The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

"Once you open your mind to the possibility that there are laws of marketing, it’s easy to see what they are. In truth, they are obvious."

- The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, page xi

Imagine the billions of dollars that have been wasted on marketing programs that don’t work. There is a perception that the answer to all marketing questions is the same: money. Al Ries and Jack Trout propose that more money has been wasted in marketing than any other human activity (outside of government activities).

The authors believe that, like there are laws of nature, there are also laws of marketing. After studying marketing principles and problems, they have distilled their findings into basic laws that govern success and failure. They call them the Immutable Laws of Marketing and there are 22 of them. Below is a brief summary of them all and then a closer look at just two.

Violate these laws at your own risk.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Basic Laws

"There are laws of nature so why shouldn’t there be laws of marketing?"
- The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, page xi

What are the 22 laws?

  1. Leadership – it’s better to be first than it is to be better.
  2. The category – if you can’t be first in the category – set up a new category.
  3. The mind – it’s better to be first in the mind than the marketplace.
  4. Perception – people don’t care about your product, they care what it does for them.
  5. Focus – own a word in a prospect’s mind.
  6. Exclusivity – companies cannot own the same word in a prospect’s mind.
  7. The ladder – your strategy depends on which run you sit on the ladder.
  8. Duality – every market eventually becomes a two-horse race.
  9. The opposite – if shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader – don’t try to be better, be different.
  10. Divisions – over time a category will divide and become two or more categories.
  11. Perspective – marketing effects take place over an extended period of time.
  12. Line extensions – when you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble.
  13. Sacrifice – you have to give up something in order to get something.
  14. Attributes – for every attribute there is an opposite, effective attribute.
  15. Candor – when you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive.
  16. Singularity – in each situation, only one move will give you the result.
  17. Unpredictability – you can’t predict the future.
  18. Success – can lead to arrogance which leads to failure.
  19. Failure – to be expected and accepted.
  20. Hype – situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press.
  21. Acceleration – successful programs aren’t built on fads. They’re built on trends.
  22. Resources – without adequate funding, an idea won’t get off the ground.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

The Law of Perception

"The perception is the reality. Everything else is an illusion."
- The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, page 19

Do you think that the best product will win? Many marketers, confident in this belief, are preoccupied with ‘getting the facts’. They analyze the situation to make sure they have the best product, then naively sail into the world with confidence.

It’s all an illusion says Ries and Trout. 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 only reality.

Coca-Cola illustrated this for us when they thought best taste would lead to best-selling cola. Remember New Coke? It won the taste competition but the perception in the consumers’ minds was more important. The one that research showed tasted worst, Coca-Cola Classic, continues to outsell all the others. Perception is reality.

The tricky thing about perception is that we all think we are better perceivers than others. Only by accepting that you aren’t and studying how perceptions are formed and focusing your marketing on those perceptions can you overcome your incorrect marketing instincts.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

The Law of Success

"Ego is the enemy of successful marketing."
- The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, page 105

When people become successful, they tend to become less objective. They may substitute their own judgement for what the market wants. It reminds me of Jim Collins’ famous quote “Good is the enemy of great”. Success often leads to arrogance and arrogance to failure.

I work in the pharmaceutical industry trying to illuminate our path to patient centricity. One of the things I do is shift the mindset of sales reps to be focused on the patient instead of the prescription. The irony is that they will achieve greater sales when they are more patient focused.

But the old mindset of being script centric was founded in years and years of success. Now, while things are changing, the leaders insist people should “go back to basics”. They remember when old strategies were successful and they can’t take those blinders off to see a new approach is needed.

From the Law of Leadership to the Law of Resources, these valuable insights stand the test of time and offer guidance for anyone smart enough to look. The authors warn, however, about the dangers of applying the laws since many of them fly in the face of corporate ego, conventional wisdom and the Malcolm Baldrige awards. But with patience and courage, the laws will smooth your road to successful products.

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Jill Donahue

ABOUT Jill Donahue

Everything I do is focused on improving patient outcomes. I do that by being a student and teacher of ethical, effective influence. I teach pharma people and health care professionals how to improve their ability to influence others...
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