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The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Marketing is one of those things everyone knows these days. We see advertisements almost everywhere we look. But a lot of it feels like it is wasted marketing and wasted money. Like it’s not really achieving it’s true goal.

That’s why I decided to read The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing this week. In this book Al Ries and Jack Trout explain the 22 rules that you should always keep in mind with marketing, and that so many companies seem to be forgetting these days:

1. The Law of Leadership

It’s better to be first than it is to be better.

The leading brand in any category is almost always the first brand into the prospect’s mind. If you are the leader, you don’t have to be the best. You are perceived to be the best because of your position.

2. The Law of the Category

If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.

When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category. In essence, you have no competition.

3.The Law of the Mind

It’s better to be first in the mind than it is to be first in the marketplace.

The law of the mind follows from the law of perception. If marketing is a battle of perception, not product, then the mind takes precedence over the marketplace.

Once a mind is made up, it rarely, if ever, changes. The single most wasteful thing you can do in marketing is try to change a mind.

4. The Law of Perception

Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perception.

All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect. The perception is the reality. Everything else is an illusion. All truth is relative. Relative to your mind or the mind of another human being.

5.The Law of Focus

The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.

If you’re not a leader, then your word has to have a narrow focus. Even more important, however, your word has to be “available” in your category. No one else can have a lock on it.

The most effective words are simple and benefit oriented. No matter how complicated the product, no matter how complicated the needs of the market, it’s always better to focus on one word or benefit rather than two or three or four.

The essence of marketing is narrowing the focus. You become stronger when you reduce the scope of your operations. You can’t stand for something if you chase after everything.

6.The Law of Exclusivity

Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

When a competitor owns a word or position in the prospect’s mind, it is futile to attempt to own the same word.

Volvo owns safety. Many other automobile companies, including Mercedes-Benz and General Motors, have tried to run marketing campaigns based on safety. Yet no one except Volvo has succeeded in getting into the prospect’s mind with a safety message.

7.The Law of the Ladder

The strategy to use depends on which rung you occupy on the ladder.

While being first into the prospect’s mind ought to be your primary marketing objective, the battle isn’t lost if you fail in this.

There are strategies to use for No. 2 and No. 3 brands. All products are not created equal. There’s a hierarchy in the mind that prospects use in making decisions. For each category, there is a product ladder in the mind. On each rung is a brand name.

Before starting any marketing program, ask yourself the following questions: Where are we on the ladder in the prospect’s mind? On the top rung? On the second rung? Or maybe we’re not on the ladder at all. Then make sure your program deals realistically with your position on the ladder.

8.The Law of Duality

In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.

Early on, a new category is a ladder of many rungs. Gradually, the ladder becomes a two-rung affair.

The customer believes that marketing is a battle of products. It’s this kind of thinking that keeps the two brands on top: “They must be the best, they’re the leaders.”

9.The Law of the Opposite

If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader.

If you want to establish a firm foothold on the second rung of the ladder, study the firm above you. Where is it strong? And how do you turn that strength into a weakness?

(In other words, don’t try to be better, try to be different.) It’s often the upstart versus old reliable.

10. The Law of Division

Over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories.

A category starts off as a single entity. Computers, for example. But over time, the category breaks up into other segments. Mainframes, minicomputers, workstations, personal computers, laptops, notebooks, pen computers.

The way for the leader to maintain its dominance is to address each emerging category with a different brand name.

Companies make a mistake when they try to take a well-known brand name in one category and use the same brand name in another category.

11. The Law of Perspective

Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time.

Any sort of couponing, discounts, or sales tends to educate consumers to buy only when they can get a deal.

12. The Law of Line Extension

There’s an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of a brand.

Companies try and use their brand to sell other unrelated products to customers as well. Effectively diluting the value of the brand. 

When you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble. “I’d rather be strong somewhere,” said one manager, “than weak everywhere.”

13.The Law of Sacrifice

You have to give up something in order to get something.

If you want to be successful, you have to reduce your product line, not expand it.

14.The Law of Attributes

For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute.

It’s much better to search for an opposite attribute that will allow you to play off against the leader. The key word here is opposite—similar won’t do.

Marketing is a battle of ideas. So if you are to succeed, you must have an idea or attribute of your own to focus your efforts around. Without one, you had better have a low price. A very low price.

15.The Law of Candor

When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive.

One of the most effective ways to get into a prospect’s mind is to first admit a negative and then twist it into a positive.

First and foremost, candor is very disarming. Every negative statement you make about yourself is instantly accepted as truth. Positive statements, on the other hand, are looked at as dubious at best. Especially in an advertisement. You have to prove a positive statement to the prospect’s satisfaction. No proof is needed for a negative statement.

16.The Law of Singularity

In each situation, only one move will produce substantial results.

Many marketing people see success as the sum total of a lot of small efforts beautifully executed.

They think they can pick and choose from a number of different strategies and still be successful as long as they put enough effort into the program. If they work for the leader in the category, they fritter away their resources on a number of different programs. They seem to think that the best way to grow is the puppy approach—get into everything. If they’re not with the leader, they often end up trying to do the same as the leader, but a little better. It’s like Saddam Hussein saying that all we have to do is fight a little harder and everything will work out. Trying harder is not the secret of marketing success.

17.The Law of Unpredictability

Unless you write your competitors’ plans, you can’t predict the future.

18.The Law of Success

Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.

Ego is the enemy of successful marketing.

Objectivity is what’s needed. When people become successful, they tend to become less objective. They often substitute their own judgment for what the market wants.

Your success puffs up your ego to such an extent that you put the famous name on other products. Result: early success and long-term failure.

19.The Law of Failure

Failure is to be expected and accepted.

Too many companies try to fix things rather than drop things. “Let’s reorganize to save the situation” is their way of life.

Admitting a mistake and not doing anything about it is bad for your career. A better strategy is to recognize failure early and cut your losses.

20.The Law of Hype

The situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press.

But, for the most part, hype is hype. Real revolutions don’t arrive at high noon with marching bands and coverage on the 6:00 P.M. news. Real revolutions arrive unannounced in the middle of the night and kind of sneak up on you.

21.The Law of Acceleration

Successful programs are not built on fads, they’re built on trends.

A fad is a wave in the ocean, and a trend is the tide. A fad gets a lot of hype, and a trend gets very little.

One way to maintain a long-term demand for your product is to never totally satisfy the demand. But the best, most profitable thing to ride in marketing is a long-term trend.

22.The Law of Resources

Without adequate funding an idea won’t get off the ground.

Here is the bottom line. First get the idea, then go get the money to exploit it.