Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on February 26, 2018

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Hammering Home Your Brand with Words and Visuals with Laura Ries

laura ries on brand

“The tactics have changed but the strategy of owning and building a brand hasn’t.” Laura Ries can share first hand how branding has stood the test of time. “It’s why some rise and others don’t — it’s the brand.” Together with her father, positioning pioneer Al Ries, Laura authored some of the seminal branding texts of our time including The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. We discussed positioning, visuals, slogans, and more on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast presented by Twenty20.

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About Laura Ries

Laura Ries is an internationally recognized branding expert, best-selling author and television personality. After graduating from Northwestern University in the top 2% of her class, she worked at TBWA Advertising before partnering with her father and positioning pioneer Al Ries. Al and Laura founded Ries & Ries consulting in New York in 1994.

In 1997, Ries & Ries relocated to Atlanta, GA. Together the dynamic duo consults with companies around the globe including Disney, Ford, Frito-Lay, Papa John’s Pizza, Samsung and Unilever on branding and marketing strategy. Laura has co-authored five books with Al including The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR, The Origin of Brands, and War in the Boardroom.

Laura’s first solo book, Visual Hammer has been translated into the Chinese, Russian, Turkish, Polish, and German languages. Words alone can’t build a brand, driving an idea into the mind is best done with the emotional power of a visual. Her latest book Battlecry complements Visual Hammer by outlining five strategies for improving the effectiveness of a company’s slogan or tagline.

In addition to her consulting assignments and corporate speeches, Laura is a frequent guest on major television programs from the Today Show to Squawk Box. She appears regularly on Fox News, Fox Business, CNBC, CNN, and HLN.

Episode Highlights

The more things change, the more they stay the same. As co-author of a landmark book on branding, I was eager to ask Laura how her work has stood the test of time — and rapids media shifts. “Positioning is owning an idea in the mind of the customer. The tactics of how that happens have changed but the strategy of owning and building a brand hasn’t.”

What startups and emerging brands have in common with airplanes. “Companies and brands are like airplanes. You spend 110% to get off the runway but once you’re in the air it’s not hard. Startups and small companies are like brands on the runway.”

Using visuals to hammer home your brand’s big idea. From Coke’s iconic contoured bottles to Colonel Sanders, strong brands are built with icons, or visual hammers as Laura describes in her book of the same name. Why are visuals so appealing? “They appeal to both the left and right brain. You can further hammer that home with your advertising.”

Words matter. From slogans to taglines, Laura admitted that brand strategists like us have muddied the lexicon of labels. That’s why in her book on brand language she focuses on the idea of a battlecry. “It has to get you up and excited.” It also has to say something relevant. She pointed us to Little Caesar’s whose battle cry, “Pizza! Pizza!” built upon their strategic positioning of two pizzas for the price of one.

What brand has made Laura smile recently? First, Laura asked the million-dollar question. “Is it a good or a bad smile?” After a laugh, Laura noted that Tommy John, the underwear brand that promises “no adjustment needed,” has made her smile — particularly as a mother of teenage boys. I can relate!

To learn more, go to ries.com.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Steve Hutt gave us a shout on Twitter for several of our recent episodes. Thanks for listening!

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

Thanks again to our sponsor Twenty20. Your source for on brand photography for your brand. You can get five photos with Twenty20’s one-week free trial at Twenty20.com/OnBrand.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!




Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.


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