Guest Post: Are Words Obsolete in Marketing?

Laura Ries, is president of Ries & Ries, a marketing consulting firm in Atlanta. Laura and her partner/father, Al Ries have co-written six books on branding. In her new book, Visual Hammer, Ries argues that recent marketing successes are visual successes, not verbal ones. As a writer, I’m not certain how I feel about the author’s POV, but I will consider these 10 examples from her book, and take it (to our comments section) from there.

1. The lime.

Until 2009, there had never been a Mexican brand on Interbrand’s list of 100 most valuable global brands. There is now: Corona, the beer with the lime on top of the bottle.

Today, Corona is the 86th most valuable global brand, worth $3.9 billion. In the United States, Corona outsells Heineken, the No. 2 imported beer, by more than 50 percent.

2. The chalice.

A second imported beer is moving up the ladder in America and for exactly the same reason Corona was so successful. It’s Stella Artois from Belgium.

Stella Artois is the Budweiser of Belgium, so ordinary fast-food restaurants sell it in plastic cups.

No plastic cups for Stella Artois in the U.S. market. The importer provided bars and restaurants with its unique, gold-tipped chalice glasses.

Today, Stella Artois is one of the top 10 imported beer brands in America.

3. The silver bullet.

The only mainstream beer that has increased its market share in the past few years is Coors Light, the silver bullet.

Coors Light has already passed Miller Lite, the first light-beer brand, and recently Coors Light also steamed past Budweiser to become the second largest-selling beer brand in America.

4. The duck.

Then there’s the remarkable transformation of Aflac, the company that brought us the duck. In the year 2000, the company had name recognition of just 12 percent.

Today it’s 94 percent. And sales have gone up just as dramatically.

The first year after the duck arrived, Aflac sales increased 29 percent. And 28 percent the second year. And 18 percent the third year.

5. The pink ribbon.

In 1982, Nancy Brinker started a foundation to fight breast cancer in memory of her sister, Susan G. Komen, who had died from the disease. Since then, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has raised nearly $2 billion.

Today, it’s the world’s-largest non-profit source of money to combat breast cancer. A recent Harris poll of non-profit charitable brands rated Komen for the Cure as the charity that consumers were “Most likely to donate to.”

6. The red soles.

Look at the success of Christian Louboutin, a French designer who regularly tops The Luxury Institute’s index of “most prestigious women’s shoes.”

In 1992, he applied red nail polish to the sole of a shoe because he felt the shoes lacked energy.

“This was such a success,” he reported, “that it became a permanent fixture.” And ultimately built the phenomenally successful Louboutin brand.

7. The green jacket.

In the world of professional golf, there are four major championships: (1) The U.S. Open, (2) The British Open, (3) The PGA Championship and (4) The Masters. The first three are hosted by major golf organizations, but the Masters is hosted by a private club, the Augusta National Golf Club.

Every, year the Masters gets more attention than any of the other three events.

8. The colonel.

Consider KFC, now the leading fast-food restaurant chain in China with more than 3,800 units in 800 cities.

To most Chinese people, the letters “K F C” mean nothing, but Col. Sanders is known as a famous American and the leading fried-chicken brand.

9. The Coke bottle.

What Coca-Cola calls its “contour” bottle is 96 years old. Few are currently sold but recently, the company gave its iconic bottle a major role to play in its advertising programs.

The results have been impressive. Recently Diet Coke passed regular Pepsi-Cola to become the second best-selling cola drink.

10. The cowboy.

And look what the cowboy has done for Marlboro cigarettes. The year Marlboro was introduced, there were four strong cigarette brands in America: Lucky Strike, Camel, Winston and Chesterfield.

Yet today, Marlboro is by far the leading brand, outselling the next 13 brands combined.

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About David Burn

Native Nebraskan seeking the perfect pale ale in the Pacific Northwest. Copywriter and brand strategist at Bonehook. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. Contributor to The Content Strategist. Doer of the things written about herein.

  • Jeff

    When all you have is a visual hammer, everything looks like a nail

  • Joseph Randale

    @ Jeff, I really quite agree with you … I don’t actually think that words are quite obsolete in the marketing world.In fact they are powerful just make sure you include your deeds to make more shine. It’s just like when you create an event and you want them to know you. Then your custom show apparel items where your company logo can be seen would be the best giveaway for your potential clients.