The 22 immutable laws of marketing is really just 5 laws

The 22 immutable laws of marketing is really just 5 laws

I began reading "The 22 immutable laws of marketing"[not an affiliate link] after I'd heard it recommended by both Sam Parr and Tim Ferriss, first and foremost I would recommend anyone interesting in marketing to give it a read, its super easy to digest with short chapters on each law and although some of the references are dated (It was written in 1994) its message is super clear and relatable.

The below summaries of each chapter are DELIBERATELY brief and miss the nuance, the reasons:

a) I think you should buy the book and I respect the authors and do not want to copy their concepts in totality

b) In your minds eye, the way I describe each chapter will be the shortcut you create in your mind when referring back to them anyway, you mind isn't going to remember the chapters verbatim.

What are the 22 laws?

  1. Leadership

It is better to be first in the mind of the user that it is to be the best product. i.e. First mover advantage is huge.

2. Category

Creating a new 'category' (think, type of product, product line, etc) means you might not have to be the first in the users mind (Leadership), if you can create a new category within your market and be first. i.e. you might not be the first beer to mind, but you could be the first lite beer

3. Mind

Very similar to Leadership, you don't literally have to launch first to be the leader, you need to be first in the users mind. Tesla weren't the first electric car, but they are (probably) the first electric car you think of when asked.

4. Perception

I think this is the most important law. It's one of the most misunderstood. People think you have to have the "best" product  to win, NOPE, you have win the battle of perceptions to truly win. People have to think your product is the best, this may not be based on objective facts. Everyone thinks they are correct in their own perception of the world, why wouldn't you? The model you create of the world IS the world to you.

5. Focus

Own a word in the users mind and you have great advantage. Volvo cars are associated with 'Safety' is one example.

6. Exclusivity

When a word is already taken by another company, its too late, you can't change it. No two companies can own the same word in a users mind.

7. Ladder

If you can't be number 1 in the users mind, making the most of being number 2 or 3 can also make you very successful. Some firms even play on the fact that they are number 2.

8. Duality

Every market, in the end becomes a race between two players.

9. Opposite

If you aren't number 1 in the marker, focus on what number 1 aren't doing, and do that more.

10. Division

Categories, over time end up sub dividing into more categories. Think of it as specialism, or niche finding.

11. Perspective

Be careful as over time the effects of your marketing can fundamentally change the users perspective of your product. i.e. if you have constant sales (reductions in price).

12. Line extension

Arbitrarily  launching new lines of your product (think favours of Cola) erodes sales and you are better off focusing on what makes you great.

13. Sacrifice

Do fewer things, not more. You can sacrifice product line, target market and constant change. Generalists are not as successful as specialists.

14. Attributes

Don't try to replicate the market leader, that game is lost. Marketing is a battle of ideas, so true to pick an attribute of your product/service and focus on that and what makes you different, not the same.

15. Candor

Being honest and admitting your faults will win you favour with users, people like candor.

16. Singularity

Single bold strokes will produce substantial results, tinkering rarely does.

17. Unpredictability

You can never tell what will happen in the future, so plan for uncertainty and don't bank on things you think might happen as certainties.

18. Success

Similar to confirmation bias, because you had some success in one area you might start to think, and make decisions on the basis that you can do no wrong, you are successful and therefore everything you are going to do is going to be successful. Ego is the enemy of successful marketing.

19. Failure

Fail fast and change direction as quickly as possible. Don't start chasing losses and letting your ego get in the way of doing what is right. Also, don't punish failure as otherwise people will be afraid to try new things, just make it easy to manoeuvre out of failing positions.

20. Hype

Things that appear to be great, are often the opposite, and boring things that get no hype and often great. Be aware of the hype train.

21. Acceleration

Build on trends not fads. Move with the wholistic view of the market, not the thing that's in fashion today.

22. Resources

Your ideas are going to need some funding to get off the ground, even great ideas need an initial impetus.

How can these laws be distilled into 5 laws?

1. Be the first in some way (First mover advantage)

First to market (Leadership), first to offer a specific niche product (Category), first in the users mind (Mind), own a word in the users mind (Focus)

2. Be unique

Use honesty as a differentiator (Candor), don't try to copy the competition (Exclusivity), use the fact that you aren't the market leader as a point of strength (Opposite/Attributes/Ladder)

3. Do one thing really well, realise less is more

Make people perceive your product as the best, even if its technically not. (Perception). Find your niche and go deep (Category/Division). Don't extend your product line, concentrate on what you are great at (Line extension). Don't be a generalist, don't strive for constant change (Sacrifice). Make one bold change as opposed to tinkering (Singularity)

4. Have freedom of ideas and thinking but be self aware

You don't know what the future holds, make no assumptions (Unpredictability). Realise that success does not breed success unconditionally (Success). Experiment but fail fast, don't let your ego cost you (Failure). Know that fads are short term and trends are here to stay (Acceleration)

5. Decide and then commit

Make a decision and commit to it, it's going to cost time and money (Resources), single bold strokes are more effective than tweaking (Singularity). Don't change the customers perspective of your product by being wishy-washy over time, stick to  your principles (Perspective)

Which laws are less applicable today?

The only laws that, personally I do not think have stood the test of time (from 1994  to today) are:

a) Duality: Every market, in the end becomes a race between two players.

The Internet, and its subsequent disintermediation of many goods and services has meant that consumer choice in many markets has exploded and whilst there will always be market leaders, its rarely a two horse race.

b) Resources: Without adequate funding your idea won't get off the ground

Again, Mr Internet has meant the cost of starting a business can be close to effective zero. I started with zero funds, our model was purely cost plus pricing and we aimed to offer the best value, as of today we have over 5m users and have never been anything but profitable.


Be first, be unique, less is more, let ideas flow but check your ego, commit to decision fully.

I have to admit, when I was reading the book I found myself nodding along (figuratively), I am a huge fan of 'less is more', if not only because simple is what I enjoy, simple ideas easy to grasp, executed well. I've been in the SAAS space for a long time but this book kind of ignited my deep, slightly hidden desire to launch a physical product as I think many of the laws compound on products in ways they don't in software.

I hope you enjoyed this quick read, let me know on twitter @DavidJames