The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing Summary: Top 10 Lessons

The 22 Immutable Laws of marketing is another one of those classic business books that’ll be just as valuable 20 years from now as it is today. Filled with lessons learned from decades in the game, Al Ries and & Jack Trout have provided immense value here.

Below is a summary of my top 10 lessons from 22 immutable laws of marketing, slightly edited for comprehension. However, you should know that 95% of the words below are straight from the author’s mouth, and all ideas are theirs.

I hope you get as much out of these laws as I have. Enjoy.

The Law Of Leadership

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

Many people believe that the basic issue in marketing is convincing prospects that you have a better product or service.

Not true.

If you have a small market share and you have to battle with larger, better-financed competitors, then your marketing strategy was probably faulty in the first place. You violated the first law of marketing.

The basic issue in marketing is creating a category you can be first in. It’s the law of leadership: It’s better to be first than it is to be 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.

You can demonstrate the law of leadership by asking yourself two questions:

1) What’s the name of the first person to fly the

Atlantic Ocean solo? Charles Lindbergh, right?

2) What’s the name of the second person to fly the

Atlantic Ocean solo? Not so easy to answer, is it?

The law of leadership applies to any product, any brand, any category

The Law Of Category

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

What’s the third person’s name to fly the Atlantic Ocean solo? If you didn’t know that Bert Hinkler was the second person to fly the Atlantic, you might figure you had no chance at all to know the name of the third person. But you do. It’s Amelia Earhart.

Now, is Amelia known as the third person to fly the Atlantic Ocean solo or as the first woman to do so?

Charles Schwab didn’t open a better brokerage firm. He opened the first discount broker.

Lear’s was not the first woman’s magazine. It was the first magazine for mature women. (The magazine for the woman who wasn’t born yesterday.)

This is counter to classic marketing thinking, which is brand oriented: How do I get people to prefer my brand? Forget the brand. Think categories. Prospects are on the defensive when it comes to brands.

Everyone talks about why their brand is better. But prospects have an open mind when it comes to categories. Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better.

The Law of Perception

Marketing is not a battle of products; it’s a battle of perceptions.

There are no best products. 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.

If marketing were a battle of products, you would think the same sales order would hold true for both countries. After all, the same quality, the same styling, the same horsepower, and roughly the same prices hold true for Japan as they do for the United States.

But in Japan, Honda is nowhere near the leader. There, Honda is in third place, behind Toyota and Nissan. Toyota sells more than four times as many automobiles in Japan as Honda does.

So what’s the difference between Honda in Japan and Honda in the United States? The products are the same, but the perceptions in customers’ minds are different.

The battle is even more difficult because customers frequently make buying decisions based on second-hand perceptions. Instead of using their own perceptions, they base their buying decisions on someone else’s perception of reality. This is the “everybody knows” principle.

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. Not a complicated word. Not an invented one. The simple words are best, words taken right out of the dictionary.

This is the law of focus. You “burn” your way into the mind by narrowing the focus to a single word or concept. It’s the ultimate marketing sacrifice.

Federal Express was able to put the word overnight into the minds of its prospects because it sacrificed its product line and focused on overnight package delivery only.

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.

You can’t change people’s minds once they are made up. In fact, you often reinforce your competitor’s position by making its concept more important.

Many people have paid the price for violating the law of exclusivity.

The Law of the Ladder

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

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

Your marketing strategy should depend on how soon you got into the mind and, consequently, which rung of the ladder you occupy. The higher, the better, of course.

The mind is selective. Prospects use their ladders to decide which information to accept and which to reject. In general, a mind accepts only new data that is consistent with its product ladder in that category. Everything else is ignored.

What about your product’s ladder in the prospect’s mind? How many rungs are there on your ladder? It depends on whether your product is a high-interest or a low-interest product. Products you use every day (cigarettes, cola, beer, toothpaste, cereal) tend to be high-interest products with many rungs on their ladders. Products that are purchased infrequently (furniture, lawn mowers, luggage) usually have few rungs on their ladders.

Products that involve a great deal of personal pride (automobiles, watches, cameras) are also high-interest products with many rungs on their ladders even though they are purchased infrequently.

Products that are purchased infrequently and involve an unpleasant experience usually have very few rungs on their ladders. Automobile batteries, tires, and life insurance are three examples.

The ultimate product that involves the least amount of pleasure and is purchased once in a lifetime has no rungs on its ladder. Ever hear of Batesville caskets? Probably not, although the brand has almost 50 per cent of the market.

There’s a relationship between market share and your position on the ladder in the prospect’s mind. You tend to have twice the market share of the brand below you and half the market share of the brand above you.

The Law of Division

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

Like an amoeba divided into a petri dish, the marketing arena can be viewed as an ever-expanding sea of 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, and pen computers.

Like the computer, the automobile started off as a single category. Three brands (Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth) dominated the market. Then the category is divided. Today we have luxury cars, moderately priced cars, and inexpensive cars. Full-size, intermediates, and compacts. Sports cars, four-wheel-drive vehicles, RVs, and minivans.

Each segment is a separate, distinct entity. Each segment has its own reason for existence. And each segment has its own leader, which is rarely the same as the leader of the original category. IBM is the leader in mainframes, DEC in minis, Sun in workstations, and so on.

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. A classic example is a fate that befell Volkswagen, the company that introduced the small-car category to America. Its Beetle was a big winner that grabbed 67 per cent of the imported-car market in the United States.

It’s better to be early than late. You can’t get into the prospect’s mind first unless you’re prepared to spend some time waiting for things to develop.

The Law Of Line Extention

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

If violating any of our laws was a punishable offence, a large portion of corporate America would be in jail.

By far, the most violated law in our book is the law of line extension. What’s even more diabolical is that line extension is a process that takes place continuously, with almost no conscious effort on the part of the corporation. It’s like a closet or a desk drawer that fills up with almost no effort on your part.

You inevitably get in trouble when you try to be all things to everyone. “I’d rather be strong somewhere,” said one manager, “than weak everywhere.”

More is less. The more products, the more markets, the more alliances a company makes, the less money it makes. “Full-speed ahead in all directions” seems to be the call from the corporate bridge. When will companies learn that line extension ultimately leads to oblivion?

“Less is more” If you want to be successful, you must narrow the focus to build a position in the prospect’s mind.

The Law of Sacrifice

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

The law of sacrifice is the opposite of the law of line extension. If you want to be successful today, you should give something up. There are three things to sacrifice: product line, target market, and constant change.

First is the product line. Where is it written that the more you have to sell, the more you sell? The full line is a luxury for a loser. If you want to be successful, you have to reduce your product line, not expand it.

Where is it written that you have to appeal to everybody? Quick answer – it’s not.

Look at cigarette advertisements, especially old cigarette ads. They invariably show both a man and a woman. Why? In an age when most smokers were men, cigarette manufacturers wanted to broaden their market. We got the men; let’s go out and get the women, too.

So what did Philip Morris do? It narrowed the focus to men only. And then it narrowed the focus even more to a man’s man, the cowboy. The brand was called Marlboro. Today, Marlboro is the largest-selling cigarette in the world.

Finally, the third sacrifice: constant change. Where is it written that you must change your strategy yearly at budget review time? If you try to follow the twists and turns of the market, you are bound to wind up off the road. The best way to maintain a consistent position is not to change it in the first place.

The Law of Attributes

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

Too often, a company attempts to emulate the leader. “They must know what works,” goes the rationale, “so let’s do something similar.” Not good thinking. 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 the 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.

To dominate your category or market, you need to find your own word or attribute that you become known for and can use to win the customer’s mind.

Some say all attributes are not created equal. Some attributes are more important to customers than others. You must try and own the most important attribute.

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