The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Immutable: unchanging over time or unable to be changed.

It’s a pretty bold claim—that there are 22 laws of marketing that will not change over time.

In fact, the ideas in this book are very counterintuitive and go against mainstream thinking, so much so that they need to have a chapter titled “Warning” at the very end of the book.

Something along the lines of…

Warning: these ideas may not be accepted by management (or anyone else in the business for that matter). You may risk being ignored or becoming an outcast.

Sounds great.

I love books that challenge conventional thinking and make me question things (another great example is The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel).

I’ve chosen to summarise the key “laws” to take note of.

Prepare to have your mind blown.

The Law of Leadership

You should always aim to be the first in a category.

It’s easier to get into a consumer’s mind first than to try to convince them that you have a better product than whoever got there first.

One of the reasons is because the name tends to become generic, like Xerox, Kleenex, or FedEx.

Regardless of whether your product is better or not, people tend to perceive the first product that enters their minds as superior.

And here’s an important point:

Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.

So for all of the marketers who have been busy trying to compare their products to the leading competitors (i.e. the ones who got into consumers’ minds first)…apparently, nobody cares.

Case in point: Coca-Cola classic tastes worse than Pepsi-Cola (per some study, not my opinion, because I don’t drink either), but it’s still the most popular.

You can’t win just by having a better product.

Of course, you can’t always be the first in a category. That doesn’t mean that you’re doomed. There are a few things you can do:

  • Find a new category that you can be first in (The Law of the Category)
    • E.g. Instead of competing with IBM on “computers” go for “laptops”
  • Present yourself as the alternative to the leader (The Law of the Opposite)
    • E.g. Coca-Cola is a 100-year-old established product, while Pepsi-Cola is the choice of a new, younger generation 
  • You might not be first in the market, but if the first player hasn’t put in much effort to get into consumers’ minds, you still have a chance since they’re not well-known (The Law of the Mind)

The Law of Focus

The most powerful thing you can do is OWN A WORD in the consumer’s mind.

For example, FedEx owns “overnight” and Volvo owns “safety”.

If you’re not a leader, your word has to have a narrow focus and it has to be available in your category. If you chase after everything, you stand for nothing. 

And don’t try to go after a word that is already owned! Burger King tried to go after “fast” which was already owned by McDonald’s, and it failed. 

The Law of Line Extension

Apparently, this is THE MOST violated law because it’s rather counterintuitive. 

Many companies think that when one of their products are successful, they can just slap the same brand name onto another product and it’ll be successful as well. 

But once again, if you stand for everything, you stand for nothing. The aim is to reduce the product line, not expand it.

When FedEx focused on small packages overnight, it managed to own the word “overnight”. When it tried to take “worldwide” away from DHL, it failed. 

There you have it. If this piques your interest, you can always read the whole book on your own—it’s a quick read.

Cover Image from Unsplash

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