Contrary to prior belief about marketing being all about the USP of the product or service, marketing is all about how the customer perceives the product and the brand. In a bid to increase sales, they center their marketing strategies on upgrading a product when actually; they need to tweak people’s perceptions.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (1994) by marketing gurus Al Reis and Jack Trout, shows us power-packed marketing strategies that can help organizations avoid redundant marketing mistakes, stay on top of the competition, create a steadfast brand and most importantly change people’s perceptions. It lists down 13 laws of marketing that companies should follow for branding success.
1. Law Of Leadership
For any product to be a leader in the market, it has to be in the top position in its category. The rule surrounding the Law of Leadership is that it has to the first of its kind in the market.
For example, if we look at LinkedIn, it was the first of its kind that took a different spin on social networking. Rather than create a brand that focused on networking with friends, it chose professional networking. They are now the top brand in their category.
2. Law Of Mind
Some products might not be the first in the market. However, every brand should aim at being the first in the customer’s mind. Often, the product or brand that leads the market is the one that pops into a customer’s mind whenever they think of the product category.
This means that the first impression is the most important. This is the reason why sometimes brand names become synonymous with the products. For example, every time a person says Xerox, they are actually referring to photocopying.
Other factors that influence the Law of Mind is the name of the product. The name of a product should be short and catchy. For example, which product would one consider, MITS Altair 8800, or Apple?
3. Law Of Category
It isn’t always possible to be the first product of its kind in the market, or, there could be an existing market leader already. Then, one can turn to create a new product category in the market altogether. Creating a new product category altogether gives a headstart in making the product a market leader. This means one doesn’t have to worry about competition in the market, at least for some time.
Charles Schwab, in 1971 ventured into the brokerage market when there were many players ruling the roost already. He, however, turned things around by creating a new category – the discount brokerage. His client base multiplied in a short span, making his product the market leader.
4. Law of Opposites
The Law of Opposites works wonders for companies that are stuck in the second position to the market leaders. The law states, that comparing a product with the market leader, while downplaying or showing the market leader’s strengths as their weaknesses, can attempt to knock down the market leader from its position.
For example, Pepsi focussed on appealing to different, young, and hip generation of customers, by portraying Coca-Cola as one that was preferred by the oldies.
They cleverly appealed to another customer base altogether who wouldn’t want to be cast in the same mold as their parents and grandparents.
5. The Law Of Focus
Companies, along with factories, machines, and logos, can also ‘own’ their own word. It means that if a customer thinks of a word, he associates the word with a brand name. In the U.S., for example, people associate the word ‘ketchup’ with Heinz. This is due to the fact that Heinz has made their brand name powerful enough that people automatically associate Ketchup with Heinz.
The essence of the law lies in using one catchy, sticky way for customers to associate with. When a brand owns a word, it’s securing a place in the consumer’s mind. For example, Volvo is virtually synonymous with ‘safety’.
6. Law Of Exclusivity
Entrepreneurs need to keep in mind that not all words are always up for grabs. The Law of Exclusivity means that companies should steer clear of words used by other companies.
While it makes no obvious sense to use another company’s ‘owned’ word, doing so can not only entangle companies into legal battles and cost them trips to the courts, but also make customers think of the company as an imposter. The attempt of Energizer to steal the perception of ‘long-lasting’ from Duracell with their pink, plush and funny Energizer Bunny Ads, they could not change their customer’s minds who associated ‘long-lasting’ with Duracell already.
7. The Law Of Sacrifice
In marketing, less is always more. While customers love choice, a decision to expand a company’s product line could prove to be detrimental, because then, the company has to divide their focus on all products in the line and the time to create one truly successful product reduces considerably.
The Law of Sacrifice states that in marketing, one has to give something up because specializing in a few products helps in creating a stronger market profile. For example, the most successful companies in retail are the ones that focus on a specialty, like The Gap that sells casual clothes, and Foot Locker who specializes in athletic sport’s shoes. Retail department stores that specialize in selling everything are suffering in comparison.
The law also states that companies should focus on one target market. In our earlier Pepsi example, we say how Pepsi changed the focus of its strategy and targetted young customers. Later on, however, when they switched their target base to everyone, they failed, because Coca-Cola was already leading the ‘generalist’ market.
8. Law Of Division
Sometimes companies decide to split and divide product lines for growth. In such cases, remembering the Law of Division can help maintain market dominance. The law states that eventually, every product category breaks into several different ones. In such times, how do a product and brand profile stay durable?
The answer lies in giving each new product category its own distinct brand name. Consumers like choice and like to buy products and services from different brands. For example, General Motors, while diversifying its automobile lines, created several new brands that focussed on different customer categories with brands such as Cadillac, Pontiac, Chevrolet, and Oldsmobile, thus maintaining its position of the market leader in each new category.
9. The Law Of Success
Arrogance due to success is true to companies, products, and brands as well. Moreover, overindulging arrogance can spell doom for the most successful companies too. The Law of Success warns that arrogance can make a company blind, and can lead to making – and not making – decisions that can weaken a brand.
At times a company can become overconfident that their successful brand name can sell anything, leading to haphazard product line expansions. Similarly, leaders can tend to shoot down creative path-breaking ideas due to their overconfidence.
In the mid-1970s, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Ken Olsen, got an opportunity to focus on a new product category – the personal computer. Unconvinced, and overly confident of his own market position, he refused the opportunity, leading to the decline of the company in the evolving personal computers market.
10. The Law Of Unpredictability
Mid or long-term predictions in marketing strategy are rarely effective. Therefore companies should avoid making costly marketing decisions on market predictions. Similarly, no company can predict the moves of their competitors in the future.
The future is unknown and markets are highly dynamic, volatile entities that can swing in any direction. With prediction, companies stand the risk to extrapolate and jump to conclusions, severely affecting their brand and product in turn.
11. The Law Of Failure
The Law of Failure is a tough one to accept but one that companies have to deal with. The law warns that mistakes are inevitable. Most successful companies continue to pretend that they don’t make mistakes. This leads to making decisions such as the refusal to drop a bad project that can be detrimental.
Even managers in any organization who hate to make mistakes avoid taking risks. Risk is a natural and essential element in the world of business, and trying to avoid it means potentially losing out on a great opportunity.
12. Law Of Hype
The Law of Hype states that too much publicity can be misleading. However, letting publicity and hype affect marketing decisions in haste is foolhardy. Just because there is a lot of hype about a competitor’s product in the market, does not mean that it’s on its way to becoming a marketing leader. Marketing strategists should keep in mind that a company holding many press conferences could be simply attempting to reverse their downward-spiraling sales. They should remember that performing products do not need marketing hype.
For example, in 1948, there was a lot of hype in the media surrounding the launch of Tucker 48. It was said to be the first of a new generation of automobiles. However, the company managed to sell only 51 cars!
13. The Law Of Candor
Media hype, especially about competitor attacks on one’s product can give nightmares, yet the Law of Candor can guide a pained company into a semblance of comfort. Therefore if ever a competitor catches a mistake, it’s best to simply accept and admit it. It’s true that when a company admits its negative, it is often rewarded with a positive.
Admitting a mistake often helps customers perceive the product and the brand as trustworthy, whereas denying it could question the company’s credibility. For example, Listerine was challenged by a competitor Scope in their ads that their mouthwash tasted bad. While they knew that they couldn’t dent the fact, they turned the taunt around with a slogan that said “The taste you hate twice a day.” This made customers perceive the bad taste as medicinal, and therefore a better product.
Companies that invest in understanding and applying these laws of marketing often craft out better strategies than simply adding more money into the marketing mix. It is essential to remember – successful marketing strategies focus on perceptions, not products.