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22 Immutable Laws of Marketing [Summary]

What do you think when you see Volvo? Safety, right? đźš—

Back in the 60's two marketers realised that people subconsciously categorise and rank brands. From this insight, they created product positioning - one of the core pillars of modern marketing.

Al Ries and Jack Trout, the two marketers, went on to write several books on the topic. My favourite is a short book called 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. In the book, they cover the fundamentals of how people think about brands. I think about these laws all the time!

Here are their 22 laws of marketing:

Law 1: The Law of Leadership

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

It’s much easier to get into the mind first than to try to convince someone you have a better product than the one that did get there first.

Law 2: The Law of Category

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

When you launch a new product, the first question to ask yourself is not “How is this product better?” but rather “First what?”

Law 3: The Law of The Mind

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

Being first in the marketplace is important only to the extent that it allows you to get in the mind first. You can’t change a mind once a mind is made up.

Law 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. The perception is reality. Everything else is an illusion.

Law 5: The Law of Focus

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

A company can become incredibly successful if it can find a way to own a word in the mind of the prospect. E.g. Volvo owns safety

Law 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.

Law 7: The Law of The Ladder

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

For each category, there is a product ladder in the mind. Your marketing strategy should depend on which rung of the ladder you occupy.

Law 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. Over time the category usually winds up as a titanic battle between two major players—usually the old reliable brand and the new upstart.

Law 9: The Law of Opposite

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

A company should leverage the leader’s strength into a weakness. You must discover the essence of the leader and then present the prospect with the opposite.

Law 10: The Law of Division

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

As a category matures it breaks up into other segments. It’s better to be early than late to these new categories, but be prepared to spend time waiting for things to develop.

Law 11: The Law of Perspective

Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time.

Some marketing actions are negative in the long-term even though they seem positive in the short term.

e.g. A short-term sales boost might reduce revenue long-term

Law 12: The Law of Line Extension

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

When you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble. Invariably, the leader in any category is the brand that is not line extended.

Law 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 narrow the focus in order to build a position in the prospect’s mind.

You can sacrifice:

  • Product line
  • Target market
  • Constant change

Law 14: The Law of Attributes

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

Trying to imitate the leader will cause you to fail miserably. The key is to find an attribute that is actually opposite to what the leader is using.

Law 15: The Law of Candor

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

When a company starts a message by admitting a problem, people tend to, almost instinctively, open their minds.

E.g. Listerine tastes so bad that it must work.

Law 16: The Law of Singularity

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

History teaches that the only thing that works in marketing is the single, bold stroke.

Law 17: The Law of Predictability

Unless you write your competitor's plans, you can’t predict the future.

Long-term marketing plans don’t work. The best thing you can do is to build enough flexibility into your organisation so that you can respond quickly to change.

Law 18: The Law of Success

Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.

Ego is the enemy of successful marketing. When people become successful, they tend to become less objective. They often substitute their own judgment for what the market wants.

Law 19: The Law of Failure

Failure is to be expected and accepted.

Nothing interesting ever happens unless we take risks. When things do go wrong, admit failure and cut your losses early.

Law 20: The Law of Hype

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

When things are going well, a company doesn’t need the hype. When you need the hype it usually means you’re in trouble.

Law 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. Forget fads.

Law 22: The Law of Resources

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

Even the best idea in the world won’t go very far without the money to get it off the ground.