Book notes: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing book summary by Marlo Yonocruz

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

Synopsis: As Al Ries and Jack Trout – the world-renowned marketing consultants and best-selling authors of Positioning – note, 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? In The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Ries and Trout offer a compendium of 22 innovative rules for understanding and succeeding in the international marketplace. From the Law of Leadership, to The Law of the Category, to The Law of the Mind, these valuable insights stand the test of time and present a clear path to successful products. Violate them at your own risk.

Opening thoughts:

This book was recommended by Tim Ferriss as great book that he’s applied in his own businesses and has credited to his success. Coming from someone who I see as extremely successful and whom I highly admire, this was an easy sell.

Key ideas/notes:

  • 1) Law of Leadership: It is better to be first than better
    • Create a category you can be best at. Niche marketing and working in a smaller pond
    • They key is getting into the mind first in that market. Usually, the leading brands are the first brands
    • Select a name that can be used generically (Coke, Tupperware, Q-Tip, Xerox, etc)
    • Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not product. Typically the first in mind product is the superior quality one in the eyes of the consumer
  • 2) Law of the Category: If you can’t be first in a category, create a new category
    • Most people are interested in what’s new, few are interested in what’s better
  • 3) Law of the Consumer’s Mind: it’s better to be first in the mind of the consumer than first in the marketplace
    • More money is wasted on marketing efforts than any other human activity, other than government
    • Once a mind is made up, it rarely if ever changes. The single most wasteful thing you can do in marketing is try and change a mind
  • 4) The Law of Perception: marketing is not a battle of product, it’s a battle of perception
    • All truth is relative, relative to your mind or the mind of another human being
    • When you say you’re right and another person is wrong, all you’re really saying is that you’re a better perceiver than someone else, that your perception is infallible
    • If the universe exists, it exists within the mind of the person and the minds of other individuals
    • Truth is just a perception of an expert. An expert is someone who is perceived to be an expert in the mind of someone else
    • Believing you have the best product only requires a minor modification in your own perception
    • Changing a consumer’s mind is more difficult. With only a modicum of information, they’ll feel like they know enough about it
    • People are hardly, if ever, wrong. At least in their own minds
    • “Everybody knows” principle: consumers base their buying decisions on someone else’s perception of reality
  • 5) The Law of Focus: the most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind
    • Simple, existing words right out of the dictionary are best. Benefits-oriented is also most effective
    • You burn you way into the mind by narrowing the focus to a single word or concept. The ultimate marketing sacrifice
    • The “halo effect” means one benefit can imply many others
    • The essence of marketing is narrowing the focus. Because everyone claims they stand for quality, nobody does
    • You can’t position yourself as one characteristic if nobody else is positioned opposite of you (“honest politician” if nobody claims to be a dishonest one)
    • The trick is to getting and allowing other people to use your word. In order to be a leader, you will need followers
  • 6) The Law of Exclusivity: two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s eyes
  • 7) The Law of the Ladder: the strategy you use depends on which rung you occupy on the ladder
    • Acknowledge your position if not first (higher the better)
    • A mind only accepts new data that’s consistent with its product ladder in that category
    • Frequently purchased and high pride products have many rungs, whereas infrequently purchased products have few rungs
  • 8) The Law of Duality: in the long run, every market becomes a two horse race
  • 9) The Law of the Opposite: If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the winner
    • Look at the leader’s strength, analyze its essence and turn into its weakness. This way you can offer an alternative
    • Don’t try to be better, try to be different
    • 2 types of people: those who want to buy from the leader and those who don’t
    • Reposition your competitors
    • Marketing is also a battle of legitimacy
  • 10) The Law of Division: over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories
  • 11) The Law of Perspective: marketing effects take place over an extended period of time
    • In many areas of life short-term effects are opposite of long-term affects
    • e.g. sales/price cuts increase revenue short-term, but decrease long-term
  • 12) The Law of Line Extension: there’s an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand
    • You have to narrow the focus in order to build a position in the prospect’s mind
    • Instead, create new brands to address new markets/products
  • 13) The Law of Sacrifice: you have to give up something in order to get something
    • 3 things to sacrifice: product line, target market, and constant change
    • Generalists are weak versus the specialists
    • The apparent target of  your marketing is not the same as the people who will actually buy your product
  • 14) The Law of Attributes: for every attribute, there is an opposite effective attribute
    • You must have an idea or attribute of your own to focus your efforts around
  • 15) The Law of Candor: 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 are seen as dubious at best. You have to prove a positive statement
  • 16) The Law of Singularity: in each situation, only one move will produce substantial results. The single bold stroke that will make the biggest difference
    • People think hard work and small efforts well executed leads to success
    • In marketing, there is only one place where the opponent is vulnerable. That place should be the focus of the entire invading force
    • What works in marketing and the military: the unexpected
  • 17) The Law of Unpredictability: unless you write your competitor’s plans, you can’t predict the future
    • While you can’t predict the future, you can get a handle on trends and take advantage of change
    • Your company and marketing strategies have to be flexible and able to handle change
  • 18) The Law of Success: success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure
    • Ego is the enemy of successful marketing
    • The name didn’t make the brand, it is the opposite. The right marketing created the brand
    • Brilliant marketers have the ability to think like a prospect thinks
    • The bigger the company, the more likely the executives have lost touch with the front lines
  • 19) The Law of Failure: failure is to be expected and accepted
    • Drop things that don’t work instead of trying to fix them
    • Don’t punish for failures, or else people will stop taking risks
    • Japanese style of consensus management helps them identify failures, make changes, and move on. Easier to deal with “we have failed” than “I have failed”
    • Ready, fire, aim approach. Trying something and tinkering with it
    • Nobody has ever been fired for a bold move that they didn’t make
  • 20) The Law of Hype: the situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press
    • Real revolutions arrive unannounced in the middle of the night and sneak up on you
    • The amount of hype isn’t proportional to success, often failed products are heavily hyped
  • 21) The Law of Acceleration: successful programs are not built on fads, they are built on trends
    • A fad is a wave, whereas a trend is like the tide
    • The best way to dampen the fad is by extending it, making it seem like a trend
    • One way to maintain a long-term demand for your product is to never totally satisfy the demand
  • 22) The Law of Resources: without adequate funding, an idea won’t get off the ground
    • You need money to market your ideas, get into the mind and stay into the mind
    • Ideas without money can be worthless, you have to use your idea to find the money
    • You can’t save your way to success. Entrepreneurs front-load their investment

Closing thoughts:

While there were some great principles, I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed. While reading about the principles, I found myself constantly putting them up against companies in the present day. While some principles made sense based on the success and failure of some companies, other principles seemed a bit lacking. Moreover, since the book is a bit dated and references older companies, half which aren’t around or no longer big competitors, it’s easy to see how they stacked up knowing the results.

Overall, I’d say there are a few key ideas here that are timeless and can be extremely powerful when used correctly. Some of the principles are obvious and feel a bit forced, like there could have just been ten principles but they needed more fluff to fill in space for the book. You could read the outline version of this book and still get most of the value.

Nutshell: Insightful marketing principles to help grow and develop businesses.

Rating: 3.5/5

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