Contraction, Shape, and Color.  Having a focused scope and clear design is important for gaining a competitive advantage.

 Here at SmartWrap, we take to heart the principles of The 22 Immutable Laws, both to improve our own strategies and to better promote the brands of our customers.


To learn more about how branding affects your business, connect with our experts today: Online: SmartWrap Phone: 623.889.0862 E-mail: tim@smartwrap.com


Branding 101