The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

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  1. Ries and Trout’s seminal book on marketing

Key Takeaways

  • Law of leadership – Better to be first than it is to be better. Create a category you can be first in 
  • Law of the category – if you can’t be first in your category, create a new one you can be first in. Forget about brands, focus on the category 
  • Law of the mind – better to be first in people’s minds than first in the marketplace. Changing people’s minds is nearly impossible – you have to blast into people’s minds rather than trying to slowly change it over time 
  • Law of perception – marketing not a battle of products, but a battle of perception 
  • Law of focus – the most powerful force in marketing is owning a word in a prospect’s mind. Come to dominate one word/attribute and people will give you the benefit of the doubt with others too. This word must be unique and others be willing to take the opposite stance (quality can’t be your word because nobody would take the opposite)
  • Law of Exclusivity – two companies cannot own the same word in a prospect’s mind. Mass marketing cannot change this. 
  • Law of the Ladder – There is a hierarchy in the mind that prospects use in making decisions. On each rung of this ladder is a brand name. Your marketing strategy should depend on how soon you got into the mind and consequently which rung of the ladder you occupy. Ok if number 2, but have to admit to it and use it to your advantage (Avis – we’re number 2 and we work harder because of it)
  • Law of Duality – in every market, it eventually becomes a 2-horse race, with about equal market share. Third place is a difficult place to be (called the trouble Sprint was in as the number 3 player)
  • Law of the Opposite – if you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader, leveraging their strength into a weakness
  • Law of Division – over time, a market will divide into 2 or more. Beware the folly that many business leaders fall into of thinking that categories are converging. Instead, address each emerging category with a new brand name 
  • Law of Perspective – marketing effects take place over an extended period of time. The long-term effects are often the opposite of the short-term. Discounts or sales help short-term but hurt in the long run as you are conditioning people to only buy when there’s a sale. Everyday low prices is a better strategy
  • Law of Line Extension – there’s an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand. This is the most violated law in this book. Stay focused – when you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble. Line extension usually involves taking the brand name of a successful and putting it on a new product you plan to introduce. Marketing is a battle of perception, not product. Less is more. If you want to be successful today, you have to narrow the focus in order to build a position in the prospect’s mind.
  • Law of Sacrifice – This law is the opposite of Law 12: You have to give up something in order to get something. There are 3 things to sacrifice: product line, target market and constant change. Generalists are generally weak, so narrow your focus. Your target market is not what you are marketing (Marlboro reds and cowboys actually targeted everyone). You also don’t need to change your position every year – keep doing what works
  • Law of Attributes – For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute. You don’t need to copy the leader and it’s often better to search for an opposite attribute that will allow you to play off against the leader. All attributes are not created equal and you must try and own the most important ones. You cannot predict the size of a new attribute’s share, so never laugh at one.
  • Law of Candor – candor is disarming, When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive. Every negative statement you make about yourself is instantly accepted as truth. Your negative must be widely perceived as a negative. You have to shift quickly to the positive. The purpose of candor isn’t to apologize. It is to set up a benefit that will convince your prospect.
  • Law of Singularity – Trying harder is not the secret of marketing success. History teaches that the only thing that works in marketing is the single, bold stroke – the unexpected. To find that singular idea of concept, marketing managers have to know what’s happening in the marketplace.
  • Law of Unpredictability – While you can’t predict the future, you can get a handle on trends, which is a way to take advantage of change. One way to cope with an unpredictable world is to build an enormous amount of flexibility into your organization. Good short-term planning is coming up with that angle or word that differentiates your product or company. Then you set up a coherent long-term marketing direction that builds a program to maximize that idea or angle. Not a long-term plan, but a long-term direction.
  • Law of Success – Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure. Objectivity is what is needed. Brilliant marketers have the ability to think like how a prospect thinks. They put themselves in the shoes of their customers
  • Law of Failure – Failure is to be expected and accepted. Too many companies try to fix things rather than drop things. Admit it and move on
  • Law of Hype – The 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. Real revolutions in the industry don’t arrive at high noon with marching bands. They arrive unannounced in the middle of the night and sneak up on you.
  • Law of Acceleration – Successful programs are not build on fads, they are built on trends. A fad is like a wave in the ocean, and a trend is the tide. Like the wave, the fad is very visible but it goes up and down in a hurry. Like the tide, a trend is almost invisible, but very powerful over the long-term. Paradox: if you were faced with a rapidly rising business, with all the characteristics of a fad, the best thing you could do is to dampen the fad and stretch it out.
  • Law of Resources – First get the idea, then get the money to exploit it. Without adequate funding, an idea won’t get off the ground and you need money to stay top of mind

What I got out of it

  1. Quick read with a ton of takeaways – Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products or services; Create a category that you can be first in (and own that singular word); use leader’s strengths against them; avoid line extension (different brands for different categories)

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