22 simple immutable laws of Marketing.
Immutable laws of marketing



What are the laws of marketing?

We all know marketing is an exciting yet demanding field. A lot to plan, a lot to take care of, and a lot to lose as well!

But wait?! what if I told you there are certain strategies (you can call them laws) that can work as cheat codes for you?

Okay, so enough of the suspense! Recently I came across a book – 22 immutable laws of marketing.

Reading the book was tickled my brain. The author has provided the simple laws which are not meant to be broken, changed, or altered!

Just follow the laws of marketing and the game is yours!

So here is my sincere effort to summarize the book, so that you can easily understand the rules of the game called –Marketing.

The Law of Leadership

Summary – It is better to be first than to be better!

It is easier to get into the minds of the audience if you are first. Strange! right? Being first is better than being better.

Well, have you ever said in the following manner?!
I need fevicol to paste it. (Its glue not fevicol)
Can you get it xeroxed? (Its photocopy not xerox)
Let’s uber (Its book a taxi)

Being the leader.

So the bottom line is if you are a business be the first one to do it or at least be the leading one in the category! Your product will become eventually.
Because people tend to stick with what they’ve got.

Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.

Al Ries and Jack Trout

The Law Of The Category

Summary – If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.

After reading the first law I’m pretty it might confuse you. You might have a lot of questions and doubts.

What if there is already a leader in the category?
Simple – You create a category for yourself!

Let’s take an example.

Who was the second Prime minister of India?
If you didn’t know that Lal Bahadur Shastri was the second prime minister of India. You might figure you have no chance to know the third Prime minister?!
But everyone does! It’s Indira Gandhi.
Now is Indira Gandhi is known as the third Prime minister of India or the first Woman Prime minister of India?

Usually, businesses focus on getting the audience to prefer their brand! It is not about the brands, it’s all about the category.

Carving out a niche for the business is important! As a result, you have no competition.

Remember the first law, first is better than better.

The Law Of The Mind

Summary – It’s better to be first in the mind than to be first in the marketplace.

By now we know that marketing is a game of perception. Once you have a certain impression of your business in the minds of the prospect, it is over.

You cannot change a mind once it is made. Thus in marketing is futile to waste your resources trying to change the perception.

In the battle of perception, the mind takes precedence over the marketplace.

Let’s take an example –

Your impression of another person is different. Your friend, your spouse, your mother everyone perceives you differently. It is very hard to change your impression once it is cast. Similarly, it is the same with businesses.

The Law of Perception

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

In the long run, many people figure that the best product will win. As the first rule states, it is not about the better product.

Marketing is an illusion. In the world of illusion, there is no objective reality. There are no facts. There are no best products.

The only reality which exists is – PERCEPTION.

Marketing has a deep-rooted connection with human psychology.

Only by studying how perceptions are formed in the mind and focusing your marketing programs on those perceptions can you overcome your basically incorrect marketing instincts.

To make things more interesting, customers frequently make most decisions based on second-hand perception. This is known as ‘Everybody knows principle’.

Let’s take an example –

When you are trying to buy a new product or a service, you research the product. Now, based on the reviews and your own past experience a bias is created towards the product. This is the basis of second-hand perception.

Based on the experience and reviews of others you make your decisions.

The Law Of Focus

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

To become a successful business you have to own a word in the mind of the prospect.

The word should be simple, easy to remember.

Focus on the business and customer.

For example, Pidilite owns the word Glue. The moment you think of glue, the word which automatically strikes you is Fevicol.

If you are living in India, what comes to your mind when you think of Salt?
The answer is TATA. Tata Salt has almost 25% of the market share.

As a business, you have to own the word and the attribute of the product.

The Law Of Exclusivity

Summary: Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

When a competitor owns a word or position in the prospect’s mind, it is futile to attempt to own the same word.

Many companies continue to violate the law of exclusivity. As we learned it is futile to change the perception once they are made up.

When you fight the compete for the same, you reinforce your competitor’s position by making its concept more important.

In India’s paint industry, many businesses tried to attack Asian paints. They tried to compete for the same space, same word. Till today Asian paints command more than 40% of the market share.

The Law Of The Ladder

Summary – The marketing strategy to use depends on which run you occupy on the ladder.

It is quite alright if you are not the first into your customer’s mind. There are 2nd and 3rd places up for grabs.

We must understand that all products are not the same! There is a ranking that prospects use while making decisions.

The marketing strategy should depend on which rung of the ladder your business occupies!

For example – In the Indian market, there is a clear ranking in the instant noodles category.
Nestle’s Maggie(60% market share), ITC’s yippee(20% market share), others(20% market share).

Nestle has occupied the top rung followed by ITC in the second rung.

There is a relationship between market share and a business’s position on the ladder in the prospect’s mind.

Generally, a brand commands almost twice the brand’s market share below it and half the market share of the brand above it.

Asking the following questions will be helpful before starting any marketing campaign –
1. Where is the brand on the ladder in the prospect’s mind

2. Which rung?

The Law Of Duality

Summary –  In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.

Early on every category is going to have multiple brands/businesses. Eventually, it becomes a two-horse race.

When you consider a long-term view, one of the two brands will be a reliable old company and the other will be a young startup.

We can see such examples everywhere
Pepsi vs Coca Cola
Eveready vs Duracell
Swiggy vs Zomato

Knowing that marketing becomes a two-horse race in the longer term, can help you plan strategy in the shorter term. If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader.

The customer believes that marketing is a battle of products. This is the exact thinking which keeps the two brands always on top.
They must be the best, that is why they are on top”.

The Law Of The Opposite

Summary – If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader.

Wherever there is strength, there lies some weakness. The top brand no matter how strong always has some weak points.

This weakness is the chance for the No. 2 business to turn the table on the leader.

To establish a firm hold on the top run, the no.2 must try to study the strengths of the business above them and figure out how to turn that strength into a weakness.

It’s all about proposing something different to your prospect. Don’t try to be better try to be different.
No 2 must present yourself as the alternative.

There are always a set of people who do not want to buy products from the leading brand. This segment of people is the potential prospects of the would-be No 2 brand.

Taking a stance opposite to the category leader is the best strategy for the No 2 brand.

A similar case can be seen in the Indian hair oil segment.
Dabur going on the offense against the Marico which is the leading brand in that space.
A similar war is constantly going on between Pepsi and Coca-cola with the former luring the young and the latter advertising for the old.

Marketing is often a battle for legitimacy. The first brand that captures the concept is often able to portray its competitors as illegitimate pretenders.

The Law Of Division

Summary – Over time a category will divide and become two or more categories.

This law is an outcome of the law of category.
As we discussed earlier in the law of category if there is already a leader. Carve out your own category and become the leader.

For example, the computer category started as a single entity. Over time, this category broke into various other segments. Mainframes, minicomputers, workstations, personal computers, laptops, notepads, etc.

Similarly, the car market got divided into various segments. The law of division does not spare even the countries. In 1970 there were about 130 countries, today there are 195 countries.

Each category exists for a reason and there is a leader in every category.

If a leader wants to maintain its dominance in the market, it has to address every emerging category with a new brand!

Hindustan Unilever is the appropriate example of how a leader addresses an emerging category.
Right from Homecare to Personal Care to Foods and Refreshment.

The Law Of Perspective

Summary – Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time.

Here’s a question for you – Is it good to offer huge discounts to boost sales?

Well in short term, a sale increases business but in the longer term, it reduces the sales!

Confused? By offering frequent discounts, you habituate the prospects to buy only when there are huge discounts offered!

A similar case can be seen with a famous food delivery platform in India.
It will be interesting to see when will the impact of discounts and coupons kick in?

Here’s another example – Overeating satisfies the psyche, but in the long run it causes obesity!

The long-term effects of your actions are often the opposite of short-term effects!

The Law Of Line Extension

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

This by far is the most violated law in marketing!

When a company becomes incredibly successful, it invariably plants the seeds for its future problems.

Line extension involves taking the brand name of a successful product and putting it on a new product you plan to introduce.

Here’s a question would buy frozen food from Colgate?

Weird! Right?

Colgate Kitchen Entrees launched in 1982, was a line of ready-to-eat frozen food products, which failed miserably.

Why did it fail? Remember marketing is a battle of perception and not products.

One way to ace line extension is to create a new brand and become a leader in it.

Have you ever used or consumed the following products?

  • Surf excel
  • Vim
  • Boost
  • Horlicks
  • Red label
  • Lux
  • Ponds
  • Dove

Do you know what’s common among them?
Hindustan Unilever!

The Law Of Sacrifice

Summary – You have to give up something to get something.

If you want your business to get successful today you have to give something up.

You would be amazed to know How Marico defeated the mighty HUL.

In 1993 Hindustan Unilever Limited wanted to increase its product portfolio. It acquired Tata Oil Mills Company which provided HUL an entry into the hair oil segment.
HUL came after Marico(focussed solely on the hair oil category)

For Hindustan Lever, this was one among several product categories that they had in India and it was far from being a significant component in their portfolio.

Eventually, HUL lost its footing to Marico.
Marico went ahead to buy the oil brand from HUL and Marico to date is a market leader in the hair oil space.

There are three things to sacrifice for a business:

  1. Product line
  2. Target market
  3. Constant change

If you want to be successful, you have to reduce your product line, not extend it.

Good things come to those who sacrifice.

The Law Of Attributes

Summary – For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute.

Marketing is a battle of ideas. If you want your business to succeed, it must have an attribute or idea of its own.

For example –
Colgate projects the idea of cavity protection. Closeup puts an emphasis on the fresh breath.

Do you get the idea? Right?

Your business should own an idea and the idea should be synonymous with the business’s brand.
Your business should not go after other businesses ‘ ideas or attributes.

It is better to find new attributes if the obvious ones are already taken.

When did you think of instant noodles what comes to your mind?
Maggi? Isn’t it.
it even owns the attribute of instant noodles – being fast. This is how Maggie projects itself – 2 minutes noodles.

Now there are other brands in a similar space – ITC’s Yippee noodles.
What idea do they own? – Spread the smile.

No doubt Yippee does not stand anywhere near Maggie in terms of market share.

The Law Of Candor

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

Every negative statement you make about yourself is instantly accepted as truth. Positive statements, on the other hand, are looked at as dubious at best. Especially in advertising.

You have to prove a positive statement to the prospect’s satisfaction. No proof is needed for a negative statement.

When a company starts a message by admitting a problem, people tend to, almost instinctively, open their minds.
The law of candor must be used carefully and with great skill.

First, your “negative” must be widely perceived as a negative. It must trigger an instant agreement with your prospect’s mind.

If the negative doesn’t register quickly, your prospect will be confused and will wonder, “What’s this all about?” Next, you have to shift quickly to the positive.

The purpose of candor isn’t to apologize. The purpose of candor is to set up a benefit that will convince your prospect.

The Law Of Singularity

Summary – In each situation, only one move will produce substantial results.

Many marketing people see success as the sum of a total lot of small efforts executed.
trying harder is not the secret of marketing success.

Even history teaches us what works is one single bold move!

Finding such one single move is difficult but not impossible.  To find such opportunity marketing managers have to know what is happening at the ground level.

They have to be down at the front in the mud of the battle. Managers have to know what’s working and what’s not. They have to be involved.

For a business to succeed, always stick with the tagline. Protect the unique attribute of the brand.

Don’t try to become a generalist. Be specific, be on point and stick to it.

The Law Of Unpredictability

Summary: Unless you write your competitor’s plans, you can’t predict the future.

Failure to forecast competitive reactions is a major reason for marketing failures.

Good short-term planning is coming up with that angle or word that differentiates your product or company. Then you set up a coherent long-term marketing direction that builds a program to maximize that idea or angle. It’s not a long-term plan, it’s a long-term direction.

While you can’t predict the future, you can get a handle on trends, which is a way to take advantage of change.

When you assume that nothing will change, you are predicting the future just as surely as when you assume that something will change. Remember Peter’s Law. The unexpected always happens.

One way to cope with an unpredictable world is to build an enormous amount of flexibility into your organization. As changes come sweeping through your category, you have to be willing to change and change quickly if you are to survive in the long term.

Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.

The Law Of Success

Summary – Success often leads to arrogance and arrogance to failure.

When brands become successful, they tend to become less objective. They often take the market for granted.

Success is often the fatal element behind the rash of line extensions. When a brand is successful, the company assumes the name is the primary reason for the brand’s success. So they promptly look for other products to plaster the name on.

Marketing is war, and the first principle of warfare is the principle of force. The large the army, the larger the company has the advantage.

But the larger company gives up that advantage when it cannot keep itself focused on the perception of its audience.

Small companies are mentally closer to the front than big companies. This is one of the reasons why they grow more rapidly.

The Law Of Failure

Summary: Failure is to be expected and accepted.  

Too many companies try to fix things rather than drop things.

Admitting a mistake and not doing anything about it is bad for your career. A better strategy is to recognize failure early and cut your losses.

Nobody has ever been fired for a bold move they didn’t make.

The Law Of Hype

Summary: A situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press.

When things are going well, a company doesn’t need the hype. When you need the hype it usually means you’re in trouble.

The Law Of Acceleration

Summary: Successful programs are not built on fads, they’re built on trends.

A fad is a wave in the ocean, and a trend is a tide. A fad gets a lot of hype, and a trend gets very little.

Forget fads. And when they appear, try to dampen them. One way to maintain a long-term demand for your products is to never totally satisfy the demand.

The Law Of Resources

Summary: Without adequate funding, an idea won’t get off the ground.

Even the best idea in the world won’t go very far without the money to get it off the ground.

An idea without money is worthless.

Laws of Marketing – Keytakeaways

Marketing is a huge field. If you follow the immutable laws of Marketing, there is a high chance of being successful.

Brands have made a lot of mistakes and we should learn from them. Avoiding such mistakes is a sign of a smart Marketer.

If you are interested in reading this book, get your hands on it.

Thank you for the time you invested in reading this article in its entirety. It keeps me grounded and focused on delivering value to you as my reader.

If you found this article helpful and enjoyed reading it, please subscribe to my blog for more interesting in-depth content on Digital Marketing in the times to come.


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