You cannot think well without writing well. You cannot write well without reading well.

I am working my way through a series of classic marketing books, revisiting some of the fundamental principles in marketing, in a world where we are surrounded by growth hacks and swipe files.

The first book in this endeavor is the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout. Published in 1994, it’s not filled with contemporary examples, nevertheless, it gives a comprehensive summary of the marketing principles for you to deduce why a marketing campaign is a success or failure.

Below is a brief summary of the 22 laws in the book to give you a quick scan. The book only has 130 pages, I recommend you give it a quick read yourself.

1. The Law of Leadership — It’s better to be first than it is to be better.

The common belief is that marketing is about convincing people you have a better product or service. It’s about creating a category you can be first in.  It’s easier to get into the mind first than convince someone you have a better product. People tend to stick with what they’ve got.

2. The Law of Category — 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 people’s minds first, find a new category you can be first in. Forget the brand. Think and promote categories. For example, Dell got into the crowded PC field by being the first to sell computers by phone.

3. The Law of the Mind — It’s better to be first in the mind than to be first in the marketplace.

Marketing is a battle of perception, not product, the mind takes precedence over the marketplace. For example, Apple got into prospects’ minds aided by its simple, easier-to-remember name. Its competitors had names like commodore pet, IMSAI 8080, MITS Altair 8800, and Radio Shack TRS-80.

4. The Law of Perception: Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions.

Only by studying how perceptions are formed in the mind and focusing your marketing programs on those perceptions can you overcome your naturally incorrect marketing instincts, that you’ll win or lose based on the merits of the product. For example, people buy luxury goods based on others' perceptions of those items.

5. The Law of Focus: The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.

You “burn” your way into the mind by narrowing the focus to a single word or concept: Crest — cavities, Domino’s — home delivery, Pepsi-Cola — youth.

6. The Law of exclusivity: Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

When a competitor already owns a word or position in the prospect’s mind, it’s futile to attempt to own the same word.

7. The Law of the Ladder: The strategy to use depends on which rung you occupy on the ladder.

If you are not first on the product ladder in prospects' minds, there are strategies for №2 and №3  brands.

Before starting any marketing program, check where are you on the ladder. Then make sure your program deals realistically with your position on the ladder.

8. The Law of Duality: In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.

When you are a weak №3, you aren’t going to make much progress by attacking the two strong leaders. What you could’ve done is carve out a profitable niche (the law of focus).

9. The Law of the Opposite: If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader.

A company should leverage the leader’s strengths into a weakness. Don’t try to be better, try to be different — an alternative. Coca-cola is an old, established brand. Pepsi-cola is the choice of a new generation.

10. The Law of Division: Over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories.

The way for a leader to maintain its dominance is to address each emerging category with a different brand name.

11. The Law of Perspective: Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time.

Many marketing moves’ long-term effects are often the exact opposite of the short-term effects. A sale increases a company’s short-term business but decreases business in the long term by educating customers not to buy at “regular “ prices; the perception is that your regular prices are too high.

12. The Law of Line Extension: There’s an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand

The most violated law. Line extension involves taking the brand name of a successful product (e.g., A-1 steak sauce) and putting it on a new product you plan to introduce (e.g, A-1 poultry sauce), which almost never works, but could be a winner in the short term.

13. The Law of Sacrifice: You have to give up something in order to get something.

Opposite of the law of line extension, if you want to be successful today, you should give something up.

  • sacrifice product line: reduce your product line to not be a generalist(the law of focus, the law of leadership)
  • sacrifice target market: Pepsi targets young people, Marlboro focuses on a man’s man, the cowboy; but target is not market, e.g., the 50-year-old guy who wants to think he’s 29 will drink the Pepsi.
  • sacrifice constant change: e.g., Bite Beauty changed its formula to be vegan to chase after the market trend, lost its core products & market, and completely flopped.

14. The Law of Attributes: For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute.

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.

The Law of Exclusivity stated that you can’t own the same position your competitor owns. It’s much better to search for an opposite attribute that will let you play off against the leader. E.g., Crest owned cavities, other toothpaste avoided cavities and own other attributes like taste, whitening, etc.

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, on the other hand, are looked at as dubious at best.

You have to prove a positive statement to the prospect’s satisfaction. No proof is needed for a negative statement. People are exposed to tons of positive communication trying to sell them anything. You can use this law to your advantage.

The classic ‘Avis is only №2 in rent-a-cars, so we try harder.’

16. The Law of Singularity: In each situation, only one move will produce substantial results.

The only thing that works in marketing is the single, bold stroke. Most often there’s only one place where a competitor is vulnerable. And that place should be the focus of the entire invading force.

17. The Law of Unpredictability: Unless you write your competitor’s plans, you can’t predict the future.

Your marketing plans based on what will happen in the future are usually wrong. You can get a handle on trends to nevertheless take advantage of change, by building flexibility into your organization, by not bluntly jumping to conclusions about how far a trend would go.

18. The Law of Success: Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.

Success can lead to people substituting their own judgment for what the market wants. Don’t lose touch with the front line, the only thing that counts in marketing is customers’ perception.

19. The Law of Failure: Failure is to be expected and accepted.

Marketing decisions are often made first with the decision maker’s career in mind and second with the impact on the competition or the enemy in mind. There’s a built-in conflict between personal and corporate agendas, which leads to a failure to take risks to avoid failure.

20. The Law of Hype: The situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press.

History is filled with marketing failures that were successful in the press. The greatest hype has been for those that promise to change an entire industry, making existing products obsolete.

If you are faced with a rapidly rising business, with all the characteristics of a fad (short-term phenomenon), the best thing you could do would be to dampen the fad. Doing so, you stretch the fad out and it becomes more like a trend. (Barbie doll is a trend, Cabbage Patch is a fad)

The most profitable thing in marketing is a long-term trend.

22. The Law of Resources: Without adequate funding, an idea won’t get off the ground.

P.S. Interested in more reads? You can find more books that accelerated My marketing career here.