Branding Basics #2: Law of Contraction


This is the second in a series of articles about The Immutable Laws of Branding as coined by Al and Laura Ries. 

In the first article in the series, Branding Basics #1: The Law of Expansion, we learned that the power of a brand in inversely proportional to its scope.  The more you expand your brand, the less power it has. This leads us directly to Law #2:

The Law of Contraction

Your ability to influence purchasing decisions is proportional to your ability to focus your brand. The more limited your offerings, the more powerful. It’s the same idea as Law #1, just seen from the other side.

If your Brand is “an idea in the mind of the consumer”, make sure that it stays narrow in scope so that it grows strength. When you’re trying to build your brand, it can be tempting to expand your offerings to bring in more customers or clients. But, as a result, you weaken your brand potential by losing focus on what you’re best at. Stay focused and don’t try to be a ‘one stop shop’.

Have a retail product? The Reis’ suggest following this 5 step pattern:

  1. Narrow the focus
  2. Stock in depth
  3. Buy cheap
  4. Sell cheap
  5. Dominate the category


Delicatessen’s offer all types of delicious things to eat. Most great Deli’s pride themselves on offering just about everything right? Almost 50 years ago, Fred DeLuca opened up a sandwich shop in rural Connecticut with a plan to develop a franchise model. Instead of offering all kinds of sandwiches, “he narrowed the focus to one type of sandwich, the submarine sandwich”. The franchise became Subway, which is now the largest fast food chain in the world, with more than 42,000 stores in 100 countries. Subway has established itself as “the healthy alternative” in the minds of consumers looking for a quick bite. Brilliant!

Don’t dilute your brand with too many offerings, it just waters it down. But remember, narrowing your focus is not the same as having a limited line. You can still offer many different types of that same product. Plan for success by not looking at what the top brands are doing now, look to what they were doing to get where they are.

Take Away from the Law of Contraction

“Good things happen when you contract
rather than expand your business.”