22 Branding Laws to Consider before Jumping into YouTube

22 Branding Laws for YouTube

I like books that last for decades rather than books that get a hit and in a couple of years nobody remember them. Over time, when it comes to quality, I’ve noticed that reading old books give you a precious insight that you know last for a while. It’s knowledge that puts you into the thinking mode rather than being alert to catch up some tactics, without giving you the thinking behind it.

Therefore, that means if the stuff have been around for decades is worth taking a look, right? There’s a book called The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (you might know the marketing version) from 1998. And again, it’s old but there’s a lot of insight that applies in today’s scene.

As you know in this site we talk about strategies, not tactics (not too often at least.) So let’s analyze how to use the 22 branding laws on YouTube to create something that lasts. (This is not a substitute of the book, which I recommend you to read, but it will give you a broad idea of how to create the perfect brand strategy.)

This is a long post and it might take you a while… Click here to download it in PDF to read it later, print it or share it. It includes a checklist to make sure you don’t leave anything behind in your brand strategy.

1. The Law of Expansion

The Law of Expansion: The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope.
If you want to build a powerful brand in the minds of consumers, you need to contract your brand, not expand it. In the long term, expanding your brand will diminish your power and weaken your image.

When it comes to brands that want to start a YouTube channel, instead of creating a specialized channel to rule a niche, they just open a wide channel to talk about everything. Big mistake.

That can actually makes sense if you are a company like Tesla where they have a clear purpose… fight and extinguish the fossil fuels. But if you’re a brand like Chevrolet where they don’t have a clear story and purpose to fight for, it doesn’t make sense to open a channel just to be on YouTube.

Today specialization is more important than ever before. Too many things to choose from, but you’ve got to be the one that pops out in your consumer’s mind.

Far too often we confuse the power of a brand with the views generated from a video. But here we fall again in the same mistake of growth and numbers. Since the benefit of being on YouTube is not related with the views per video, we can agree that its benefit resides on creating, leading and building trust and connection.

There are so many specialized channels with no more than a few thousands views. But they might be better than having a million of viewers if you’re building a trustworthy audience that would miss you if you were gone.

Doing lots of things work for the short-term, but in the long run things get fuzzy. So don’t fall in the short term trap and build something that matters.

2. The Law of Contraction

The Law of Contraction: A brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus.
Good things happen when you contract your brand rather than expand it.
In order to dominate a category, you must narrow your brand’s focus.

The good news on narrowing your brand is not only that you can dominate it, but you also get pretty good at what you do.

In a world full of options and noise, people choose whatever that is, by far, the best option. That’s the reality on YouTube.

Sometimes cutting some of your stuff and focusing on doing only one thing is your best move. People like to watch videos from specialized channels. After all is that’s the only thing they do they gotta be pretty good at it.

These are the steps: (1) narrow the focus, focusing on one category, (2) go deep with it and then (3) dominate the category.

In the end, any brand’s objective is to dominate a category, isn’t it? Thus, this makes sense so you can move things forward faster and with a solid structure.

Growth sometimes means focusing on less. And on YouTube is simple… it’s not enough by being better than the 96% of the channels on your category. In order to thrive you’ve got to be better than the 99%. Otherwise, why would you even bother?

Don’t copy what successful brands have done. You can’t see the strategy behind it, and copying the tactics without a context is something stupid.

Go to the edges.

Don’t worry if you narrow too much. No niche is small if it’s yours. Once you dominate it maybe, just maybe, you can go conquer something else.

Act small but think big.

3. The Law of Publicity

The Law of Publicity: The birth of a brand is achieved with publicity, not advertising.
Most companies develop their branding strategies as if advertising were their primary communications vehicle. They’re wrong. Strategy should be developed first from a publicity point of view.

As they say in the book: Most marketers confuse brand building with brand maintenance. (…) Advertising generally won’t get a new brand off the ground.

Today if you want to thrive on YouTube you’ve got to be remarkable. There’s no other way out of it. You can’t expect to build a brand based on ads.

This law is specially relevant to mark the change from TV to YouTube, because the fact that the TV mindset worked in the past doesn’t mean it’ll work today.

However, there’s one thing I disagree on this chapter of the book. It says that being the first in a new category is the only way to succeed. While this might be true in most cases, being first doesn’t mean you’re going to success. I like more the approach of doing something remarkable, whether you’re the first one or not. And the only way to do that is by going to the edges.

And this should be done before you even launch your brand (or channel).

In the end a brand is the story people tell themselves about you (not what you tell to them.) So this is how it works:

1. Find a category

2. Go to the edges. A quick way to find is to ask yourself: what is always the same?

3. Stick to that edge and dominate it

And the way you do this is by focusing on the early adopters, and let them spread the word. Otherwise, if you’re generic you’re aiming to the middle of the curve, where the masses are (and no publicity is made.)

Almost every successful channel started like this.

The best example that comes to my mind is Casey Neistat. He started with something bold and he built from there. With videos like Make It CountBike Lanes, and a variety of videos. He once said that the video from the bike like (among others) was the one that went viral and put him on the map.

He started doing bold videos around his story (his edge) and he built from there.

4. The Law of Advertising Permission

The Law of Advertising: once born, a brand needs advertising to stay healthy.

There’s always something that over time becomes irrelevant and outdated. And this law for me it’s totally outdated.

I’d call it The Law of Permission: once born, a brand need permission to stay healthy.

As simple as that.

Since in today’s economy you can’t buy attention, it’s futile to follow the ad path.

Anyway, this is the exception that proves the Laws!

It usually goes like this:

First you need publicity (Law 3) and then you need trust and permission to level up.

Once you’ve done something bold, you’re already on the map. Then, drip by drip you’ve got to earn people’s permission.

This is like Casey Neistat’s example from the last Law. He didn’t advertise his channel, he earned subscribers bit by bit and he doesn’t need ads because he’s earned the permission of millions of people that are eager to see what he has to say. Their audience would miss him if he was gone.

Advertising with big budgets are no longer a barrier of entry. People’s permission is the new barrier. It’s not about volume, it’s about quality.

5. The Law of the Word

The Law of the Word: A brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer.
If you want to build a brand, you must focus on your branding efforts on owning a word in the prospect’s mind. A word that nobody else owns.
By far the most successful brands are those that keep a narrow focus and then expand the category as opposed to other brands that try to expand their names into other categories.

This Law is the #1 rule when it comes to brand strategy. It’s straightforward but not easy.

Coming up with a word is actually not that complicated. If you’ve found your edge and know where you want to go, the word is the result of those things.

But that is that… just a word. The challenge here is to match that word with your story.

In the end, that word is directly related with your brand’s story, which is the story other people tell themselves about you. The real challenge is to find a way to synchronize every aspect of your brand to come up with a solid strategy that backs up that word.

That word will be only a result from all your actions that pops out in the mind of the consumers. But not because you’ve said it (this is important), but because the market has come up with it processing your actions. Those are the hard ones but once you dominate it, you own it.

If you pay attention to the brands that thrive on YouTube all of them have a clear story, but a few have a word that defines them. You’ve got to aim to be one of those brands.

Here if you’ve find your edge and narrow your market, your word should pop out easily, because it’d be the essence of your business. That word has to resonate with people when they talk about you.

And here we come again with the idea of finding your edge. Because if you don’t narrow enough, you’ll find it basically impossible to find your word.

Getting a word is already hard, but it gets harder when you don’t focus on an edge.

However… What if the niche is too small? What if there’s no room for growth? These and other questions are the ones pushing you to create an average channel.

Again, no niche is too small if it’s yours. And here is where most marketers go wrong, and usually ends up with a brand expansion… Wrong decision.

Almost always that is a bad idea.

Why would you expand your brand when you can expand your market?

Find a word and stick with it.

6. The Law of Credentials

The Law of Credentials: The crucial ingredient in the success of any brand is its claim to authenticity.

Credentials are the “guarantees” of your brand. It’s the trust your brand projects. At the same time, this is what gives you a proven authority. An authority you’ve earned over time.

In other words, it’s being #1 in your category. Because it automatically makes you shine in the market, showing your unique voice.

This is particularly important when we talk about YouTubers. Since their brand is focused on a particular persona, they better be authentic and a leader in the category, otherwise they aim for being in the mediocrity, and they won’t last for a long time.

Anyway, saying that a YouTuber should be authentic is a given. But being authentic doesn’t make a leader in your category.

Being authentic doesn’t transform you in a leader. On the other hand, being a leader in your category, in one way or the other, makes you authentic. It makes you the “real” one, not an imitation.

7. The Law of Quality

The Law of Quality: Quality is important, but brands are not built by quality alone.

Today being good is not enough.There are hundreds of brands on YouTube (including YouTubers) that don’t take off. They put hours and hours of work and it doesn’t pay off. And that’s a clear proof that in order to thrive on YouTube you’ve got to be remarkable.

But, it turns out that being remarkable it’s not enough either.

You’ve got to be remarkable in your own way.

And you can only do this when you find your edge.

Imagine if you only have a channel for private live videos of restaurant reviews. Maybe the fact that is not open to everybody is on your advantage. Will it give you a huge audience? No. But that’s okay because you’re betting on a strong brand perception.

Will be your brand better if you only focus on quality? No.

I don’t mean that quality is irrelevant. Of course is not. It’s also a given.

The key here is to find something that enhances your perceived quality, which is the point when talking about brand building.

I love the example of Will It Blend? What it seems videos showing the quality of the product, in the end is a chance for them to tell a story that goes far away of any high quality products.

Are the Blendtec mixers the cutting-edge ones? They might be. Or they might be not. That’s not the point. The point is that they’ve found an edge that resonates with an audience.

8. The Law of Category

The Law of Category: A leading brand should promote the category, not the brand.

Your best scenario while finding your edge is to narrow your market so much that there’s no market. That’s when you go through the right path, because it gives you the opportunity to introduce a brand-new category.

It doesn’t matter what MBAs tell you about competition and the fact that there aren’t other brands is not good. Your best scenario to build a leader brand is a new category.

And here, Al Ries and Laura Ries say we need to consider two things:

1. Launch your brand in a way you create the perception that your brand is the first (and say it.)

2. Promote your new category, not the brand.

Well, this seems counterintuitive but it’s not.

The first point is clear. But let’s dive a bit into the second one.

Imagine you’ve just launched a channel in a brand-new category. Your first reaction might be to promote your brand.The problem you face while doing that is that your growth is slow and you get the 100% of… nothing.

However, if you promote the category you’re investing your resources to make a bigger pie. Thus, there can be more YouTube channels on the category. This is where you find two critical points: (1) now is not the 100% of nothing, now you have a huge portion of the pie, because the competition is helping you to make it bigger, and (2) because you’re the first one is easier to be the leader of that category.

As a matter of fact, you’ve got to help your competitors to grow, because is a win-win situation. Instead, fight the opposite categories with their help.

9. The Law of the Name

The Law of the Name: In the long run a brand is nothing more than a name.
In the short term, a brand needs a unique idea or concept to survive. It needs to be first in a new category. It needs to own a word in the mind. But in the long term, the unique idea or concept disappears. All that is left is the difference between your brand name and the brand names of your competitors.

This is not about the product or service, it’s about brands. It always has been.

And that’s the reason I’m not particularly fan of names that tells what you do. Because once you get a generic name like pets.com or SalesForce, the name itself tells what you do. While picking a name that is not related with the product, leaves you space to fill a blank slate with the story you want.

In the short term is difficult, but in the long run it pays for itself.

So before you jump into YouTube, if you’re starting from the scratch, ask yourself:

Is this a generic name?

Can I fill this name with whatever I want or is a generic name that limits the story?

10. The Law of Extensions

The Law of Extensions: The easiest way to destroy a brand is to much its name on everything.
Before you launch your next line extension, ask yourself what customers of your current brand will think when they see the line extension.
If the market is moving out from under you, stay where you are and launch a second brand. If it’s not, stay where you are and continue building your brand.

When it comes to branding for me this Law is one of the most obvious but less considered from most brands.

As you’ve already discovered every law is related in one way or the other. So in this case, this law is directly related with the first law, the Law of Expansion. Once you’ve narrowed your focus (law 2) and own a word (law 5) in a certain category (law 8), you’ve got to be careful and not jump onto another line extension that is not yours.

For example you’ve been working in a category of videos about car reviews, not any kind of cars but Lamborghinis. In this case, at some point you might be tempted to extend your line and make reviews about… Toyotas. Yes, they are cars, but while people know you like the guy that reviews Lamborghinis, it would be stupid to extend your line to talk about a Prius.

Prove me wrong, but most of the times this doesn’t work. It doesn’t match the story you’re telling. Sometimes makes sense to extend your line, but creating a different brand could be the right move… if you need to make that move at all!

11. The Law of Fellowship

The Law of Fellowship: In order to build the category, a brand should welcome other brands.
Your brand should welcome healthy competition. It often brings more customers into the category.

On YouTube you’re one click away from another video (usually your competition.) What usually have been seen as something bad, today collaborating with your competitors is good. Competition means more choices, thus, competition makes more noise in the category and both channels benefit.

And this is why collaborations work so well between YouTubers (and brands). Because when you welcome the competition into your own channel… You go to theirs. The piece of the pie is big. In the end, you don’t fight between your competitors, you fight against other categories because the pie is based on attention.

Once you collaborate with other YouTubers you’re redirecting the attention to your own channel. And of course this allows both of you to expand your audience.

Why do you think the challenges work so well on YouTube?

12. The Law of the Generic

The Law of the Generic: One of the fastest route to failure is giving a brand a generic name.
The mind doesn’t deal in letters. It deals in sounds. You can capitalize all you want, but a generic word is a generic word in the mind, no matter how you spell it.

We’ve covered this topic on the Law of the Name (9). And I can’t get tired enough of repeating how important is to come up with a remarkable name.

Every time a project starts it goes like this: One person from the team wants to get a name that is remarkable and doesn’t say what it is about. But, there’s always somebody that prefers a generic name because it brings more short-term benefits, and sadly people choose the generic one because of fear. But from the brand’s perspective that’s a mistake.

I talked about this on my personal blog and the importance of getting a name without a predefined slate. You want to have a blank slate.

In the end, good names could be used as verbs, just like Google. Instead of saying hey, search that on the Internet, we just say… Google it!

Every day YouTube is getting crowded with new channels and thousands of videos. And what you discover is that most of them have generic names. Okay some YouTubers pick their real names, other channels have the company’s name, but most of the channels have a generic name.

In the short term these people will thrive on YouTube because it helps their SEO, but in the long run, you’ll be doomed by the predefined slate you’ve chosen and it’ll be really difficult to pop out in the minds of your viewers.

So, before you give up because you don’t find a better name, remember this Law and push yourself to find something worth remember.

13. The Law of the Company

The Law of the Company: Brands are brands. Companies are companies. There is a difference.

I think this law is particularly important for brands that want to take the leap and open a YouTube channel. So if you find yourself in this case, pay special attention.

The truth is that most branding problems usually comes due a generic name, or because you haven’t found your niche. When it comes to open a YouTube channel, for me it’s quite obvious the need to launch a different brand when you have an existing brand without a clear niche. But of course there are exceptions depending the circumstances of each brand.

What happens in the corporate world is that there are too many opinions on how branding should be done. And what happens is always the same. They try to put the company’s name right before the channel’s brand (name), which I think is a huge mistake.

This is also true for YouTubers that go to agencies and they put their company’s name on their brand. And I strongly suggest every YouTuber to not take that deal.

This is the fact: “Consumers buy brands, they don’t buy companies”. So do YouTube viewers: users want to watch brands (including YouTubers), they don’t want to watch companies.

So if you decide to go with your company’s name (if you don’t have a clear niche) let me tell you that you won’t thrive on YouTube. Period.

It might make sense, but in terms of branding is a stupid strategy.

And this could be solved by avoiding a generic name, but that’s another story.

So, my suggestion is to first, study your particular case without taking any of these advices for granted, and second, use a different brand for your channel (again, unless you don’t have a specific niche, which you should consider anyway.)

Nevertheless, if you have to use the company name, use it, but you’ve got to leave it out of sight.

14. The Law of Subbrands

The Law of Subbrands: What branding builds, subbranding can destroy.
The essence of a brand is some idea or attribute or market segment you can own in the mind. Subbranding is a concept that takes the brand in exactly the opposite direction. Subbranding destroys what branding builds.

This law is a variation of the last one, but instead of hesitating between companies and brands, we’re talking about variations of brands.

The rule here is simple: if whatever you plan to launch as a subbrand doesn’t match the story you’re telling–you brand’s essence–don’t do it.

It’s tempting to get obsessed with growth and revenue, but this is the kind of situations that won’t bring you any value.

And when brands decide to do something like this, is because they’re thinking and planning from their cubicles without going out there and see what’s really happening in the market.

If you have a successful channel about car reviews for example, don’t put your brand’s name into a new channel about restaurant reviews. Well, even though it looks exaggerated this example there are some brands that still do stupid things like that.

15. The Law of Siblings

The Law of Siblings: There is a time and a place to launch a second brand.

I remember when I was getting started in marketing I was always fascinated studying automotive brand strategies, and second brands that cover different segments just like Honda did with Acura, or Toyota did with Lexus.

When it comes to brand strategy on YouTube it’s interesting to see the big companies that are behind of some channels. In order to take over the market they try to fill some gaps with more channels. Despite this is a strategy that can make a company thrive on YouTube, we need to consider a couple of points to see whether this strategy is the right one or not.

There are two points from the book that I find critical here:

1. Avoid the family look or identity. You want them to be independent brands with their own identity.

2. Don’t fill the market just because you can. But if you find an opportunity to strengthen your brand, don’t let your channels to overlap between them.

And here I think is more important to know when you should fill a gap rather than just taking over the market.

Here we go again with the idea of having a remarkable product and a clear edge. Otherwise, don’t even bother.

Focus on one area, for example eSports. Then, once you know your area, select a single attribute for each segment. For example it could be genre, age… just one attribute to make sure your brands don’t overlap between them.

Then you create a different name for each brand. Remember, you don’t want to give it a family identity so each brand can become stronger in its segment. But by far the most important thing is to not launch a new brand until you’ve find an edge where you can thrive and dominate.

16. The Law of Shape

The Law of Shape: A brand’s logotype should be designed to fit the eyes. Both eyes.

In this chapter of the book I disagree with some points, and maybe the authors on today’s economy would change some aspects. But this point is simple and often overlooked.

I’m not going to enter into design details with typographies and so forth (though you can get the basics with a book called The Non-Designer’s Design Book–perfect to get started.) But when you design your logo, the head image of your channel, the typographies you use, shapes, structures, and a variety of other things, you need to know that every single aspect communicates your story. And if something doesn’t match with it, there’ll be a noise that your audience will notice.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is not based on design, but I would recommend you to take a look how your logo and everything looks in every device. Considering most people watch YouTube on their smartphones, you need to test how the viewer perceives your brand through their devices and tweak everything until you transmit perfectly your story.

Simple details can make the difference.

[Note: in this chapter the authors explains the importance of including the name of the brand with the symbols. Well, in most cases that’s true, but once people is aware of your brand and you’ve built a tribe, I think that removing the name is a benefit that boost the tribe. You can think that companies that do that is because they’ve invested so much money on branding that they don’t even have to show the name just like Apple or Nike. But consider the elite fashion brands, none of them includes the name… It’s part of the story.]

17. The Law of Color

The Law of Color: A brand should use a color that is the opposite of its major competitor’s.
Color consistency over the long term can help a brand burn its way into the mind.

Throughout this post you’ve already noticed that all the laws are intertwined. From how you narrow your focus to the color you choose, every single thing communicates something about you. And those details are the tools that the consumers use to tell themselves a story about you. It’s not the story you tell to them, it’s the one they tell themselves.

So when it comes to colors everybody knows that something is hidden in them but not so many people dive deep into this topic. It’s been said that every color has a meaning (you can find the fundamentals also in The Non-Designer’s Design Book), but what defines the meaning is the context.

This is why having separates brands and a narrow focus is so important. Because through consistency you can create a long term impact in the mind of your consumers.

I remember a while ago I checked a site called backlinko.com where Brian Dean talks about SEO. A few weeks later I was looking for some YouTube SEO videos and I saw the same green background from his website. So you can bet which video I clicked first.

Something simple but game changing.


18. The Law of Borders Languages

The Law of Borders: There are no barriers to global branding. A brand should know no borders.

Again, this is another law that gets a bit outdated but the principle is the same.

Despite in the book the authors talk about this law from a geographic perspective, today on YouTube the main distinction is based on languages. There are no borders now, when you’re on YouTube, you’re global! Now we talk that your main barrier are languages.

As you’ve already guessed this becomes a problem when you build a brand around a particular persona. But if your channel is not based on a particular YouTuber, go ahead and put your channel in other languages. Thus, instead of expanding your brand you can expand your market by keeping the edge that made you remarkable and literally translating your business globally.

19. The Law of Consistency

The Law of Consistency: A brand is not built overnight. Success is measured in decades, not years.
Limitation combined with consistency is what builds a brand.

Does it sound crazy to you to talk about decades?

Well, I’m sorry but there’s no magical formula or shortcut to thrive on YouTube overnight. Even it’s true that you don’t need to wait decades, at least building something solid and meaningful will take you years.

The truth is that, since there’s a limitation of space in the mind of the consumers, and attention is scarce, your only chance is to stand for something and never change it.

Having a spot in the consumer’s mind is really hard work, and you can only achieve by being consistent drip by drip, day by day. Because if you show up in a regular basis, people will know your story, and over time you’ll earn a spot in their minds.

And when you get there changing your story is a foolish move to do. You’d lose that spot and people would get confused.

20. The Law of Change

The Law of Change: Brands can be changed, but only infrequently and only very carefully.
Brand changing does not occur inside a company. It occurs inside the mind of the consumer. If you want to change your brand, keep your sights on your target , the consumer’s mind.

Even though this Law looks like it’s going against the others, there are always a few exceptions and different contexts.

And this is straightforward, and you can analyze your change in two steps:

1. Where’s your brand in the mind of the consumer? Does your consumer remember your channel? If you’re just not there, nothing will happen if you change your story. You’ve got nothing to lose. However, if you’re there you go to the next step.

2. Does the change you want to make worth the risk of losing the spot you’ve gained? Here’s up to you. If it’s worth the pain and resources to change your perception, go. Otherwise, if you have a unique perception maybe you shouldn’t change.

21. The Law of Mortality

The Law of Mortality: No brand will live forever. Euthanasia is often the best solution.

There are times when a brand reaches its top and there’s no way to get it into track.

This process is faster on YouTube because the lifetime value of a channel is faster. So no matter how well-known is the brand, if the channel is no longer standing for something.. just kill it and invest your money in a brand-new channel.

22. The Law of Singularity

The Law of Singularity: The most important aspect of a brand is its single-mindedness.

Loss of singularity weakens a brand.

What’s a brand? A singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect.

Stay on the singularity and own the idea in the consumer’s mind. Once you get out, you lose everything.

· · ·

These are the laws of branding that would make your brand stand out. However, that doesn’t mean that every law should apply to your brand. This is a proven theory that has worked during decades.

Before you take anything for granted, put the theory into your context and objectively analyze the situation.

These laws (not every law out there though) are made to be broken. But before you break them, you’ve got to know them…. Ignore them at your peril.

Recommended lectures

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries and Laura Ries

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Creating your own rules: entering into a market with a new category

Marketing Classroom: a quick lesson on how innovations spread

Blank slates: how to pick the right name for your business