2016 inductee

Al Ries

Position when inducted: Marketing Strategist and Author

Al Ries is a legendary marketing strategist and the bestselling author of 11 books which have sold over three million copies worldwide, including PositioningMarketing WarfareThe 22 Immutable Laws of MarketingFocus and The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR.

In 1972, Al co-authored the now infamous three-part series of articles declaring the arrival of the “Positioning Era” in Advertising Age magazine. The concept of positioning revolutionized how people viewed advertising and marketing, which was traditionally thought of as communications. Positioning told marketers to forget communicating the benefits of a brand, instead you need to look inside the mind of the consumer to find a position you can own. Success depends on finding an open hole in the mind and then become the first to fill the hole with your brand name.

Positioning wasn’t the only big idea Al Ries contributed to marketing. In his six decades of work, Al has introduced many new ideas including focus, origin of brands, immutable laws of branding and the rise of PR. His latest book, War in the Boardroom, covers the battle between marketing and management over strategy.

As a marketing consultant, Al has worked with hundreds of companies around the world including Apple, Disney, Doritos, Frito-Lay, Ford, Microsoft, Monsanto, Georgia-Pacific, Great Wall Motors, P&G, Papa John’s Pizza, Samsung, Siemens and Unilever.

He started his career in the ad department of General Electric, and six years later joined Needham Louis & Broby and then Marsteller Inc. By 1963, he was ready to break out on his own and founded the Ries Cappeillo Colwell advertising agency. It was a successful as a B-to-B agency, but the launch of the positioning concept put them on the map and became the buzzword of the decade. The agency was renamed Trout & Ries Advertising in 1979, with Al serving as chairman, and in the long-awaited Positioning book was published in 1981. Al and Jack Trout went on to write four additional books together: Marketing WarfareBottom-up MarketingHorse Sense and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

Al began the third act of his career in 1994 when he joined with his daughter Laura Ries, fresh out of Northwestern University and after a short stint at TBWA Advertising, to form Ries & Ries consulting.

In 1996, Al wrote his seminal classic book Focus. which continues to be his mantra for successful brand building and positioning. In 1997, the Ries duo relocated to Atlanta for the weather and access to the world’s busiest airport. Over the past 20 years, Al and Laura have written five books together including The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, The 11 Immutable Laws of Internet BrandingThe Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PROrigin of Brands and War in the Boardroom. Their latest marketing ideas are Visual Hammer and Battlecry, with Al writing the prefaces to these two books published by Laura.

Al turns 90 years old in 2016, but you would never know it. He continues to actively work full-time consulting with clients, writing his Advertising Age column and traveling the world giving speeches, going to Sri Lanka, Italy, Japan and China in the last year alone. The Ries & Ries China office has been particularly busy the past decade, educating and consulting with Chinese marketing professionals on the principles of positioning and focus.

Al has served as president of the Association of Industrial Advertisers (now the Business Marketing Association) and president of the Advertising Club of New York.

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