The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout15 min read

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The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

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The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing Summary

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

The Law of Leadership

The Law of Category

The Law of the Mind

The Law of Perception

The Law of Focus

The Law of Exclusivity

The Law of the Ladder

The Law of Duality

The Law of the Opposite

The Law of Division

The Law of Perspective

The Law of Line Extension

The Law of Sacrifice

The Law of Attributes

The Law of Candor

The Law of Singularity

The Law of Unpredictability

The Law of Success

The Law of Failure

The Law of Hype

The Law of Acceleration

The Law of Resources

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing Summary

Chapter 1: The Law of Leadership

Summary: 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.

In today’s competitive environment, a me-too product with a line extension name has little hope of becoming a big profitable brand.

The leading brand in any category is almost always the first brand into the prospect’s mind.

Not every first is going to become successful. Timing is an issue—your first could be too late.

People tend to stick with what they’ve got.

One reason the first brand tends to maintain its leadership is that the name often becomes generic (e.g. “How do I make a Xerox?”).

If you’re introducing the first brand in a new category, you should always try to select a name that can work generically.

Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.

Chapter 2: The Law of Category

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

If you didn’t get into the prospect’s mind first, don’t give up hope. Find a new category you can be first in. It’s not as difficult as you might think.

When you launch a new product, the first question to ask yourself is not “How is this product better than the competition?” but “First what?” In other words, what category is this new product first in?

Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better.

When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category. In essence, you have no competition.

Chapter 3: The Law of The Mind

Summary: 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.

The single most wasteful thing you can do in marketing is trying to change a mind.

If you want to make a big impression on another person, you cannot worm your way into their mind and then slowly build up a favorable opinion over a period of time. The mind doesn’t work that way. You have to blast your way into the mind.

Chapter 4: The Law of Perception

Summary: 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 or prospect. The perception is reality. Everything else is an illusion.

Only by studying how perceptions are formed in the mind and focusing your marketing programs on those perceptions can you overcome your basically incorrect marketing instincts.

What makes the battle even more difficult is that 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.

Chapter 5: The Law of Focus

Summary: 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.

The leader owns the word that stands for the category. 

You can test the validity of a leadership claim by a word association test.

If you’re not a leader, then your word has to have a narrow focus. Even more important, however, your word has to be “available” in your category. No one else can have a lock on it.

The most effective words are simple and benefit orientated. No matter how complicated the product, no matter how complicated the needs of the market, it’s always better to focus on one word or benefit rather than two or three or four.

Words come in different varieties. They can be benefit related (captivity prevention), service related (home delivery), audience related (younger people), or sales related (preferred brand).

There comes a time when a company must change words.

You can’t take somebody else’s word.

What won’t work in marketing is leaving your own word in search of a word owned by others.

You can’t narrow the focus with quality or any other idea that doesn’t have proponents for the opposite point of view.

When you develop your word to focus on, be prepared to fend off the lawyers.

Once you have your word, you have to go out of your way to protect it in the marketplace.

Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

Chapter 6: The Law of Exclusivity

Summary: 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.

Chapter 7: The Law of The Ladder

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

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. On each rung 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. The higher the better, of course.

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

Products that are purchased infrequently and involve an unpleasant experience usually have very few rungs on their ladders.

The ultimate product that involves the least amount of pleasure and it purchased once in a lifetime has no rungs on its ladder.

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.

Seven is the maximum number of rungs on a ladder in the prospect’s mind.

Sometimes your own ladder, or category, is too small. It might be better to be a small fish in a big pond than to be a big fish in a small pond. In other words, it’s sometimes to be No. 3 on a big ladder than No. 1 on a small ladder.

Before starting any marketing program, ask yourself, “Where are we on the ladder in the prospect’s mind?”

In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.

Chapter 8: The Law of Duality

Summary: In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.

Early on, a new category is a ladder of many rungs. Gradually, the ladder becomes a two-rung affair.

When you take the long view of marketing, you find the battle usually winds up as a titanic struggle between two major players—usually the old reliable brand and the new upstart.

In a maturing industry, third place is a difficult position to be in.

Knowing that marketing is a two-horse race, in the long run, can help you plan strategy in the short-term.

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

Chapter 9: The Law of Opposite

Summary: 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. (In other words, don’t try to be better, try to be different). It’s often the upstart versus old reliable.

By positioning yourself against the leader, you take business away from all the other alternatives to No. 1.

You must present yourself as the alternative.

As a product gets old, it often accrues some negative damage.

Marketing is often a balance for legitimacy. The first brand that captures the concept is often able to portray its competitors as illegitimate pretenders. 

A good No.2 can’t afford to be timid. When you give up focusing on No. 1, you make yourself vulnerable to not only the leader but to the rest of the pack.

Chapter 10: The Law of Diversion

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

A category starts off as a single entity. But over time, the category breaks up into other segments.

Companies make mistakes when they try to take a well-known brand name in one category and use the same brand name in another category.

What keeps leaders from launching a different brand to cover a new category is the fear of what will happen to their existing brands.

Timing is important. You can be too early to exploit a new category.

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

Chapter 11: The Law of Perspective

Summary: Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time.

Chapter 12: The Law of Line Extension

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

The law of line extension is the most violated law.

When you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble. 

Line extension involves taking the brand name of a successful product and putting it on a new product you plan to introduce.

In the long run and in the presence of serious competition, line extension almost never works.

Invariably, the leader in any category is the brand that is not line extended.

One reason why top management believe line extension works is because it can be a winner in the short-term.

Chapter 13: The Law of Sacrifice

Summary: 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.

For a new brand to succeed, it ought to be first in a new category. Or the new brand ought to be positioned as an alternative to the leader.

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

Constant change

If you want to be successful, you have to reduce your product line, not extend it.

The word of business is populated by big, highly diversified generalists and small, narrowly focused specialists.

The best way to maintain a consistent position is not to change it in the first place.

Chapter 14: The Law of Attributes

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

For instance, since Crest owned cavities, other toothpastes avoided cavities and jumped on other attributes like taste, whitening, breath protection, etc.

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 better have a low price. A very low price.

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

Chapter 15: The Law of Cador

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

Candor is very disarming.

Every negative statement you make about yourself is instantly accepted as truth. Positive statements, on the other hand, are looked at as dubious at best. Especially in advertising.

You have to prove a positive statement to the prospect’s satisfaction. No proof is needed for a negative statement.

If your name is bad, you have two choices: change the name or make fun of it. The one thing you can’t do is ignore a bad name.

Admitting a problem is something very few companies do.

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

The law of candor must be used carefully and with great skill. First, your “negative” must be widely perceived as a negative. It has to trigger an instant agreement with your prospect’s mind. If the negative doesnät register quickly, your prospect will be confused and will wonder, “What’s this all about?” Next, you have to shift quickly to the positive. The purpose of candor isn’t to apologize. The purpose of candor is to set up a benefit that will convince your prospect.

Chapter 16: The Law of Singularity

Summary: 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. 

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

Chapter 17: The Law of Predictability

Summary: Unless you write your competitors’ plans, you can’t predict the future.

Failure to forecast competitive reaction is a major reason for marketing failures.

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 than builds a program to maximize that idea or angle. It’s not a long-term plan, it’s a long-term direction.

While you can’t predict the future, you can get a handle on trends, which is a way to take advantage of change.

When you assume that nothing will change, you are predicting the future just as surely as when you assume that something will change. Remember Peter’s Law. The unexpected always happens.

One way to cope with an unpredictable world is to build an enormous amount of flexibility into your organization. As changes come sweeping through your category, you have to be willing to change and change quickly if you are to survive in the long term.

Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.

Chapter 18: The Law of Success

Summary: 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.

Success is often the fatal element behind the rash of line extensions. When a brand is successful, the company assumes the name is the primary reason for the brand’s success. So they promptly look for other products to plaster the name on.

The more you identify with your brand or corporate name, the more likely you are to fall into the line extension trap.

Brilliant marketers have the ability to think like a prospect thinks. They put themselves in the shoes of their customers. They don’t impose their own view of the world on the situation. 

The bigger the company, the more likely it is that the chief executive has lost touch with the front lines.

Failure is to be excepted and accepted.

Chapter 19: The Law of Failure

Summary: Failure is to be expected and accepted. 

Too many companies try to fix things rather than drop things.

Admitting a mistake and not doing anything about it as bad for your career. A better strategy is to recognize failure early and cut your losses.

Nobody has ever been fired for a bold move they didn’t make.

Chapter 20: The Law of Hype

Summary: 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.

Chapter 21: The Law of Acceleration

Summary: 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. And when they appear, try to dampen them. One way to maintain a long-term demand for your products is to never totally satisfy the demand.

Chapter 22: The Law of Resources

Summary: 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.

An idea without money is worthless.

Other Books by Al Ries and Jack Trout


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