ITB 2024 Special Reporting
And Now, For Some Straight Brand Talk.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon - SHY Ventures
Tuesday, 24th August 2004
American marketing guru Al Reis shared more than his laws on branding at the Global Brand Forum 2004. He also told Singapore what he thought of its new branding and called it a city Walt Disney would have built. Yeoh Siew Hoon reports.

American marketing guru Al Reis is a straight-shooter.
He opened his presentation at the Global Brand Forum 2004 with an upfront challenge, asking "why aren't there more brands like Singapore Airlines in Asia?"

Citing Interbrand's 100 most valuable brands, he said, 59 were from America, 33 from Europe and Asia had a mere eight (seven from Japan and one from Korea).

Asian companies are strong in everything except they are weak at building brands, he said.

And he made it very clear, "To make a sale, you need a product. To make a profit, you need a brand."

So how do you build a brand?

One, the law of focus.
"You stand for something," he said. Marlboro is the cigarette cowboys smoke and "even though there are very few cowboys left, it is still the world's best selling cigarette".
Heineken, which stands for "a high priced beer", has the world's third largest brewery. Ikea's focus is "unassembled furniture". Nokia, which once made everything threw out everything and focused on the cell phone. Today, Nokia is the eighth most valuable brand outside the US.

Two, the law of expansion – when you expand a brand, you weaken the brand.
He cited Mercedes which went into cheaper cars, and confused the consumer.

Three, the law of contraction – a brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus.
Howard Schultz started Starbucks, "a shop that just sells coffee".
Subway only sells "submarine sandwiches".
The power of a focus allows you to burn your way into the mind of consumers, said Reis.
Federal Express equals "small packages overnight".
The fastest growing city is the only city with one industry – Las Vegas.

Four, the law of public relations.
Brands are built with a blaze of publicity or public relations, said Reis.
Botox and Viagra are examples of brands built by PR.
"They had incredible PR before they started advertising," said Reis. "PR is the nail, advertising is the hammer."
He added, "Advertising is the after-burner that puts brands into orbit after they have been launched by public relations."

Five, the law of leadership.
It's better to be first than it is to be better.
Being first creates news – GE, the first light bulb; amazon.com, the first online bookstore; ebay, the first online auction marketplace.

Six, the law of laggardship.
If you can't be first, you set up a new category where you can be.
Evian – first gourmet water; Swatch – first fashion watch; Rolex – first expensive watch; Mont Blanc – first fat fountain pen; Air Asia – first no-frills airline in Asia.

Seven, the law of words – a brand should strive to own a word.
Federal Express owns "overnight", Body Shop "natural cosmetics", Volvo "safety".
"When you own a word, nobody can steal it," said Reis.
"The way to find a word is to find an enemy and then be the opposite," he added.
For example, McDonald's went for "younger kids", so Burger King went for "older kids".
Mercedes Benz went for "big comfortable cars" so BMW went for "ultimate driving machine".
"Your competitor sets your strategy," said Reis.

Eight, the law of line extension – you can't stand for something if you put your name on everything.
"The conventional wisdom is that line extensions are preferred but you risk diluting your core brand if you stretch it too thin," said Reis.
"Create a separate identity for a second brand," he advised, citing Toyota which created Lexus as an example. Lexus is today the largest selling luxury brand in the US.
Levis was losing market share with its line extensions until it launched Dockers.

Nine, the law of singularity – the most important aspect of a brand is its single-mindedness. Examples – BMW, fun to drive; Volvo, safe to drive; Heineken, expensive beer; Starbucks, expensive coffee; Air Asia, flying should be fun …

After his straight-from-the-hip presentation, it was inevitable that Reis would be asked the question, what did he think of the "Uniquely Singapore" brand launched by the Singapore Tourism Board this year?

"It doesn't say anything," he said, adding that it was normal that brands that emerged from boardrooms were usually the "least offensive".

He added that nobody could own the word ‘unique'. "I am unique, you are unique," he said to the forum host, Riz Khan, who posed the question.

What impresses him most about Singapore is its physical beauty, the way it is laid out, the landscaping, the cleanliness and the lack of crime. He said it was a "city of the future".
Indeed, he said, it was the kind of city Walt Disney would have built.

STB's rebuttal? "I see no contradiction," said Lim Neo Chian, deputy chairman and chief executive, who was at the forum. "We settled on ‘Uniquely Singapore' because it is all encompassing. It allows us to say many things about Singapore's special blend of culture and modernity.

"We want to 'own' the word unique, so that over time people will associate us with being 'unique'. Then, when they ask us what's so unique about Singapore, I will quote Mr Reis to say Singapore is a 'city like no other city', a 'city of the future'," he added.
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