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The Immutable Laws of Marketing


Anyone who has studied marketing is familiar with the teachings of ad agency gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout.  While technology has radically changed the landscape of marketing and advertising today, and many of their company examples are dated, I find many of their marketing lessons still hold up. I’ll provide an overview of several key ‘immutable laws’ that everyone and marketing – and business – should take to heart.


The Law of Leadership

“It is better to be first than be better.”  Find a category of the market where you can be top of mind. Many companies are reactive.  They see that a market that develops, then jump in and try to grab a share. The problem is that another company has already established themselves and got into the mind of the buyer.   It doesn’t matter that your product is the best.  Most people are satisfied with good.  As Trout and Ries state, “marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.”


The Law of the Category

If you can’t be the leader in a category, create a new category.  Trout and Ries provide examples of companies in the past that created new categories they can lead, which are in effect sub categories of larger markets. Dell Computers (phone/online computer sales); and Charles Schwab (discount brokerage) are provided as examples.  Amazon would be a more current example – online shopping.   In your local market, you might find small business examples, such as the personal injury attorney that focuses on motorcycle accidents.


The Law of Focus

If a company can ‘own’ a word in a prospects mind, it will realize incredible success.  This word should be simple, and associated with a key benefit.  One example Trout and Ries provide that still holds up is Dominos Pizza.  Early on, Dominos captured the word (phrase) fast delivery.  It has never promoted itself as the tastiest or highest quality pizza. However, when you want a decent pizza, delivered fast, you will think of Dominos.

As Trout and Ries emphasize, “you can’t stand for something if you chase after everything.”


The Law of Division

This law address the progression of a product category into expanding categories.  They provide the example of the computer, which progressed into categories such as laptops, tablets, all in one desktops, gaming computers and so on.  To me the more interesting lesson here is the danger of trying to have your brand represent too many things.  One company that followed this law to great success is Toyota.  When Toyota decided to create a luxury car, it developed an entirely new brand, Lexus. It even has distinct dealerships for Lexus, to fully contrast the brand from their more practical, less expensive and luxurious Toyota cars.  It will be interesting to observe how this law impacts Amazon, who continues to expand the use of its brand name into new categories (I did actually buy an Amazon branded workout shirt….I’ll stick with Under Armour).


Trout and Ries discuss many more laws in their classic, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.” I look forward to reviewing more laws in a future blog.