Home » Articles » Summary of the book "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing" (2002-06



This is a summary of ideas from the book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Text in normal is my paraphrasing of what the book says. Text in italic represents my personal comments. And remember: this is just a short summary and is not meant to replace the book, nothing beats reading the real thing. The book is short, buy and read it.

Law 1 (law of leadership)
Being first in the market is better than having a better product than a competition. Examples: we all remember who first flew over Atlantic or who was the first man on the moon but almost no-one knows who was the second. Heineken was the first imported beer in USA and still is No. 1 imported beer. Same for Miller Lite, first domestic light beer. Being first doesn't matter if the idea/product is not good.

I think it's better to say that being first gives one extremely big advantage over competition but doesn't guarantee the success. It's rather obvious that it doesn't matter that you're first to market if no-one needs your product or if your product is very bad. There are many examples from computer industry that disapprove this rule (i.e. first spreadsheet isn't the dominant spreadsheet, first word processor isn't the dominant word processor) so there are (many) cases showing that n th product can overtake early leaders. But it's very hard and usually requires the leader to make huge mistakes.

Law 2 (law of category)
Given that it's very hard to gain leadership in a category where competition already exists, it's better to create a product in new category than trying to attack existing categories. Category doesn't have to be radically different, e.g. if there's dominant player in imported beer, one can become the first to import light beer. If one can't be the first to fly over Atlantic, one can still be the first woman to fly over Atlantic.

Law 3 (law of mind)
It's not important to be the first in the market but the first in the mind of consumers.

Law 4 (law of perception)

Therefore the advice is only possibly relevant to a few people who design marketing campaigns for those behemoths but useless for all small business. Being simple is good but not when the reality is more complex. The problem is that there aren't that many companies that are big enough to own a word in people's consciousness. Therefore one way of changing the perception is to change the reality (e. However our perception is mostly grounded in objective reality. First this law seems to be derived from mega-corporation. IBM owns "computer". Reality doesn't exists. Law 5 (law of focus) "The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect's mind". people perceive Honda as a manufacturer of motorcycles. Burger King tried to own word "fast" which was already owned by McDonald. Honda is a leading Japanese car manufacturer in US but only third in Japan (after Toyota and Nissan). improve the quality of your cars). however. what we call "reality" is just a perception of reality that we create in our minds. Maybe having the desired reality is not enough to achieve desired perception but it's hard to argue that you can create any perception you want regardless of reality. I guess you're supposed to use it in your marketing/advertisement material but such statement is not very helpful for a marketer (I think. In Japan. This talk about "owning" words is a bit silly. . FedEx owns "overnight". After all if it's raining not many people will maintain the perception that it's wonderfully sunny day. Therefore what's important is that marketing should be focused on changing the perception. Owning in this context means that if people hear or see this word they usually connect it with a company that "owns" this word.g. The book doesn't say anything about how to actually own the word. Law 6 (law of exclusivity) It's fruitless to try to take over a word that is already owned by a competitor. If the quality of the car was the most important thing it should have the same position in all markets. If your car breaks down every 10 miles no amount of marketing will convince people that it has high quality. You can't take somebody else's word I can't help but to think that this book has overly simplified thinking. I fully accept the premise (that perceptions is our reality). and failed miserably. I have mixed feelings about this law.Marketing is not about products (their features or quality) but about perceptions (how people perceive products). There aren't even enough words to own to satisfy 10% of business in US. I'm not one). FedEx tried to take over "worldwide" from DHL.

Avis is fully correct (i. Coca-Cola & Pepsi. McDonald & Burger King. If you're No. 1". Even assuming that the data about e. This "law" is nothing but a sometimes true observation and it's not true frequently enough to be worth anything. Even if that was universally true. There are markets that tend to fall into monopoly (e. I should just quit and apply for a job in No. Marketing might be an important factor but certainly not dominant. every market becomes a two-horse race. Additionally their examples feel like they oversimplify complex reality. 2 or 1. 1 or 3. So why go with us? We try harder". However the book says very little about what kind of strategy one should use in a given position (except for a few examples). 2). The only conclusion I can make is that if I were a marketing person and worked for No. 2 you use different strategy than when you're No. 2 in rent-a-cars. That had profit when they switched to "Avis is only No. Avis was No. I agree with the premise (kind of marketing depends on your position in the market). The other problem is that it isn't universally true and the book again makes a big simplification of reality and it tries to support this simplified picture with selectively chosen examples.e. how does it help a marketing person? There's little a marketing person can do about the position of his company in the market. I'm sure there are many markets that are twohorse race. 3 company. Nike & Reebok. Law 9 (law of opposite) . 2 in car rental and when they advertised as "finest in rent-a-cars" the had losses because their marketing wasn't credible (you can't be "finest" being No. I don't think that good or bad marketing campaign can make or break a company. There are market where 2 brands can't fulfill all the demand (there are more than 2 well-known car manufacturers). Crest & Colgate.g. Law 8 (law of duality) In the long run.Law 7 (law of the ladder) Marketing strategy depends on your position in the market. I can see how this point of view can be attractive for marketing people but I would th ink that success depends on more factors. Microsoft has 95% of operating system and office software markets).g. Then they had another disastrous campaign when they started claiming "Avis is going to be No. but then again there are also three-horse race markets as well as highly fragmented markets. that there is strong correlation between Avis profits and the kind of marketing campaign) I find it hardly unlikely that there's a causality relationship.

There are thr things to sacrifice: ee y y product line target market . when Honda wanted to go up-market it created a new brand.g. Leader can maintain dominance by addressing emerging categories with new brand names instead of using brand name successful in one category in a new category. Don't try to be better than the leader. sales increase short-term profits but in long-term educates people not to buy for regular price. try to be different. Here authors predict (in 1993) that Microsoft will fail because the they use this unhealthy strategy of extending their brand to new products. personal computers. started as a single category but divided into luxury cars. E. laptops etc Cars . 9 years later and Microsoft is still going strong. Law 12 (law of extension) There's an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand and it's a mistake. Law 11 (law of perspective) Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time. Companies often don't understand that and instead think that categories are combining.g. E. therefore decreasing long -term profits. your strategy is determined by the leader. Instead one should create new brands to address new markets/products. Pepsi marketed itself as a "choice for the new generation" when faced with Coca-cola's "old and established" brand. workstations.g. It's a mistake to sacrifice long-term planning with actions to improve short-term balance sheet. Looks like the law doesn't hold universally.g. not a different spreadsheet). believe in synergy. Leverage the leader's strength into a weakness. Law 10 (law of division) Over time a category will divide and become two or more categories. Law 13 (law of sacrifice) You have to give up something in order to get something.g. E. Acura. Excel took over Lotus 1 -2-3 by being a better spreadsheet. sport cars. RVs.If you're shooting for second place. E. Sounds correct although doesn't apply to those who do have ambitions to overtake the leader in exactly the same category (which happens e. minivans etc. computers started as a single category but broke up into mainframes.

You can own the same word as the competition. 2 in rent-a-cars". bold stroke. often failed products are heavily hyped.y constant change Law 14 (law of attribute) For every attribute. It's ok to admit. Law 15 (law of candor) When you admit a negative. you don't know what your competition will do so you have to build your company and marketing strategies to be flexible. there is an opposite. and arrogance to failure. Don't be arrogant. You have to find another word to own. The amount of hype isn't proportional to success. Law 20 (law of hype) The situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press. You don't know the future. that working harder is a way to success. to be able to quickly respond to changing situation. another attribute. Law 17 (law of predictability) Unless you write your competitors' plans. In marketing only thing that works is a single. Candor is disarming. Law 19 (law of failure) Failure is to be expected and accepted. you can't predict the future. that "Avis is only No. only one move will produce substantial results. be objective. g Don't punish for failures (if you do people will stop taking risks). Law 16 (law of singularity) In each situation. Law 18 (law of success) Success often leads to arrogance. effective attribute. Law 21 (law of acceleration) . as Avis did. the prospect will give you a positive. drop the ego. Drop things that don't work instead of tryin to fix them. People tend to think that success is the result of a lot of small efforts well executed.

g. On the other hand authors promote indiscriminate spending of money of advertising without any mention of the fact that sometimes advertisement doesn't pay. Summary How one should judge a book on marketing? If the book gives information that allows you to do better marketing. yet the books never says that. Law 22 (law of resources) Without adequate funding an idea won't get off the ground. Well. e. but how exactly? A very frequent flaw of this book is its use of selected examples to illustrate their laws. You need a lot of money to market your ideas.Successful programs are not built on fads but on trends. -. One one hand you can read it as a "don't fool yourself" advice. It just asserts that you need to spend a lot on marketing which is a suspicious advice coming from people who do marketing. that a rule that is only correct in 80% of the cases is still a very useful rule. The advice is frequently not helpful. I can understand that providing counter-examples isn't something that authors were interested in. And never forget: Marketing is the science of convincing us that What You Get Is What You Want. It's not evident that the same rules apply to small (or medium) businesses. It seems obvious that you should never spend more on marketingthat you can hope to get out of it in later revenues. then it's a good marketing book. that not talking about every possibility can improve the clarity of exposition ("A little inaccuracy can save tons of explanation") but I got the impression that author's way of choosing examples was based on "whatever seems to confirm what we say" principle. In my opinion "The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing" fails in that respect.John Carter . Their examples that illustrate the laws are taken from the relatively small pool of the biggest companies in the world. thanks guys. "make sure your program deals realistically with your position on the ladder".there will always be an example that support my "law" (the problem is that there might be 100 counter-examples that I won't mention). If I can choose my examples I can make any laws I want .

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