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‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing’ by Al Reis and Jack Trout

Re-think how you see and do your marketing with this insightful book.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

This month’s volume, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, is a classic. It is also a fun read with numerous examples that drive the various points home. Al Reis and Jack Trout are a couple of geniuses in the fields of marketing, advertising, and PR. I thoroughly enjoyed one of their other books, Positioning, and the book Ries wrote with his daughter, Laura, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. However, this book I devoured.

Broken into 22 chapters, one dedicated to each law, the book is an easy reference for future reflection, although I highly recommend a full read-through to get the most out of the subject. Prepare yourself; you will find a number of forehead-slapping “Aha!” moments as you read. Some of which you will recognize as absolute truths you never considered; others will be revelations that will have you completely re-thinking your own marketing efforts.

Let’s begin with a basic definition of the subject. Marketing is the Identification (research), Attraction (advertising and promotion), Acquisition (sales), and Retention (continued customer service) of customers. Note, most don’t realize that sales is part of marketing, and not a separate entity. With this definition of marketing, you are ready to dive in.

The first chapter is on leadership. The concept is that being first in the mind of your customer is a necessity if you want to dominate the competition. The example of the first person to fly solo over the Atlantic begins the tale. If Lindbergh doesn’t immediately come to mind, you are in the minority. Even if you don’t remember, once his name is mentioned you mentally respond, “Of course.” Now tell me the second person to accomplish this feat. His name was Bert Hinkler. He was a better pilot, took a more direct route, accomplished the trip in less time, and, by all performance metrics, did a better job. However, no one remembers Hinkler except his mother.

Oddly, you do remember the third person to make the solo crossing. How can that be? Because it was a woman. That’s right — Amelia Earhart was the third person. What does that teach us? If you can’t be first, create a new category and be first at that. And thus begins the second chapter. Another example is beer. What is the first U.S. beer in people’s minds? Budweiser. What is the first light beer? Miller. Knowing they couldn’t be first, Miller created a new category and became first at that.

Think about this as it relates to your business. Maybe there was a shop in town that was absolutely dominant as a 2-channel audio store. They had exotic loudspeakers, $10,000 turntables, and phono cartridges that cost more than your car. They had listening evenings where customers gathered to put their heads in a vise as they marveled at the depth and width of the stereo image and the female vocal that appeared to float in space. They had been in business for 40 years and everyone knew that is where you went if you were serious about audio. What do you do?

Well, you decided that the marriage of audio and video was an opportunity. You launched a store that was dedicated to home theater. Massive two-piece projection systems, incredible surround-sound audio that put the local theater to shame. You demoed subwoofers that created low frequencies capable of stopping bodily functions. Now the conversation changed. Sure, people were still impressed with the former store’s dedication to audio purism, but now others were talking about theatrical performance that was heretofore unimaginable. You created a new category and became the first in your customer’s mind.

This is how these chapters build. The one on owning a single word in the customer’s mind is fascinating. There is also the law of Focus. Better to excel at a few things than attempt to be good at everything. The law of Duality, where every competitive situation tends to become a two-horse race. The law of Predictability, where, unless you write your competition’s plan, you can’t predict the future. The law of Failure — failure is to be expected. Recognize it and cut your losses.

There is so much here to be appreciated. Opportunities to improve your marketing efforts abound in this book. I exhort you to dedicate some time, read all 22 laws, and see where it takes you.

If you can’t be first, create a new category and be first at that.

Check out all the titles in Dave Donald’s Business Book Club.