Authors: Al Ries and Jack Trout
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is a great read for any marketers and business owners. It covers the tested-and-proven principles of marketing instead of trendy marketing tactics.
In marketing, it’s better to be the first in a category than it is to be better. If you can’t be the first, set up a new category you can be first in. If you’re not the leader, be different and be the opposite alternative to the leader, instead of a better but similar option.
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My Reading Notes
The basic issue in marketing is creating a category you can be first in. It’s the law of leadership: It’s better to be first than it is to be 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.
Regardless of reality, people perceive the first product into the mind as superior. Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.
If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.
Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better.
It’s better to be first in the prospect’s mind than first in the marketplace. Which, if anything, understates the importance of being first in the mind. Being first in the mind is everything in marketing. Being first in the marketplace is important only to the extent that it allows you to get in the mind first.
The single most wasteful thing you can do in marketing is trying to change a mind.
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.
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. This is the law of focus.
The most effective words are simple and benefit-oriented. 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.
Also, there’s the halo effect. If you strongly establish one benefit, the prospect is likely to give you a lot of other benefits, too. A “thicker” spaghetti sauce implies quality, nourishing ingredients, value, and so on. A “safer” car implies better design and engineering.
The essence of marketing is narrowing the focus. You become stronger when you reduce the scope of your operations. You can’t stand for something if you chase after everything.
You can’t narrow the focus with the quality or any other idea that doesn’t have proponents for the opposite point of view. You can’t position yourself as an honest politician, because nobody is willing to take the opposite position (although there are plenty of potential candidates). You can, however, position yourself as the pro-business candidate or the pro-labor candidate and be instantly accepted as such because there is support for the other side.
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.
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 upstart. In strength there is weakness. Wherever the leader is strong, there is an opportunity for a would-be No. 2 to turn the tables.
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. Too many potential No. 2 brands try to emulate the leader. This usually is an error. You must present yourself as the alternative.
Marketing is often a battle 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 not only to the leader but to the rest of the pack.
When you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble.
In a narrow sense, 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 extensions almost never work.
Less is more. If you want to be successful today, you have to narrow the focus in order to build a position in the prospect’s mind.
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, and constant change.
One of the most effective ways to get into a prospect’s mind is to first admit a negative and then twist it into a positive.
Positive thinking has been highly overrated. The explosive growth of communications in our society has made people defensive and cautious about companies trying to sell them anything. Admitting a problem is something that very few companies do.
When a company starts a message by admitting a problem, people tend to, almost instinctively, open their minds.
Trying harder is not the secret of marketing success.
History teaches that the only thing that works in marketing is the single, bold stroke. Furthermore, in any given situation there is only one move that will produce substantial results.
Implicit in most marketing plans is an assumption about the future. Yet marketing plans based on what will happen in the future are usually wrong.
One way to cope with an unpredictable world is to build an enormous amount of flexibility into your organization. As change comes sweeping through your category, you have to be willing to change and change quickly if you are to survive in the long term.
Ego is the enemy of successful marketing. Objectivity is what’s needed. When people become successful, they tend to become less objective. They often substitute their own judgment for what the market wants.
The name didn’t make the brand famous (although a bad name might keep the brand from becoming famous). The brand got famous because you made the right marketing moves. In other words, the steps you took were in tune with the fundamental laws of marketing. You got into the mind first. You narrowed the focus. You preempted a powerful attribute.
Actually, ego is helpful. It can be an effective driving force in building a business. What hurts is injecting your ego in the marketing process. 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.
Too many companies try to fix things rather than drop things. “Let’s reorganize to save the situation” is their way of life. Admitting a mistake and not doing anything about it is bad for your career. A better strategy is to recognize failure early and cut your losses.
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 is a built-in conflict between the personal and the corporate agenda. This leads to a failure to take risks.
When things are going well, a company doesn’t need the hype. When you need the hype, it usually means you’re in trouble.
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. Like a wave, a fad is very visible, but it goes up and down in a big hurry. Like the tide, a trend is almost invisible, but it’s very powerful over the long term. A fad is a short-term phenomenon that might be profitable, but a fad doesn’t last long enough to do a
If you were faced with a rapidly rising business, with all the characteristics of a fad, the best thing you could do would be to dampen the fad. By dampening the fad, you stretch the fad out and it becomes more like a trend.
Even the best idea in the world won’t go very far without the money to get it off the ground. Inventors, entrepreneurs, and assorted idea generators seem to think that all their good ideas need is professional marketing help. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marketing is a game fought in the mind of the prospect. You need money to get into a mind. And you need money to stay in the mind once you get there.