Laura Ries on Positioning: Verbal Nail Visual Hammer

Laura founded Ries & Ries consulting in 1994 with her partner/father and Positioning pioneer. Together the dynamic duo consult with companies around the globe including Disney, Ford, Frito-Lay, Papa John’s Pizza, Samsung and Unilever on brand strategy. 

Laura’s first solo book, Visual Hammer (2012) says that driving an idea into the mind is best done with the emotional power of a visual.  Her latest book Battlecry (2015) complements Visual Hammer by outlining five strategies for improving the effectiveness of a company’s slogan or tagline.


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Alzay Calhoun:  Hey, everybody. It's Alzay Calhoun with Coveted Consultant. Today, I'm speaking with Laura Ries. Laura Ries happens to be in the business of positioning because her family is in the business of positioning. I'll let her tell us more about that in just a minute.

She has written a book called "Visual Hammer." She really enjoys focusing on helping clients focus. We want to talk about that today. First, let's start with just saying hello. Hello, Laura. How are you today?

Laura Ries:  Hello. It is great to be here. Thanks so much.

Alzay:  Thanks for spending your time with us today. Let's start with when you understood personally that positioning, branding were important topics.

Laura:  It goes back a long way, because it was when I read my dad's book, "Positioning." [laughs] That was when I was in middle school. I picked it up and I read it. Nobody thinks that their parents are very exciting, but I read that book.

It really registered with me. It made sense in so many levels, that, "What is branding?" I loved watching commercials, but what it took for a brand to get in the mind of the consumer, and that's where the battles were won or fought. They weren't fought on a 30‑second commercial. They were fought inside the brain and mind of the consumer. That book stuck with me.

Talking with my dad over the dinner table about companies and his clients, and everything really resonated. I looked forward to spending my life doing what he does. Like you said, I'm in the business of branding and positioning and I really enjoy it.

Alzay:  Let's take a quick snap shot, if we can, of those dinner time conversations of what you and your father were talking about as companies were trying to figure out branding stuff and were having some challenges. What are some of the common themes that are typically where the breakdowns lie?

Laura:  I remember, it was yesterday. My dad had some meetings with Coors. At that time, Coors was only on the West Coast. It was a really hot brand. He talked to them and they were thinking...The biggest problem many companies get into is they line‑extend.

They think that by having more varieties, more products, that they're going to be a bigger success and have more sales. Just the opposite is true. If you can narrow your focus, if you can create a category, dominate a category, that's much more powerful.

At that time, this was in the late '70s and early '80s, when light beer was a small niche market really. Coors had the opportunity. They were the unique insight, that he came away from that, that Coors was the original, the pioneer of light beer.

It was a light beer because the Rocky's were [laughs] a mile up. It had to be lighter. They called it the Colorado Kool‑Aid. He met with Coors. I remember it, again, like it was yesterday.

He said, "Listen, guys. Don't line‑extend. Don't come out with Coors Lite. Don't do what Miller Lite, and Bud Lite, and everybody else was doing. Position not with a line extension but keep your brand focused and be lite beer. That's it. The other guys will seem less authentic and you'll be the real thing."

Did they listen? No, unfortunately not. They [laughs] did not listen. Coors Lite continues to be a success today for several reasons, including the very powerful silver bullet idea and visuals. But again, they had, I think, an opportunity that was missed and they took the line extension route instead of keeping that brand focused, or launching a second brand.

That's an opportunity someone like Coke could have had or could have taken with Diet Coke instead of extending and line‑extending that brand.

Alzay:  When we think about large companies like those kinds of companies, Coke, and the Coors brands, and Pepsi, those are brand management companies. They are essentially big umbrella companies with these little bitty brands inside. In that world, don't line extensions make sense? That's what they do. They create another little sub‑brand in the larger idea. Help us understand when or when that doesn't make sense to do.

Laura:  Absolutely. Brand management, as they call it, and they teach this in many business schools. While it might make sense within the structure of a big company, what it doesn't make sense is in the mind of the consumer. [laughs] Because you go to a bar and you say, "Give me a Miller" and they say, "What kind of Miller do you want? Do you want Miller Lite, Miller Dry, Miller Draft, Miller this, Miller that?"

In the mind you have to be able to put it in a slot and line extension causes confusion for the consumer. Consumers are really interested, not in the brands, but in categories. Those brands represent the categories, but when you put your brand name on multiple categories that causes confusion.

The opportunity for a big company...they have the opportunity to launch multiple brands. Multiple brands that can hold their own in each category that they dominate. One of the reasons why big companies don't take advantage of launching multiple brands is they think it's too expensive. They said, "Oh my gosh, if I launch a new brand it's gonna cause me all the slotting fees. It's going to cost 50 million in advertising."

But all of that is wrong. Brands, first of all, shouldn't be launched with advertising. They need to PR, they create credentials and authenticity. Brands don't take off rapidly. You want to roll them out slowly. But big companies often don't have the patience it takes.

It took Red Bull many years to reach 10 million in sales, 10 years to reach a hundred million. Coke thought it was nothing. They didn't do anything about it until it was too late, 'til Red Bull had dominated, created that new category, "energy drink." Coke came back later, trying to launch brands to compete against that. Being copycat, "me too" brands gets you nowhere. Coke has gone nowhere in the energy drink field.

Alzay:  I want to make sure we really grasp what you said. A lot of extensions make sense for the structure of the company, because that's how you've always done things.

Laura:  Yes.

Alzay:  But lot of extensions may not make sense in the mind of the consumer. Did I hit that right?

Laura:  Correct. First of all, for a company, they are in love with their brand. They want to put their brand on everything, because they're corporate. Think about Kodak. If you're working at Kodak, you have the biggest, best photography brand in the world. Everyone thinks it means quality, and all sorts of things, it doesn't, but Kodak dominated with film photography. Unfortunately, things change.

What happened, of course, we all know today, was digital photography. What should Kodak have done? Kodak had two choices. Kodak could extend the Kodak brand into digital, a brand everybody knows and loves. That makes sense, right? Or they could have launched a second, separate brand to represent the new digital age.

Kodak wasn't behind in the technology. They launched the first digital camera. They had the technology. What they didn't have was the brand. They were so in love with Kodak, they couldn't fathom launching a brand without the Kodak name. We know how this turned out. It didn't turn out well, at all. Consumers don't want a digital camera from Kodak. It makes no sense in their minds.

They turn to digital companies for digital products. Kodak, therefore, went bankrupt, and is no longer around today the way it once was.

Alzay:  That's really strong. Again, you made the point about being understood in the category. In the minds of customers, they have a choice, choice A, choice B, and choice C. They're not thinking about a brand, and then sub‑brand A, sub‑brand B, or sub‑brand, or sub‑brand, or sub‑brand.

Laura:  Exactly. You have to think about in the mind. In the mind, how it's broken down is into categories. Customers think in categories. Once they think about that category, they think about the brands in relevance to that category, whether it's the leader, or whether it's BMW, focused on driving, or Volvo, focused on safety.

They don't think, "I want a Honda. What kind of Honda do I want? Do I want a motorcycle? Do I want a lawn mower?" [laughs] "Do I want a toaster?" They don't think like that. That was the original concept of positioning, that there were ladders in the mind. You had to position your brand within that.

When someone goes to the mind, they first think what category. "I need some energy." Well, I could have a Red Bull. They speak in brands, but they think in categories. That's where some of the confusion comes to play.

Alzay:  As the general business acumen has increased, we understand positioning, at least we have that language. Positioning is important.

Laura:  Absolutely.

Alzay:  We now have positioning statements. We have these, "We intend to be the blank, blank, blank of our industry," "We are the 1, 2, 3 of our industry." How's that working for us?


Alzay:  In the work that you do, how well is that working for companies?

Laura:  You bring out a great point. Everyone knows the word and idea, positioning. Every company has a positioning statement. What they don't realize is that the key to a successful positioning is a focus. The key to having a positioning that's going to work, is you have to have a narrow focus.

Why? The narrow focus enables you to get in the mind. We live in an over‑communicated society. Everyone's saying everything. How are you going to break through the clutter? You're going to break through the clutter by having a narrow idea, by standing for one thing. For Chick‑fil‑A, it's the chicken sandwich. That's how they built their brand. For Domino's, it was delivery. [laughs]

Those ideas are positionings that are focused, and therefore, get in the mind. All too often, you see a positioning statement that, "We're a big industry in lots of categories with great people, great service, and low prices." That's going to get you nowhere. [laughs] You've got to stand for something in order to get in the mind. That's why we emphasize focus so much.

Positioning, it's a great idea, but it's not going to work unless you have a focus. That's the key ingredient that's going to make your brand successful.

Alzay:  Focus, right? That's something I've heard before. I know what it means to focus. I focus. I've got work. I've got things I focus on. I've got my "priorities," right?

Laura:  Yep.

Alzay:  If I'm running a business and I'm trying to get my brand focused, what aren't I doing? Clearly, I'm not doing something right, because I'm not seen as the number one. Help me understand focus more practically in my day to day.

Laura:  Sure. How about a great example. One is, at a time the Emirates air freight was the worldwide leader in delivery. Then came along a company called Federal Express, and their strategy was to do everything Emirates did with great quality and lower cost. This is going to be a great advantage to get out there. You know what? It didn't do them any good. [laughs] They didn't get anywhere because people, in general, pick the winner.

They think the leader, that's going to get their package there. Then they had another idea, "Why don't we focus?" Like Emirates, Federal Express had two‑day, three‑day, and overnight, three types of service. Now, they didn't change their service, as a matter of fact.

The fallacy is most people say, "I got three types of service and I'm gonna promote all of them. I'm gonna communicate all of them, I'm gonna position all of them." The better idea is to choose one. You don't always have to change what you do, sometimes it's a good idea too, but you don't necessarily have to change.

FedEx said, "We're going to focus on..." what at that time was the smallest part of the business, overnight was a small deal. But they said, "You know what? There's an opportunity here." They promoted the heck out of overnight, with a very nice slogan. When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight, they positioned that right at the executives. You want to make a statement? You've got to FedEx it.

They focused on that and they communicated that one part of their business, and that built them into one of the world leaders in overnight and delivery package services.

Alzay:  They made a decision right, as a company?

Laura:  Yeah.

Alzay:  They made a decision to communicate a very specific piece of the business. If I recall, correct me if I'm wrong, at that point in time FedEx, that wasn't necessarily what they did best?

Laura:  Right. [laughs]

Alzay:  It's just what they chose to own.

Laura:  What it was, is there was an opportunity, because nobody was talking about that. The key is, what is the open hole in the mind? If everyone is talking about...Everyone was talking about at that time, caffeine‑free Coca Cola and low sugar this. Red Bull came out with double the caffeine, and all sorts of things.

There's opportunity always to be the opposite. Listerine is a bad‑tasting mouthwash. Why is it bad? It kills the germs. The taste you hate twice a day, that's a powerful position. They are a leader, but there's also an opportunity to be the opposite. The open hole was, how about the good‑tasting mouthwash, and that's exactly what Scope did. That's why today's Scope is a powerful number two.

There's always good sides and down sides. Maybe people don't think good‑tasting works as well but, who wants to have medicine breath?

Alzay:  Right.

Laura:  Most companies say they're in the category, they say, "All right, the leader's doing a great job, we'll just copy what the leader does. They must know what they're doing" Uh‑uh. The better idea is, "All right, they own that, why don't we do something else?" Either be the opposite in this category or create a new category we can be first in.

Think about PowerBar. What did PowerBar do? It's a candy bar, it's sugar. [laughs] But they say, it was an energy bar, and created a new category in the mind of the consumer.


Alzay:  Let's see if we can go into the corporate boardroom, where we're now having this conversation, you're sharing these stories. As you share them, there's energy in them. These are the stories of winners, and we like to hear the stories of winners.

Laura:  Yeah.

Alzay:  But what you're also communicating are some trade‑offs that have to be made, some decisions to be one thing and not something else. We have to dedicate some resources to these new ideas. Help us understand some things that you have to do. You've got to focus, we got that part. Now that we've made that decision and we acknowledged that we have to focus, what else do we do? What else is important to go along with that focus?

Laura:  You bring out an interesting point, because a lot of these conversations do go on in the boardrooms, whether you're a big company or a small company, usually have different ideas around the table. People, we say, are broken up into two types, we have management types and marketing types.

Management are good left‑brainers, they're good talkers, they know the numbers, they know the analytics. Marketing people tend to be great right‑brainers. The two conflict because marketing doesn't follow the general rules. Marketing deals in perception, management deals in reality. They look at the reality of the situation. Well, the reality doesn't matter because all that matters is the perception in the mind.

Management thinks about, "We just want better products. Better products are going to win." That's not necessarily true. Many times, it's a different product that wins. You have to understand within your company, talking and convincing the management type of people, why marketing is different and why they need to listen to your advice.

Giving them examples, we found, is the best way of showing this, by analogy of how this worked or that worked. It makes sense that Kodak had the better opportunity to go into digital, but it didn't work in the mind because the perception was that they were photographic film, not a digital company.

Alzay:  Great point. Separate from what Kodak was, you already made the point, all this robust expertise, robust technology, etc. The perception in their clients minds, their customers minds, was they were a very specific thing.

Laura:  Absolutely.

Alzay:  Very good.

Laura:  You definitely have to think not just about the reality, but also the perceptions that your consumers have about your company, as well as your competitors. I think way too often, people are so concerned about their brand and what they're doing, they forget about they have to deal with the competition. The competition plays a big part. If the competitor owns a position, it's going to be very hard to take that position away from them.

It's better to look for an open opportunity that you can go after.

Alzay:  You have a concept. What we just discussed are the words, and concepts, and phrasing, and you call those verbal nails or you will develop a verbal nail, a clear position. You have a partnering concept that goes with that. Tell us about this visual hammer concept.

Laura:  Yeah, absolutely. The key to branding is owning a word or idea in the mind, and that's the verbal nail. For BMW, it's driving. But how do you get that word in the mind? One of the problems today is we got words everywhere. [laughs] Everywhere, they're bombarded at us. It's very difficult to get attention with a word, to get memorability with a word. That, in fact what we found is, it's very helpful to have a visual that drives that word into the mind.

Visuals have an emotional power and connection that words simply don't. Think about looking at the picture of a baby versus the word "baby." Your intellectual side says, "Well, they communicate the same thing." They don't. They do it in totally, totally different ways. If you have a brand that you can connect and find a visual that drives in the idea...

Think about Corona beer. Corona beer is now the leading imported beer in America. How did they do it? The interesting part is Corona was going nowhere in Mexico. It was a cheap working class beer.

But the importers into the United States said, "There's something about this beer. It got authenticity. We're gonna bring it into America. We're gonna sell it through Mexican restaurants," and Mexican food was taking off. But they added one thing to that. What did they add? They stuck a lime in it. [laughs] They said, "When you serve a Corona, you've got to stick a lime in it."

What did the lime communicate? It communicated Mexico. Mexico is a lime country. America, US, is a lemonade, lemon, country. That lime communicated the authenticity of the Mexican beer and Corona has taken off. It has unseated Heineken because it delivered something. Of course, it gained attention when people said, "Hey, what is that? What are you drinking over there?"

The same thing, Stella did, Stella from Belgium. It's kind of the butt of Belgium, but they came into the United States, and they said, "Don't drink this in a glass. You drink it in a chalice." And now, you've got grown men drinking beer out of a chalice. It's amazing!

Once you find a visual hammer, they use it on everything. Corona uses the lime in the bottle as the advertising, the chalice...They don't sell all the beer in bottles. They sell it in cans and they put a picture of the chalice on the can. Terrific idea to reinforce it. The same way, one of the best visual hammers in the world is Coca‑Cola.

What does Coke have? They have that beautiful contoured bottle. What does that communicate? It communicates the authenticity and the fact that Coke is the real thing.

They created the category. You see that bottle everywhere. They don't sell a lot of Coke in bottles. They sell it mostly in paper cups and cans, but that picture is on those cups and cans. It's on their trucks. It's on their ads. Coca‑Cola has done a great job of reinforcing that brand's credibility and authenticity by the use of a visual hammer.

It's not words alone. It's when you can lock it in with a visual to emotionally communicate your idea.

Alzay:  Very strong. It's the combination of those two things that begins to effectively communicate.

Laura:  Think about it. You have one mind, but you have two brains. There's the left brain and the right brain. The left brain, as I said, is the analytical, it's the rational side. The right brain is the emotional side, to use the big picture.

When you communicate the strong, focused, verbal idea with the emotional, visual idea, you're hitting both sides of the brain. You give people double the reason to choose your brand, to remember your brand, and to keep it in their mind.

Alzay:  Very strong. I think we've gone a long way in a short amount of time. Is there anything that we've missed, anything that's really important to capture while we're in this moment?

Laura:  The latest thing that we've added to the verbal nail and the visual hammer, the one last piece is we call a battle cry. Many companies have a tagline or a slogan. We think it's even more important that if you can find a way to make a memorable battle cry, when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight, people remember that.

It communicates something about that. It tells not just the consumer, but it reminds your employees what they're there for. Think about, "Avis is number two. We try harder." They've put those buttons on the employees. Something about when you put a button saying, "We try harder," people tend to try harder.

It's not just a tagline. It's got to communicate something. There's easy ways that you can help the memorability of that battle cry. Things like rhymes. "If it fits, it ships." That box. You remember that because of rhyme, alliteration.

Many times you have alliteration in brand names, but you can also do it in the slogan. "Toys for tots," for example, or repetition, just repeating something. Little Caesars did that. "Pizza, pizza!" "Pizza, pizza!" Their positioning, their focus was two great pizzas for one low price because you picked it up.

Reversal is very helpful. Burger King, one of the best positioning they ever did was, "Broiling, not frying." We forget that Burger King had a difference from McDonald's. McDonald's fries their burgers. Burger King broils them. That's a big taste difference, one that they don't emphasize enough. What are they doing today? They're launching hot dogs. [laughs] Hot dogs, but the name is Burger King. What are they doing launching hot dogs?

Lastly, double entendre can be a great way to make your battle cry memorable. A diamond is forever. Suddenly with the slogan and this idea from De Beers, every young woman who gets engaged must have a diamond ring to symbolize the forever nature of their marriage and their commitment to their significant other. A great idea.

Alzay:  You concluded extremely well, so I won't add anything to it. What big projects are you working on now in the business? Anything new coming up, exciting, you want to share with us.

Laura:  Sure. For several years now, we've been doing a big project with one of the major auto companies in China, Great Wall Motors. It has been just a joy to see how they took our ideas and put them into practice.

At that time, they were into everything. They were the General Motors of China. They had small cars. They had SUVs. They had trucks. "How do we grow?" Most people would say, "We've got to add more stuff. Communicate your full line." Uh‑uh. That's the opposite. We said, "No way. You need to focus."

At that time, all of the companies were going, this was back in 2009, after sedans. Chinese consumers perceive sedans as more high‑end and luxurious. We said, "If everyone is doing sedans, you've got to do something different." They had a low‑cost, economical SUV, and we said, "Let's focus on that. Let's dominate."

There's a lot of advantages to SUVs. As we all know here in the US, every mom has got one. We said, "Low‑cost SUVs. Focus on that." They couldn't get out of all the other models but they did indeed focus on that. And also the name, Haval, a name that can work worldwide, globally. The opportunities to take that success of China and go international.

They did that, and they were extremely successful, and became the largest, most profitable Chinese automobile company by focusing on one model, on one idea, the low‑cost, and specifically, under a hundred thousand renminbi, which is about $14,000.

It was the positioning of SUVs and low cost. Very, very successful. Similar to, partly, what Hyundai did in the US market by having quality, low‑cost automobiles, the lowest cost on the market.

Unfortunately, think about what Hyundai did to undermine that success. What have they done it recently? Expensive Hyundais. [laughs] You could get $50, $60, $70,000 Hyundais. Who the heck wants that? You're going to spend $50,000, it better be a BMW or at least a Cadillac.

That's the fallacy. We've been working with Great Wall. They also want to wanted to come out with a more expensive SUV model. Their first instinct was to say, "Huvall! We've got the best selling SUV! Why don't we just take it up market?" You can't do that. It stands for the position in the mind. It owns the category, economical SUV. You dominate that category, and you take the opportunity to launch a second brand.

We're working with them to develop. They've got the technologies, but they do need the branding to make sure that that establishes a second position.

Look at the success Toyota did at exactly the same thing. Toyota wanted to come out with more expensive vehicles. There was a time when Japan was just seen for cheap, reliable cars. But Toyota said, "All right. We'll do it, but we are going to come out with a totally separate name and totally separate dealerships," and they called it Lexus.

Lexus, of course, today has become a great worldwide success positioned at expensive Japanese luxury. What's really interesting about the Lexus example is, traditionally, it's such a huge advantage to be first in a new category. They weren't first, as a matter of fact. Lexus was not the first expensive Japanese car.

Honda came it out first with the Acura. They were first on the market with a several‑year head start, but Acura made an error. They came out with four and six‑cylinder cars that were slightly less expensive than the six and eight‑cylinder models, which was more luxurious, more expensive than Lexus did. Acura never got the perception once Lexus came in that they were truly a luxury automobile.

After they had the initial success, eventually, Lexus took over because they were the real thing in terms of luxury by combining the price. If you're going to be luxurious, you have to have high costs. It's part of it. Cost is an important indicator to consumers.

Think about Starbucks. One of the positioning of Starbucks was to charge a lot. It was a hard sell, initially. People said, "Four bucks? You've got to be kidding me!" That was a big part of what positions them as the expensive coffee shop. Today, they have created that category, and they dominate that category.

Alzay:  Really strong, Laura. I appreciate the stories. I appreciate the examples because our listeners are going to appreciate the stories and the examples. They help us understand the application of these concepts so they feel less theoretical and much more practical, useful, valuable in our day‑to‑day, as business people.

If someone wants to reach out to you, to work with your firm, to at least begin the conversation of working with your firm, where should they go? How do they start?

Laura:  They start right from our main website, which is Our books are great resource for anyone to gain more knowledge about the concepts and principles, as well as we do consulting and work with companies all over the world in helping them put our principles into practice. I will say, visual hammer in such an important idea that almost anyone can try to put into play in their business today.

To think about, what kind of visual can we find to communicate this? To make it easy, and in the book it talks about this, but we break it into 10 different areas, you can think about. This is the cheat sheet we use when we work with a client because we know we want to find a visual hammer, but where do you start looking?

You can think about things like shape, for instance. Target uses that. Obviously, the name is target so they use a very simple target image. In retail, visibility is incredibly important and that target symbol has become very powerful. Of course, they own a position. What is that? It's a cheap chic. They call it Tar‑shay. It's fancy. They've focused on that in hiring designers to make their products.

While inexpensive and a mass merchant retailer, they also have a little design edge to them, and the stores are well lit and laid out compared to their competitor Walmart, which is cheap but definitely not fashionable.

A single color is something that's very interesting and very important. Many people think multiple colors are better. They are more attractive, and that is true, but a single color is more powerful because it breaks through and identifies you with that.

You see what Apple did. The original Apple logo, if you're old enough to remember, was a beautiful rainbow apple. Very attractive. But what Steve Jobs did when he came back is he went to the simplified, single, white logo of Apple, and of course, he used that to glow on the computers and the back of the phones. You see that symbol and it's become a very, very powerful tool.

Not only that, they used that idea of owning the color white when they launched the iPod, and they made all those wires white. I mean, think about it. At the time, everybody had black wires. Nobody even thought about it until Apple said, "You know what? We're going to be different. We're going to be white wires and white earbuds."

And those became...In fact, even the visual campaign for the iPod, showing just the simple white wires. That has become a trademark for them, and very memorable for that brand.

Number three is, sometimes you can make something interesting about the product itself. For example, Life Savers. A candy, it's been around for a hundred years, but it's in the shape of a lifesaver and, of course, you don't choke on it. That was a big difference. It has that circle in the middle so you don't choke on it. That visual alone is very powerful in communicating that product.

For example, the Rolex watch band. Rolex was the first expensive watch. It's an expensive watch from Switzerland, but the watch band was very distinctive, and unique, and was very recognizable. Now, one fear companies have is, "Well, yeah OK, I've got a recognizable watch band. I'm Rolex. But what if somebody copies me? Oh no! It's going to be over!"

That's not true. Everyone has copied Rolex, but all those are seen as imitation, because the Rolex brand was so strong and so established that every other brand just looks like a competitor. So, they're totally fine.

Number four is package. Sometimes you can put your product in a unique package that gains attention. POM Wonderful, pomegranate juice. One of the super fruits. They've gotten a lot of PR and publicity around that, but they also picked a very unique...the two‑bubble kind of packaging to put it in.

Or Hanes. They wanted to launch pantyhose in supermarkets. They called it Leggs and they put them in plastic eggs. That package got a lot of attention. Today, they're the number one pantyhose brand.

Number five is action. Sometimes there's an action‑oriented part of your brand that you can play up. For Tropicana, it's the orange and you stick the straw in it. Nobody drinks orange juice that way. It doesn't make sense rationally, but emotionally, it communicated the idea not from concentrate.

Dove is the number one bar soap brand. The Dove's difference is it's a quarter moisturizing lotion. You say, "A quarter moisturizing lotion." That's a rational idea, but it's the visual that they showed to communicate it that's so powerful.

They showed on the commercials, a three‑quarter bar of soap, and they had some woman pouring a quarter cup of moisturizer. Again, not how they make the soap, but very powerful to communicate it.

Number six is founder. Many times you have an iconic founder that becomes the visual hammer. Even after they're gone. Think about KFC and Col. Sanders. They put that guy on the buckets of chicken, on the signs outside the door.

One great thing about visuals is that today we live in a global age. KFC is a big international brand. They're in 800 cities. 5,000 units in China alone. But you don't need translation for a picture. They have that picture of Col. Sanders. They translate the letters, obviously, but Col. Sanders becomes the visual worldwide no translation.

Number seven is symbol. Sometimes there's a unique symbol that can become the brand's visual hammer. Nike has the swoosh, and a lot of people say, "Oh, it's just a swoosh."

Well, a swoosh is a free hammer, because the swoosh doesn't communicate anything. But, they were first in a new category. When they picked a simple, uniquely identifiable visual, it stands for and reinforces Nike's leadership as the first serious athletic running shoe. They use that visual very strongly.

Number eight is celebrity. Sure. Many companies have, in fact, hired a celebrity to be a spokesperson, and sometimes it works out well, and sometimes it doesn't. Subway used Jared Fogle. They created a celebrity. He lost a ton of weight eating Subway sandwiches.

Unfortunately, people sometimes are not nice people [laughs] and you have to part ways. So there's always a double‑edged sword with a celebrity. Tiger Woods did great things for Accenture and other brands, but again, everyone dropped Tiger Woods like a hot potato, including his wife.

Number nine is animal. Animals are great because they usually don't cheat on their wives.


Laura:  And you have, of course, Twitter and the tweeting bird. Again, using that singular color, or you've got the cows for Chick‑fil‑As telling you to eat more chicken. John Deere. There's lots of examples of the ability to use an animal, or even Disney. Think about the beautiful mouse ears and how that visual has become such a strong, strong visual for them.

Then lastly is heritage. Sometimes, depending on your brand, there's a heritage angle that you can find a visual to communicate. One good example is Wells Fargo, it uses the stagecoach. Again, this is not how they move money anymore, but it talks back to their pioneering spirit and they are one of the leading banks in America.

Alzay:  Laura, I did not expect you to give us all 10 things.

Laura:  [laughs]

Alzay:  But I appreciate that you did. You just exhibited a point that's really important for us as consultants. It's not directly related to our conversation right now, but it is because you just did it.

One of the things as consultants is that our knowledge is our core product, and sometimes we get scared when we're invited to "give it away" because we don't want to give away our core product. We don't want to give away our intellectual property.

But there is extreme value if you can get over that mental hurdle, and I think for those who are listening right now, they just experienced that value. Because now you have clearly framed up what a visual hammer looks like, and what the options are.

So now when someone takes the next step in working with you, they have a sense of where you're coming from now. It's no longer a guessing game. We know we're going to end up choosing from one of these 10 areas and Laura's going to help us.

So again, not directly related to the conversation of storytelling, but certainly one of positioning. The framework you gave us, you have a picture in your mind about how you operate. So, thank you for being an example of that, because I didn't expect it. But you did. So, thank you for that. Thank you.

Laura:  Well, let me just say that you make an excellent point, because it goes to how a consultant positions themselves. If you are a consultant, you have to have principles and you have to be very good at explaining those principles. Because the reality is, it's not the principles.

You're not charging for the principles. You should be giving those away. You should be writing books, and giving speeches, and doing interviews, because the challenge is not knowing the principles or understanding the principles. The challenge is how to apply the principles to your situation.

That is extremely, extremely difficult, and that's where you hire a consultant. All the people that come to us, they know our books, they've read our books. They like it. They know it. But they have trouble applying it to their situation, because it's not easy. You have to take a lot of factors into consideration, and you have to know how it applies in this situation.

What do we need to think about? The competitors are different. The category's different. Every situation is different, and so it becomes very tricky to know what to do in each and every situation. That's where we hope to help people.

You have to see that everyone understanding these principles only makes our country and our world a better place, because if our companies and our brands our successful, we're all successful. That's what I hope to accomplish.

Alzay:  Indeed. Indeed. Laura, thank you so much. Thank you so much for your time today. Best of luck and hopefully, we can do this again.

Laura:  Sure, I'd love it. Thank you.

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