The Classical Laws of Marketing (and why they are immutable)

February 22, 2022

Reinventing the wheel is not always necessary when there are treasured guides to the psychology of marketing and prime examples of brands setting the tone since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Which is why ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing’ by Al Ries and Jack Trout is a must-read for all marketing professionals. Here is a look at some of their most interesting laws.

1. The Law of Leadership

It’s better to be first than it is to be better.

The first law in the book suggests you are more likely to be successful at convincing your audience that you are first at what you do, rather than the best. Instilling the idea of providing the best quality among a range of competitors is a time-consuming and risky process. On the other hand, pioneering in a product or service opens a new horizon in an untapped market and is more digestible to audiences and testifies to the power and luxury that is comes with being first at something.

Examples of success:

  • The first ever laser printer was introduced by Hewlett-Packard. Today, HP owns 5% of the computer market and 45% of the laser printer market.
  • Tide was the first laundry detergent\
  • Gilette was the first safety razor

2. The Law of Category

If you cannot be the first in a category, set up a new category to you can be first in.

It is too late. The product or service that you want to excel in is monopolized.Oh, but there are endless categories to adopt as your own, instead of imitating the leader.

If it is too late for you to obtain the badge of absolute leadership, worry not, the law of category states that this is your chance to enter the game by bringing about your own category. When entering a certain market, it is more constructive to ask yourself “what category is this new product first in?,” rather than “How is this new product better than the competition?.” Instead of trying to make people prefer your brand over competition, categorize it. Most are more interested in what is new, few are interested in what is better.

Examples of success:

When Anghami, the Lebanese music streaming app was founded in 2012, there were many other services that could have sufficed, such as Apple Music. However, Anghami positioned itself as the leader in the Arabic music category. It has since built a market-leading platform, streaming more than 57 million songs to more than 70 million registered users, with 1 billion streams monthly.

Girl in a jacket

3. The Law of Focus

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

This law urges marketeers to be as specific as possible with their concepts. We are naturally more open to sharp and concise ideas rather than vague or all-encompassing ones, especially with our increasingly short attention spans. Your goal in applying the law of focus is that your brand is immediately associated with a certain word in the audience’s mind. This is not a straightforward process. It is lengthy and requires intricate brand development, messaging, and execution, but it is worthwhile. Let us play a quick game of word association to display an example of the third law. Try to think of the brand name at the sight of the following words:

  • Cavities
  • Ketchup
  • Facial tissues
  • Safe cars
  • Hotel

Which brands were successful at applying the law of focus here?

  • Crest
  • Heinz
  • Kleenex
  • Volvo
  • Trivago!

4. The Law of Candor

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

Candor: saying what you really feel or think without deception or half-truths.

When executed correctly, marketing your flaws or being open and realistic about some unfavorable elements can strike an immediate connection with your audiences. That is because candor is very disarming. Negative statements are instantly accepted as truths, while positive statements are seen as dubious in the advertising world. Positive statements require proof, while negative statements do not.

Furthermore, the law of candor is becoming increasingly important to appeal to younger generations. Gone are the days when polished advertisements did the job. Millennials are big fans of self-deprecating humor, and one of the most sure-fire ways to build a connection with today’s audiences, specifically on social media, is to resort to candor through humor. Apart from winning over millennials, this also humanizes the brand and creates a sense of community.

Examples of success:

“Listerine. The taste you hate, twice a day.”

“The 1970 Volkswagen will stay ugly longer.”

“Joy. The most expensive perfume in the world”

The ultimate example of an ad that portrays the law of candor was made by Pepsi for the 2019 Superbowl. Fighting the notion that Pepsi is the lesser choice when compared to coke, Pepsi fully displayed the claim in the ad, shamelessly. Of course, with the hilariously theatric touch of the legendary Steve Carrell.

5. The Law of Line Extension

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

If you are planning to extend your product line, you might be on your way to violating this law. Once companies gain success with a sole product, they are tempted to produce many others. This is often a recipe for disaster as most companies cannot handle this from the financial aspect, let alone the marketing aspect. On the other hand, an unlikely risk of line extension is cannibalizing your own successful product. This shows that line extension is a sensitive process that most companies cannot execute well. Less is more. Narrowing your field will help you build a position in the prospect’s mind. You crave KitKat every now and then, but when was the last time you craved a matcha-green tea KitKat? By avoiding line extension, you are applying the law of sacrifice.

6. The Law of Sacrifice

You have to give up something in order to get something.

This final law indicates that companies will have to sacrifice product line, target market or adapting to constant changes, to be successful with their marketing. Companies can apply this law by narrowing their target market, narrowing their product line, and finally, not changing their current marketing approach based on fads.

Product line sacrifice embodies the law of line extension, so let us look at sacrificing target market. If you are afraid your marketing is not targeting enough categories of people, bear in mind that the target is not representative of who will end up buying your product or who will not. Even though Pepsi’s marketing targets the teenager, reality shows that it is consumed by a much wider audience. Finally, sacrificing constant change means solidifying your strategy regardless of ongoing trends. “If you must follow the twists and turns of the market, you are bound to wind up off the road. The best way to maintain a consistent position is to not change it in the first place.”

We hope you enjoyed a glimpse into ’The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing’.