Friday, March 07, 2008

WMC Interviews: Laura Ries


I recently had the honor and pleasure of talking with best-selling author Laura Ries about her experiences and advice for marketers today. Between TV appearances and speaking engagements on the west coast, Laura shared a bit about her start in marketing, writing with her dad, blogging, things brand marketers do that drive her nuts, and more. Here's the interview.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): Hordes of marketing professionals know you from the books you’ve co-authored with your father, Al Ries, such as The Origin of Brands and The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. What did you do before you became a bestselling author? What’s your background?

Laura Ries (LR): Before I was a bestselling author, I was in diapers. Just kidding, sort of. Growing up the daughter of Al Ries allowed me to get an early start in marketing. Since I was a little girl I was obsessed with advertising, products and commercials. I loved visiting my father’s advertising agency in Manhattan. We used to ride the train in from Long Island, take the subway uptown, I would draw my own ads with the art directors magic markers, make copies on the Xerox machine, have lunch at Burger King, come home and look forward to doing it again.

Well now I do it every day. Working with my dad is a dream come true. I did go to school though. I attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where I majored in radio/tv/film and graduated in the top 2% of my class. From there I got a job at TBWA Advertising where I was on the account management team for the Woolite and Evian accounts.

In 1994, Al and I made it official, became partners and opened Ries & Ries in New York. In 1997, with my new husband Scott Brown in tow we all moved down to Atlanta, Georgia.

Since then Al and I have worked with companies like Microsoft, Ford, Disney and Frito-Lay, have authored four books together and have toured the world giving speeches.


WMC: What made you decide to start writing?

LR: Well, when you have a partner that has already written 6 successful books you kind of fall into it. It is part of the job and part of the fun. When you feel you have something interesting to say, putting it down on paper is very cathartic. And having it well received is exhilarating. I am just thankful that by the time I joined the business we had computers. Al’s first book was written by hand and typed by a secretary on an IBM typewriter. No spell check, no cut & paste! What a nightmare.


WMC: How has blogging affected your other pursuits?

LR: I started blogging in 2004 and have been at it on a regular weekly basis basically ever since. It is a great exercise to write so often and allows me to immediately comment on breaking news items. With a book it can be two years before your typed word makes it from my computer to your eyes. With a blog it is almost immediate.


WMC: What do you see marketers doing today that really drives you nuts?

LR: Where do I begin? There are so many things that drive us nuts. And so many companies that we would run differently. The worst things are line-extensions and convergence products. Introducing things like C2 (mid-calorie cola), G2 (mid-calorie Gatorade), Special K protein water, combination refrigerators/televisions and the like.


WMC: What’s the one piece of marketing advice you’d give to someone just starting out in the field today?

LR: Build your own brand from day one. Find a focus and own a word in the mind. What sells toothpaste also builds a successful career. Too many people want to be well-rounded when the real advantage is being a specialist.


WMC: What’s the biggest or most important marketing lesson you’ve learned since you got started in all this?

LR: Nobody cares what you say about yourself. The only thing that matters is what other people say about you.

Therefore the key to branding is not what you say; it is what you can get others to say that really counts.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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