Tim O’Reilly’s Exclusive Interview with Book Business Extra on How O’Reilly Media Built Its Computer Technology Book, Web and Conference Brand
Lamb brought the comps in on Monday, and the staff was not quite sure what to make of them.
“Iconic images today, they were rather shocking and unexpected back in 1987—a real risk,” he says. “But we hung them on the wall and kept looking at them, and after a week or 10 days, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
So what made these images such and integral part of O’Reilly’s brand?
“In terms of it becoming a core part of our brand, a good part of that was because of its originality and unexpectedness, but it was also because it meant something,” O’Reilly says. “I still remember the first time we published a book without the animal brand—it didn’t feel like an animal to us—it was a reference book, without the hands-on voice from [the] trenches that we thought of as our signature.”
So as time progressed O’Reilly Media refined its idea of what an animal book meant and practiced the technique of preserving its brand image.
“We stretched it and grew it, but kept a strong sense of its core value proposition,” he says. “And that was what made it so valuable. Our competitors cheered every time we published a book without an animal, because they thought we weren’t using our brand advantage, but they didn’t get it. We were preserving our brand advantage, by making sure it meant something.”
Over the years O’Reilly Media has built many other strong publishing brands, according to O’Reilly. O’Reilly Media has also expanded its brand base into avenues outside the book business such as its Open Source Convention, Web 2.0 Summit, Web 2.0 Expo and Conference and most recently its Make magazine and the Maker Faire conference.
O’Reilly says that a brand is a promise to the reader, and a large part of what makes a successful brand is not its iconography, but that it embraces a big idea and remains true to that idea.