The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing is an absolute marketing classic, outlining 22 rules by which companies function, and, depending on how much you adhere to them, will determine the success or failure of your products and ultimately, your company.

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When I saw this book on Blinkist I got super excited, because I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy for ages. It’s one of Tim Ferriss’s all time favorite books (he always recommends the older, unrevised edition) and if a marketing genius recommends marketing books, I try to pay attention.

Published by marketing legends Al Ries & Jack Trout in 1993, The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing was meant as a guideline for companies to understand how they can make their products successful internationally and not just locally. Sure, you could try to go after Coca-Cola, but chances are you won’t be able to accomplish much. This book will help you focus your marketing efforts and not waste precious energy, money and time on battles you can’t win.

Here are 3 lessons from The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing:

  1. If you can’t be first, be first in peoples’ heads.
  2. Create your own category to avoid competition.
  3. Remember that each product comes with an opportunity cost.

I hope you’re in a marketing mood, because we’re about to talk about some real game-changers!

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Lesson 1: Be first on the market, or first in peoples’ heads.

The book starts with the Law of Leadership, which states that if your product is the first of its kind on the market, chances are high it’ll become the market leader. Simply by having the so-called first mover advantage, you can use the lag time competitors have to your advantage.

However, that’s not the only way you can become a market leader. After all, if someone’s already made their move before you, you can’t be first any longer. When that’s the case, focus on being first somewhere else: in the minds of your customers. You know this phenomenon. When I say “ketchup” you think “Heinz,” when I say “whiskey” you might think “Jack Daniels” and when the term “electric car” falls in conversation, most people’s thoughts wander to “Tesla.”

Every time we think of a certain product, one particular brand will pop up in our heads before any others – and that’s often the market leader. This is the Law of the Mind.

Once these assumptions have been made and forged into our brains, they’re hard to get rid of. Just think of the many products whose names have become synonymous with brand names, like “Kleenex,” “Tivo,” and “Google.” When your brand name enters the dictionary, you know you’ve made it.

Lesson 2: Avoid competition by coming up with your own product category and dominating that.

So what if you can’t do either of those things? Well, in that case, you can just come up with your own, entirely new category and you’ll automatically be first. This is the Law of Category in action.

For example, Sam Walton didn’t invent the retail store, he innovated by coming up with the discount retail store. Walmart was the first chain of retail stores to offer vast discounts for all of its products. Defining his own category worked out well for him.

Nutella has done something similar. Instead of trying to come up with another kind of jam to put on your bread, Ferrero, the company behind it, came up with something new altogether: a chocolate hazelnut spread. It’s insanely popular in Germany, and is usually addressed with its name, rather than a descriptive term (“Hand me the Nutella, please” as opposed to “Hand me the chocolate spread”).

This is a softened version of the idea from Zero to One to go vertical in progress, instead of horizontal.

Lesson 3: Never forget that each product comes with a big opportunity cost. Focus is important.

To this day, Al Ries describes himself as a focusing consultant. Not a marketing consultant, a focusing consultant. Even one year before starting his consulting company (when the book was published), he knew that successful marketing always means giving up something else to pursue.

As anywhere in life, opportunity cost is real in marketing, and so the Law of Sacrifice says that the more products you offer, the less time you have to try and make one product really successful. More and more the world rewards specialists, which makes most big brands known for “that one thing they do.”

Foot Locker – sports shoes. Coca Cola – soft drinks. Ferrari – sports cars. You can be a wandering generality, or a meaningful specific (in Zig Ziglar’s words).

But sacrifice can’t just be made on the product side, it must also be made on the customer side. Trying to appeal to anyone and everyone never works (especially if you already have a focused product). Pepsi did well marketing to young people, but older people, who were already Coke customers? Not so much.

Oh and if you feel like you absolutely must expand your product line, at least define new categories for each one of those, so you have a shot at being market leader again.

The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing Review

What a treasure chest of marketing gold! All of the marketing advice you could ever need in a book that’s almost as old as me (I’m a 1991 model). Genius! If you’re interested in business, entrepreneurship, startups, or even have your own already, The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing is an absolute must read.

Who would I recommend The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing summary to?

The 27 year old marketer, who’s job is related to how her company is perceived in public, if even just remotely, the 49 year old product manager, who’s never sure whether to expand or reduce his company’s product line, and anyone dreams of coming up with a revolutionary product.

Last Updated on August 2, 2022

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!