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on June 30, 2004
For some reason, Both Ries and Trout get away with recycling their old material and putting a new name on it.
More than that, you couldn't tell that their partnership fell apart years ago since the same ideas, and more importantly, the same examples are used extensively in each man's books.
For Example:
These guys must LOVE Papa Johns (or be shareholder's, as they both mention the compony time and time again (In multiple books as well) as some paragon of food and of great marketing. As far as I'm concerned, Papa John's is indistinguishable from Domino's. I wonder if either man has ever even tried it.
Anyway... back on track.
This book continually simplifies the reasons behind the success and/or failure of various companies and products to the poor use of publicity. No mention of poor management or rationalizing markets, or the fact that the product or service stunk in the first place.
The most appaling thing is this guy has the balls to tell the city of Cusco in Peru and the country of Guatamala, they should change names in order to attract visitors. (Ciudad de las Incas and Guatamaya, respectively). I don't know if this is marketing ignorance, or American disregard for foreign cultures, but I couldn't believe what I was reading.
He continues to show his ignorance of technology and pop culture with incorrect example after incorrect example.
For example, he points out that there was once a beer called Yuengling that failed because of it's name. Guess what, Al, Yuengling, is alive and doing pretty well.
Also chapters are repetitive. After reading about Red Bull 3 times, in as many chapters, it got a little boring
To sum it up: Advertising is bad, Brand extension is bad. Anyone who didn't listen to his advice is now out of business, Papa John's is great. There I saved you the agony of reading this (Or anyother of his books or the books by Jack Trout) and $15.
Save your money. A stinker of a book.
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on July 21, 2003
I recall reading an article in HBR that questioned the efficacy of traditional advertising and the humongous marketing budgets that are allocated to it. Pick up the book "HBR on Brand Management" and indeed the first case study addresses this issue. It _is_ a very pertinent, timely and important question: how to allocate your budgets across the different forms of marketing touchpoints? And there's ample evidence to show how media other than advertising lead to the phenomenal success of products.
Carrie Bradshaw, the protagonist of the hot HBO show "Sex And The City" spends more than she can afford from her journalist salary on Hermes Birkin bags and the whole world sends the brand (a simple bag for god's sake) into a waiting list of not weeks, not months, but 3 years! Michael Moore decides that he doesn't have the budget to market his next fabrication ("Stupid White Men") so he cultivates a clever little following through the use of online channels. A "big3" US automotive manufacturer creates a frenzy for its new product launch through a kiosk placed in a popular spot at Disney World and with a clever unprecedented campaign. Prada launches a classic architectural marvel of a store in NY and then gets a zillion journalists to write about it in business magazines, NYT, fashion magazines, architectural publications etc.
The common theme underpinning the success of these initiatives is that these novel marketing ideas, or PR, are inherently credible because consumers KNOW that the product's endorsement does not come from its vendor but from "trusted" third-party mavens in the society. Advertising on the other hand suffers from an intrinsic bias of hawking one's wares.
That, to me, is the crux of this all-too-important argument and the one that Ries & Ries intended to veer their book around.
HOWEVER, I am sorry to say that their endeavour is a mediocre one at best as they try to wrap a blanket around the question and suggest that ONLY public relations is the cassandra call that marketers need to heed. Doesn't tickle my fancies, sorry. The truth is not black or white. If Sony gives up all advertising and relies ONLY on creative little PR ideas to do ALL its marketing, it is anyone's guess what will happen to it in the medium to long run. It smacks of intellectual dishonesty to cite examples of doozy advertising campaigns such as the one from -- and conveniently skipping the pitfalls of unsuccessful PR -- to grind their one-sided axe. Doesn't really help their case that PR is not really "this new marketing strategy", it has just been used creatively by the examples they impose on the readers.
But this logical fallacy aside, the book also disappoints against the litmus of purely a decent casual read. Several cliches line the text ("sky's the limit", "throw gasoline on fire"), as do unbelievable exaggerations ("Every brand that got to the top got there through PR" -- I dont think so, sorry).
For a much more succint yet compelling treatment of this subject, I recommend the first chapter of the book "HBR on Brand Management" which talks about media allocations. For the practice of PR in general, you'd be better off reading the much more balanced "The Practice of Public Relations" by Fraser Seitel.
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What we have here is an absolutely brilliant essay which has been extended (but not fully developed) into a book. Other than a few exceptions such as the release of a new film or an announcement of deep-discount airline fares, I agree with the Rieses' comprehensive assertion that "You can launch new brands only with publicity or public relations (PR). PR allows you to tell your story indirectly through third-party outlets, primarily the media....Advertising should follow PR in both timing and theme. Advertising is a continuation of public relations by other means [a nice variation by the Rieses on one of von Clausewitz' core concepts] and should be started only after a PR program has run irs course. Furthermore, the theme of an advertising program should repeat the perceptions created in the mind of the prospect by the PR program."
I agree completely. Unfortunately, the Rieses make the essentially the same assertion over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again throughout their book. Long ago, I believe it was John Hill who said that public relations worthy of the name should be "truth well-told." Again, I completely agree. Perhaps PR's primary objective is merely to explain with information (exposition)...or to make vidid with compelling details (description)...or to explain a process or sequence with information (narration)...or to convince with logic and/or evidence (argumentation). If the primary objective of public relations is brand building, all four levels of discourse will probably be required. Of course the Rieses fully understand all this. Indeed, as you may recall, their core assertion is that effective public relations (NOT advertising) is essential to successful brand building. What they neglect to point out is that there are unlimited needs for "truth well-told," many of which have absolutely nothing to do with commerce.
This book is worth reading. Much of what the Rieses suggest is thought-provoking. The content is solid. The writing is serviceable, although constantly recycling the same ideas becomes is tedious and then irritating. (On several occasions, I exclaimed aloud "I got it! I got it! Enough already! Move on!" This book is by no means in the same league with Ries and Trout's Positioning, Levitt's The Marketing Imagination, Aaker's Building Strong Brands, and Harvard Business Review on Brand Management. Were it an essay, I would highly recommend it but as a book, (barely) Four Stars.
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on September 7, 2002
The fundamental principle is public relations first, advertising second. The message is strong--over and over and over again, starting with the title. The authors, respected marketing consultants (previously-published gurus?), relate that marketers have placed advertising on a pedestal. Advertising is King. Long Live Advertising!
Wrong, they say. Advertising has historically and consistently been a waste of money. They cite case after case (it gets tiring after a while) of major advertising campaigns, many very well known, that were highly successful in winning awards and high profits for advertising agencies . . . but did not accomplish the results for the clients. I suspect there are great case studies of ad campaigns that increased sales substantially, but the authors don't share those examples. Instead they relate story after story of advertising's failure to deliver sales, preaching in page after page that sales actually suffered-especially in relation to competitors' sales--as a result of advertising. The reader gets the distinct sense that most advertising is a total waste of money and a manifestation of poor management. If this message takes hold in corporate America, advertising media such as magazines, newspapers, billboards, and broadcast will be in serious trouble.
The first section of the book is an extensive, perhaps overdone, sermon against the evils and misfortunes of advertising. The second section explores how public relations--publicity--has been substantially more effective and considerably less expensive for organizations seeking to communicate their message and attract customers. In section three, Ries and Ries suggest that advertising does have it's place, behind PR, to maintain the brand established through PR.
The authors complete the book with a series of short comparisons about what Advertising is, compared to what Public Relations is. Examples: Advertising is the Wind; PR is the Sun. Advertising is Spatial; PR is Linear; Advertising Reaches Everybody, PR Reaches Somebody; and Advertising is Brand Maintenance, PR is Brand Building. Postscript chapters for management, advertising, and PR complete the book, which is supported by a helpful index.
It's an interesting book that probably could have been a bit shorter, given that the early section began to get repetitive . . . almost boring. The authors offer a wide range of good points; the book is instructive. Some will argue with the premise of the book, but it makes sense when you consider that various aspects of the presentation. Is there a counterpoint? Are there examples of successful advertising campaigns? Is this situation black & white, or are their significant shades of grey?
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on December 28, 2003
Al Ries (and Jack Trout at that time) created blockbusters classics books POSITIONING and MARKETING WARFARE.
I think Al Ries still wrote a great marketing book and this one is worth reading and thinkering.
PR creates branding, advertising defend the brand, hmmm. both are important.
The book is easy to read and hold a lot of truth. It is a bit "bitter" for the advertising people (and they will probably hate the book or play some other defences). But i agree that a lot of new advertising is more of an "ART" than a tool for better sales. I love Al Ries thinkering about whatever loses its functions will become an "art" ( think horse, paintings, even architectures etc) and that advertising is in the danger of losing its function (to make better sales) and becoming an "art" instead.
A lot of truth and things to think about and to learn from the book, even that it is very "opinionated".
I think this is one of the "have to read" for people in advertising, PR, marketing and even CEO.
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on September 23, 2003
With a title like this, why would anyone in the advertising world want to read this book?
Two reasons. One, some clients are bound to and forewarned is forearmed. But better yet, many of the points the authors make can be easily refuted.
To start with, they have a marked propensity for the "assertion" school of argumentation, i.e. state one fact: Nissan ran a popular ad. State a second fact: Nissan's sales went down. Conclusion: The ad didn't increase sales. Did anyone say "post hoc ergo propter hoc"?
But, to be fair, they definitely do a good job of describing many of the flaws of the traditional ad agency model: its over-reliance on creativity for creativity's sake; its penchant for line extensions and its inability to build on ideas "not invented here". And they make a very good case for what is at the core of brand building, namely novelty. There's no question that new ideas, new names and new categories are what makes news.
However, some of the public relations triumphs they cite seem utterly disconnected from the day-to-day world of PR practice. The mere fact that Sony's Playstation ended up on the cover of Newsweek or that at one point in time there were more articles about Amazon than former president Clinton can't automatically be attributed to the efforts of some PR agent or surely the authors would have named him or her. On the contrary, both of these items were just newsworthy. Thus, the apocalyptic title of this book may be stretching it a bit.
But, in the end, this book does suggest a new definition of the role of mass advertising that should come as music to the industry's ears. What they maintain is that mass advertising's fundamental role is as insurance to protect a brand's established franchise. In other words, while it may take a host of things to establish a new brand, once that brand is established and begins to lose some of its novelty and newsworthiness it needs something-ads-to protect its position. This is an interesting observation and an important one to advertising agencies because it plays right into the natural tendency of clients (and businesspeople in general) to want to minimize risk. Positioning advertising as another tool in the risk-avoidance area, like interest rate swaps or commodity hedges, as opposed to as an imperfect tool for brand building might give advertising an entirely new saliency.
And who in the ad business doesn't want that?
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on September 15, 2002
Al Ries has written some of the basic texts of marketing wisdom. While this book contains some interesting facts and is useful as a reference for those marketers that may want to have some facts at their fingertips for making tactical decisions or to use in presentation to management, the argument is not convincing. First and foremost, every good marketer knows that advertising is only part of the mix, as is P.R. And, a good marketing communications "buy" includes direct, out of home, sales support, point of sale, etc. etc. Further, you can't buy PR. Journalists are justifiably aware of product pitches and know a good story when they see one. When Ries suggests that getting PR is as simple as buying advertising he falls down in his argument. Buy the book if you need the facts. This is not a brilliant marketing text.
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on October 16, 2002
Don't be victimized by this shallow, self serving analysis that is purely intended to stir up controversy thereby selling books at the expense of the readers best interests and the reputation and credibility of the authors. There are too many flaws in their reasoning to discuss here, but here are the main ones.
-- They indite advertising by calling attention to the dot bombs and their advertising campaigns... as though advertising caused the failure of these Internet based companies. Let's use their cover story as a case in point. Was the failure of the result of it's ad campaign or was it because the company was founded on a flawed business model? The campaign was very creative and memorable. People loved the sock puppet. But not enough to make them go online and order mass quantities of dog food and cat chew toys! People naturally prefer to buy that stuff as needed in the grocery store. Don't hang that one on the advertising, Al. The best P/R in the world couldn't have saved that company.
-- Other examples of "advertising failures" are similarly flawed. Did Chevrolet lose market share because they advertised, or because the Japanese and Germans built better cars at cheaper prices? If they had placed P/R stories instead of ads, would consumers have paid more to get an inferior car? Don't be absurd.
-- They indite advertising as being less credible and more self serving than P/R which is viewed as a third party source. That may be true, but that also makes P/R an undependable medium when it comes to promoting a brand. Why? Because the print editors and broadcast producers ARE a third party and they may or may not decide to run your story! They may not review your product, they may decide to blast it or they might ridicule and make fun of it. And, even if the editor was planning on giving you a favorable story, a heavy news day could wipe it out. P/R firms don't guarantee placement, so you could pay out big bucks and come away with nothing but a few mentions in some minor publications.
-- It's clear that neither Al nor Laura Reis have ever practiced P/R. They contend that P/R is best suited for building the brand and generating awareness. After you have built the brand, they say advertising is acceptable for maintaining it. (This contradicts what they say about the market share loses of Coke and Chevy) But the authors forget that start-ups with no recognition are often considered un-newsworthy and frequently get overlooked by editors. Let's say you are a busy editor or producer bombarded with hundreds of press releases on new products and companies. Are you more likely to look at a release from Coca-Cola or some new company called Ima-cola II? Let's consider a business-to-business scenario. You have two releases. One is from Microsoft and another is from Bumstuck Software. Who's product get's reviewed?
-- And, who says the media is unbiased? A few jounalists have integrity, but the papers and stations they work for can compromise that integrity in a heartbeat. If a company is spending a million in advertising with AOL/Time Warner, would you say they would get more attention than a company that spends zilch? If the company that's spending zilch starts getting enough publicity to begin taking market share from their large rivals, who is the media going to protect...their loyal advertisers or a new brand that says they don't believe in advertising?
-- Finally, the Reis duo claims that success in launching a new product is contingent on P/R to position the company as the first in a category! Like Atari was first in the video game category? Like Commodore was first in the desk top computer category? Like Prodigy was first in the IP category? Instead of being the first mover, it's better to be the last man standing. That's the lesson the Reis' team should have learned from the dot bombs.
A legendary ad man named Howard Luck Gossage said that, "People don't read ads. People read what interests them. And, sometimes, that's an ad! If you write an intriguing ad people will pay attention. If your message is believable, people will believe it. GOOD advertising works. So does GOOD P/R. But bad advertising and bad P/R are wastes of money. Any new revelations here?
Both advertising AND P/R are components of any good integrated marketing campaign. The advantage of advertising is that it says what you want, when you want to say it and in the medium in which you want it to be placed. It's credible if you write good copy and articulate a believable case for your product. P/R may be more credible, but only IF it is favorably written, IF it is favorably placed and IF it appears at the right time to help move your product. Those are some pretty big "IF's". Any brand manager that knows his profession, will use both advertising and P/R in tandem to generate brand preference. But for most brands, the mix should favor good advertising versus undependable P/R!
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on September 17, 2002
Interesting, yes; convincing? Hardly. You will not be surprised to learn that the Ries are in the business of PR, and this book is nothing more than an extended sales pitch to prosepctive customers.
There are still plenty of good examples out there on the efficacy of good advertising campaigns. Consider the single bet-the-company ad that turned from a near-bankrupt entity into a profitible enterprise. Or Apple's original Mac ad.
Advertising, like any other business, has its share of trends and fads, and right now the big fad is PR-based advertising. This, too, will pass, and we won't have to read books like this one.
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on November 17, 2002
What a breath of fresh air! Too often I see "Marketing Cconsultants" recommend that their client must "Advertise!" Why? To achieve key marketing/communication objectives for the client? Nah. Fat commission from recurring revenue comes to mind. I feel physically ill each time a client mentions they want to advertise or that a consultant recommended that they do so. Sigh.
The Ries' delineate the roles of advertising PR in clear and entertaining way. Many practitioners likely take issue with their elevation of PR to top dog. Such an attitude makes it all that easier for their competitors, and likely leaves them wondering why their advertising heavy promotion mix isn't spawning results. Read this book to get a clue.
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