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

1. The Law of Leadership
The basic issue in marketing is creating a category you can be first

Unfortunately, benchmarking doesn’t work. Regardless of reality, people perceive the first product into the mind as superior. Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.

2. The Law of the Category
If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.

Forget the brand. Think categories. Prospects are on the defensive when it comes to brands. Everyone talks about why their brand is better. But prospects have an open mind when it comes to categories. Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better.

3. The Law of the Mind
More money is wasted in marketing than in any other human activity (outside of government activities, of course).

The reason you blast instead of worm is that people don’t like to change their minds. Once they perceive you one way, that’s it. They kind of file you away in their minds as a certain kind of person. You cannot become a different person in their minds.

4. The Law of Perception
All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect.

The perception is the reality. Everything else is an illusion.

All truth is relative. Relative to your mind or the mind of another human being. When you say, “I’m right and the next person is wrong,” all you’re really saying is that you’re a better perceiver than someone else.
Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products. Marketing is the process of dealing with those perceptions.

5. The Law of Focus
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.

6. The Law of Exclusivity
What researchers never tell you is that some other company already owns the idea. They would rather encourage clients to mount massive marketing programs. The theory is that if you spend enough money, you can own the idea. Right? Wrong.

7. The Law of 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.

Before starting any marketing program, ask yourself the following questions: Where are we on the ladder in the prospect’s mind? On the top rung? On the second rung? Or maybe we’re not on the ladder at all.

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 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.

9. The Law of the Opposite
Marketing is often a battle for legitimacy. The first brand that captures the concept is often able to portray its competitors as illegitimate pretenders.

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

A category starts off as a single entity. Computers, for example. But over time, the category breaks up into other segments. Mainframes, minicomputers, workstations, personal computers, laptops, notebooks, pen computers.

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

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

Many marketing moves exhibit the same phenomenon. The long-term effects are often the exact opposite of the short-term effects.

After the sale is over, customers tend to avoid a store with a “sale” reputation.

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

More is less. The more products, the more markets, the more alliances a company makes, the less money it makes.

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.

13. The Law of Sacrifice
First, the product line. Where is it written that the more you have to sell, the more you sell?

Marketing is a game of mental warfare. It’s a battle of perceptions, not products or services.

Where is it written that you have to appeal to everybody?

The target is not the market. That is, the apparent target of your marketing is not the same as the people who will actually buy your product.

Where is it written that you have to change your strategy every year at budget review time?

14. The Law of Attributes
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.

15. The Law of Candor
First and foremost, 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 an advertisement.

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

So why go with the obvious? Marketing is often a search for the obvious. Since you can’t change a mind once it’s made up, your marketing efforts have to be devoted to using ideas and concepts already installed in the brain. You have to use your marketing programs to “rub it in.”

One final note: 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 doesn’t 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.

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

What works in marketing is the same as what works in the military: the unexpected.

To find that singular idea or concept, marketing managers have to know what’s happening in the marketplace. They have to be down in the mud of the battle. They have to know what’s working and what isn’t. They have to be involved.

It’s hard to find that single move if you’re hanging around headquarters and not involved in the process.

17. The Law of Unpredictability
Most of corporate America’s problems are not related to short-term marketing thinking. The problem is short-term financial thinking.

So what can you do? How can you best cope with unpredictability? While you can’t predict the future, you can get a handle on trends, which is a way to take advantage of change.

No one can predict the future with any degree of certainty. Nor should marketing plans try to.

18. The Law of Success
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.

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

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.

20. The Law of Hype
When things are going well, a company doesn’t need the hype. When you need the hype, it usually means you’re in..

Forget the front page. If you’re looking for clues to the future, look in the back of the paper for those innocuous little stories.

21. The Law of Acceleration
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.

One way to maintain a long-term demand for your product is to never totally satisfy the demand.

22. The Law of Resources
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.

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