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The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing




Al Ries and Jack Trout released The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing in 1994 and noted you can build an impressive airplane, but it will never leave the ground if you ignore the laws of physics, especially gravity. Why then, they ask, shouldn't there also be laws of marketing that must be followed to launch and maintain winning brands?


It was a very successful book and one I personally enjoyed. Consequently, time to relive a classic. I have listed all the 22 laws with explanations and then commented further on some.


1) The law of leadership – it’s better to be first than it is to be better – marketing is the battle of perception, not products.


Whilst this can be refuted as immutable e.g Microsoft windows, Apple iphone etc., it is still valid. Why not be first and then get better?


2) The law of the category – Promote the category. If you can’t be first in a category just create your own new category.


Always loved this one. Not as hard as you think to create your own category.


3) The law of the mind – Modifies the law of leadership. Being first in the mind is most important when possible. Apple got off the ground with very little money. They had a simple, easy to remember name and a focused, creative ad plan.


4) The law of perception – It’s not a battle of products. Do not focus on the facts, “the truth” and the features. This is all good, but marketers need to sell the product around what people want and perceive. Your name, slogan, image, message, etc. all need to factor into this.


I think this one has changed a lot in recent years. Consumers are doing a lot of research and there are a plethora of review sites etc.


5) The law of focus – Own a word in the mind of your prospect. Simpler words or concepts are the best. If you’re not first or a current leader, you need to reduce the scope of your operations and focus. Protect your word and continue to brand and focus on the law of the mind. Focus on a single, powerful word if possible.


Still valid in my opinion. What word do you own? Hard to compete with the Fresh food people with huge budgets but in your market, could you try to own a word in your consumers mind?


6) The law of exclusivity – It’s hard for two competing companies to own the same word in the mind of the consumer. Safe, fast, affordable, etc.


7) The law of the ladder – Trying to get into the mind first is best but there are strategies to use to play off your competitors if you’re behind. “They’re big and we’re small and better”, “They’re more successful in the market but we try harder”, Sometimes it’s better to be 3rd on a big ladder than first on a small ladder.


8) The law of duality – Gradually over time the battle becomes a two rung affair.


9) The law of the opposite – Wherever the leader is strong, there is an opportunity. Turn the strength into the weakness. Don’t try to be better, be different. There are people that want to buy from the leader and there are people that absolutely don’t want to buy from the leader. You are the alternative. A second rung company must go for these people. (Example: Grilled not fried, etc.)


10) The law of division – The market is an ever dividing sea of categories. The automobile industry is a perfect example. Find or create a new category and stick with it. Do not try to get into other categories after having success – history has shown this is a mistake.


It can work well but many great brands have suffered from diversification into unknown categories.


11) The law of perspective – Most of time what works in the short term usually doesn’t work in the long term. Line extension is a major concern. Instant results might give you trouble years down the road. Focus on your core goals.


12) The law of line extension – Do not spread yourself too thin and try to be everything for everybody. Development, marketing budget, support, staff, perception, are all affected. Be strong somewhere instead of weak everywhere. Less is more. Narrow your focus.


13) The law of sacrifice – Rule 1 – Minimize product line (don’t be a dept. store without focus), Rule 2 – Limit your target market, Rule 3 – Be consistent. Have a brilliant narrow position and stick with it. DO NOT become all things to all people.


14) The law of attributes – Do not emulate the leader. Play off against the leader and offer something similar but opposite to differentiate. It doesn’t even have to be different, just a needed niche.


15) The law of candor – Consider being honest and admit a negative but twist it into a positive.


A great local example was a small bedding company some years ago admitting they had a “pig of a location” but finding us is worthwhile because we have lower prices due to our location etc.


16) The law of singularity – Focus on several good marketing avenues. Don’t dabble a little in everything. Trying harder does not get you to success. Make a single bold stroke that is least expected by the competition. Find out where the competitor is vulnerable.


17) The law of unpredictability – Do not assume the future. Get a handle on trends not fads. If something can go bad, it will always go bad so prepare for it. Try to build an enormous amount of flexibility into your organization so when things change in your industry you’re ready to deal with it – and deal with it quickly. Always keep innovating.


18) The law of success – Lose your ego and be more objective. DO NOT substitute your own judgement for what the market truly wants. Do not blind yourself by success, focus. Always think like a prospect thinks and try to base that on trends and real data. Don’t try to read your prospects mind. Do not oppose your view of the world on the customer. Never lose touch with the front lines.


19) The law of failure – Do not try to fix things. Recognize a failure early and change fast. The ready, fire, aim approach – try new ideas but nobody succeeds every time. Reward new ideas and the resulting success. Do not be afraid to take risks.


20) The law of hype – When your company needs “the hype” it usually means you’re in trouble or your plan is not strong or failing. New products that are going to “revolutionize the industry” are popular candidates for hype. Real revolutions don’t come down main street with a marching band – they sneak up on your in the middle of the night.


21) The law of acceleration – Do not focus on fads. Focus on trends.


22) The law of resources – Even the best idea in the world will not go far without proper funding. Ideas without money are worthless.


The bottom line: Pick at least a few of these to work on. Most are still very valid today and by focusing on these “laws” there is a good chance you can get a leg up over your competitors.

Source of the descriptions of each law

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