The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! — Book Summary

Jose Casanova
Oct 11, 2015 · 11 min read

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!

Rating: 4/5

TL;DR: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! is a great read for those interested in marketing. It covers the basic laws you should follow in your marketing efforts.

A Brief Introduction

In the modern era, most people tend to believe the horizons of marketing are infinite if you are energetic, creative and willing to splurge. However, as there are laws of nature, there are certain laws of marketing and if they are not adhered to strictly, it wreaks havoc on an organization’s goals. No matter how diligently you labor on your marketing plans, they are going to fall through the ceiling if the 22 fundamental laws of marketing are violated.

The denizens of the marketing realm are in a perpetual quest for the “absolute zero”, a set of rules and paradigms that could be squeezed conveniently in to their marketing situations to glean maximum success. Two venerable authors have come to grant a blessing to exuberant marketing personnel in the form of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!. Even though it was published in 1994, most of the laws are still relevant today.

The Law of Leadership

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

Marketing is a battle of perceptions! Creating a category you can be the first in is the elementary issue in marketing. The leading brand in any arena is often the first brand people associate the product with. Getting in to the minds of the people first is easier than convincing them you have a better product and yet companies are in the relentless pursuit for a “better product” strategy and wait for the market, for an innovative product, to be developed before jumping in instead of becoming the pioneer and the name behind the product. “Benchmarking” on a superior product is not effectual as consumers are innately programmed to stick to what they have.

The Law of the Category

If you can’t be first in a category, create a category you can be first in

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

The mind takes precedence in the world of marketing. People are defensive and loyal when it comes to brands so instead of offering a “better product” than the competitors, why not offer a new product? After Heineken’s success, Anheuser-Busch said they should import beer too. That didn’t work, but when they made the first high-priced domestic beer, Michelob, it succeeded. The most prudent marketing strategy is to create a new category and promote it intensely. Prospects are always on the lookout for novelty!

The Law of the Mind

It is better to be first in the mind than first in the marketplace

‘‘The single most wasteful thing you can do in marketing is try to change a mind.’’- Al Ries & Jack Trout

Marketing is a battle of perception, not product. No matter how revolutionary a notion is or how novel the product, getting it in to the minds of potential consumers is the key to an effective marketing strategy. It is rarely feasible to change the minds of the consumers once they perceive a product a certain way. Spending bucket loads of money to worm your way in to the minds doesn’t always work, as sometimes a few dollars can work wonders if the consumers keep an open mind.

The Law of Perception

Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions

There is neither objective reality nor a better product. The perception of the product in the minds of the consumers is the only unyielding certainty and the universal truth. With a modicum of experience in a single category, the consumer, in his own mind, is always right in his perception of it. While Honda dominates the US market in terms of sales, it is construed as a motorcycle company and Japanese have reservations purchasing cars from a company they associate with motorcycles.

The Law of Focus

The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind

To burn your way in to the minds of the customers, etch a single word owned by your product so that as soon as that word pops up, it is reminiscent of your product. The word should emphasize an irrefutable product advantage e.g. Heinz owns ‘ketchup’ and Dominos’ dig up “home delivery” inside the mind. Although, brands tout on the fact that words stick forever, companies must change their word sometimes to instill a new perception of the product.

The Laws of Exclusivity

Two companies cannot use the same word in the prospect’s minds

It is futile to endeavor to use the same word as used by your competitor, as it only serves to reinforce their position. Volvo owns “safety” and although many global giants have attempted to base their marketing strategy around the same impression, none has succeeded in getting inside the minds of the consumers with safety messages. You can’t change people’s minds once they are made up. The rule of the jungle is if the leader wants the most important word, take the second most important!

The Law of the Ladder

The strategy to use depends on which rung you occupy on the ladder

While being first in the minds of the consumers is the ultimate success sac, all hope is not lost if you fail in this endeavor. People have created a hierarchy to catalog products in the same category and make decisions based on it. Some product categories might have several rungs while some have few but an average human mind can’t go beyond seven rungs. Consider which step you occupy on the ladder in the consumers’ minds and base your marketing strategy on it.

The Law of Duality

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

‘‘Only businesses that are No. 1 or No. 2 in their markets could win in the increasingly competitive global arena. Those that could not, were fixed, closed or sold.’’ — Jack Welch, CEO, General Electric.

Early on, each category has myriad rungs in the minds of the consumers but inevitably that ladder becomes a two-rung affair. It all comes down to a power struggle between two major players e.g. Hertz and Avis or Burger King and McDonald’s. The customers believe marketing to be a battle of products and always keep two brands on top!

The Law of the Opposite

If you are shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader

Instead of aspiring to be better than the leader, dare to be different. There are two kinds of people: those who like the leader and those that don’t. Implementing this tactic leverages your brand for the latter. Discover the essence of the leader and present an alternative instead of emulating it. E.g. Coca-Cola is an old established product while Pepsi presented itself as the choice of a new generation.

The Law of the Division

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

Categories tend to divide with the capricious necessities and each segment has its own reason for existence, a separate leader and unique market dynamics, e.g. computers broke off in to mini computers, mainframes, workstations, notebooks and laptops. If a leader wishes to glean dominance in several segmented categories, it needs to establish a disparaged brand for each, e.g. General Motors went with Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and Pontiac.

The Law of Perspective

Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time

The long-term effects of marketing often vary from the short-term effects. E.g. running a sale generates short-term business but educates the consumers in the long run that they should never buy at regular prices. In developing an effective marketing strategy, long-term goals should be complied with, even if the short-term plan paints an enticing picture. A company needs to run sales, not to increase business but to keep it from falling.

The Law of Line Extension

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

The success of a brand is linked to how tightly focused it is on a single profitable product it started out to be instead of spreading thin and venturing out in to unknown dimensions. Don’t try to be the jack of all trades once you have carved a specific niche in the minds of the consumers. Taking a lucrative brand image of one product and pasting it on another, line extension, is detrimental to your business. The leader in any category is one which isn’t line extended!

The Law of Sacrifice

You have to give something up in order to get something

There are 3 things on the line for sacrificing: product line, target market and consistent change. In order to be successful, you have to contain your product line, not extend it. In the minds of the consumers, a brand is linked to a specific product and linking it to another could be confounding. Kraft lost the jelly market to Smucker’s because that’s all they produce. Instead of casting wide nets to capture every consumer, why not focus on a targeted market, e.g. Pepsi marketed itself as a brand for the new generation. Successful companies don’t adapt their market strategy constantly in response to wavering consumer demand but stick to what they do!

The Law of Attributes

For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute

The key to downplaying your competitor is to offer an alternative to consumers, not emulation. If your competitor markets the most important attribute of a product, seize the next important one and build your marketing strategy around it to increase shares. Gillette made high-tech razors but jumped at the opportunity to produce disposable razors and came out with an individual brand for it. If you cannot dislodge a market leader, serve what they ignore.

The Law of Candor

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

Every glib positive comment you make about your brand is construed as dubious while every negative comment is taken to be honest. Candor is disarming! When a company admits a problem, instilled in to the minds of the consumers, people instinctively open their minds. Listerine candidly warded off the misgivings about its unpleasant taste by marketing itself as “the taste you hate twice a day”. Make your negative comments resonate with the consumers and then turn it to a give positive.

The Law of Singularity

In each situation, only one move will produce substantial results

Success is not the amalgamation of small efforts immaculately executed. Instead of laboring hard on aspects that don’t produce tangible results, sometimes a bold stroke is all that is needed to achieve spectacular results. Find out where your competitor is vulnerable and exploit it. Marketing managers need to step right in to the muddy battle ground to know the ins and outs of the market and have to get involved to discover that one singular idea that will turn the tables.

The Law of Unpredictability

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

Marketing plans based on speculative assumptions about the future often go down the drain! You cannot forecast competitive reaction and short-term financial thinking is the downfall of most plans. For a successful strategy, coming up with a word that defines your brand, focusing on the best available attributes for that brand and then making long-term plans to secure the brand, is indispensable. Stay abreast of the trends and attack yourself with new ideas to adapt to them.

The Law of Success

Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure

Successful brands ultimately tend to lose their objectivity, ignore what the market dictates and follow their personal inclinations. Instead of imposing your view on the consumers, take a walk in their shoes and base your decisions on the responses of the prospects when faced with your product. Ego is the enemy of success. Never make the mistake of thinking your brand name is synonymous with success and extending the line of products incorporating the same brand name. Instead of relying on staff, gather market intelligence through firsthand experience.

The Law of Failure

Failure is to be expected and accepted

No plan is infallible and failures are inevitable! The biggest prudence in marketing is to admit your mistakes early on and cut losses immediately instead of dragging them on, in attempts of fixing it. Not every marketing idea hits the target every time but it shouldn’t deter the employees from coming up with innovative ideas. If the corporate agenda is prioritized over personal ones, reasonable market risks are acceptable, otherwise employees would constantly live in fear of impacting negatively on future career aspirations and shun out of the box thinking. This ideal environment requires sacrificing leaders.

The Law of Hype

The situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press

A busy brand has too much going on to care about making the front page or organizing press conferences but this need to create hype arises when sales are down and the company is in trouble. Take a contrarian approach and learn to forego the front pages created by the PR machine, the amateur enthusiastic journalists. Keep an eye out for innocuous little pieces buried inside the newspaper for actual insights in to the market. Hype for a brand that promises to make other brands obsolete makes for nothing more than a fine read.

The Law of Acceleration

Successful programs are not built on trends, they are built on fads

A fad is a short-term phenomenon that receives much hype but eventually burns out. A trend, on the other hand, is a fad that repeats itself! Avoid committing financial resources to meet the demand generated by the fad and play it safe. When the fad loses its steam, your company would go in to financial shock. When everybody gets a product of the fad, nobody wants it anymore. To create a long-term demand for your product, never entirely satisfy the demand.

The Law of Resources

Without adequate funding, an idea won’t get off the ground

Even the best ideas can’t go far without heavy investment to instill and retain them in the minds of the consumers. You can get further with a mediocre idea and a million dollars than with a great idea and no money. [Note: I don’t agree with this law because you can start a web-based business with little money nowadays]

The most redeeming quality of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! is it is rife with examples to illustrate the laws listed. With advice such as “make sure your program deals realistically with your position on the ladder” and “if you are shooting for the stars, your position is determined by the leader” offer a plethora of insights that could be applied to small organizations just as well as global giants. The author’s intuitive comparison of these laws to the laws of nature paint a realistic picture that portray the essential essence of marketing laws to survival in the corporate sea.

Grab a copy of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! on Amazon.

* All links are affiliate links

Originally published at Jose Casanova’s Thoughts.

Jose Casanova

Written by

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade