Coca cola vs pepsi

Just as there are laws of nature, like gravity and physics, there are also laws of marketing. Learn how to use these laws to grow sales and outmaneuver the competition.

“The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” is a book written by Al Ries and Jack Trout, probably the world’s best-known marketing strategists and godfathers of the term “positioning”. Released in 1993 before the internet and social network era.

Is it relevant even after 28 years? Yes*.
*It has some outdated examples and some predictions didn’t come true.

Here are my 5 biggest takeaways from the book that you can consider in your marketing program.

1. Perception

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

There is no objective reality. There are no facts. There are no best products. 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.

Objectivity in marketing is a relative concept. You might think that the quality of your service is what matters the most. There is no bad or good quality, there is only the customer’s perception. Some people think that your service is the best, while others don’t.

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. E.g. “Everybody knows” that designers are creative folks, artists, not exactly people of numbers. This perception is not in favor of being perceived as someone that can’t help with business problems or shape the strategy.

Changing a prospect’s or customer’s mind is very difficult. A perception that exists in the mind is often interpreted as a universal truth. People are never wrong in their own minds.

The only way to overcome that is by studying how perceptions are formed in the mind of your prospects and focusing your marketing programs on that perception.

2. Honesty

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

It may come as a surprise to you that 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. In the given example of “crazy creative,” you can twist your marketing message to overcome that false belief by admitting that designers are indeed a bit crazy… they think differently. Do you remember Apple advertising “Think different”?

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

— Steve Jobs, 1997

You don’t fight the perception by ignoring or denying it. You admit the perception and find positive aspects that favor your services.

3. Be first

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/service than the one who got there first. In other words: being first gives you a very big advantage over competition (yet, it doesn’t guarantee success).

If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in. This is similar to what Peter Thiel says in Zero to One, where he urges people to carve out a tiny market to dominate rather than taking a small percentage of an existing one.

E.g. It’s hard to compete in the web design market. You’re not the first on that market. What could you do? Create a new category like web designer that creates websites exclusively for yoga teachers.

4. Different

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

Leverage the leader’s strength into a weakness. Don’t try to be better than the leader, try to be different. You should leverage the leader’s strength into weakness and offer alternatives. There are always those who want to buy from the leader and there are those who don’t want to buy from the leader. A potential No. 2 has to appeal to the latter group. You need to position yourself against the leader and take business away from all the other alternatives.

E.g. Leader works with the biggest brands? Establish yourself as the best choice for a leader’s contender, David that helps to defeat Goliath.

5. Focus

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

Rule 1 – Minimize product line, Rule 2 – Limit your target market, Rule 3 – Be consistent. Have a brilliant narrow position and stick with it. DO NOT become all things to all people.

When you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble. It’s tempting to extend your services and serve all markets. The bad thing that without clear focus you’ll be a blur in the eyes of your prospects.

All 22 Laws of Marketing

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

15. The Law of Candor
When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive.

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

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

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

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

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

21. The Law of Acceleration
Successful programs are not built on fads, they’re built on trends.

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

About the author 

Zbignev Gecis

Zbignev has been a product designer for nearly 20 years. He has worked on hundreds of projects and offered his expertise on everything from SaaS and eCommerce to marketing and branding.

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