future startup logo

You believe what you want to believe: Al Ries & Jack Trout on '22 Immutable Laws of Marketing' – Part 1

Even the sun follows the rule to wake up in the morning in the east and set in the west. Each and everything in the world follows some rules and regulations. You may build a fantastic airplane but it won’t get off the ground unless it follows the rules of physics. Then, why Marketing would be different?


In the book "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk" authors, Al Ries & Jack Trout, argued that almost no one is willing to admit that there are any laws of marketing—certainly none that are immutable. Most marketers believe that anything is possible with determination, energy, and creativity. The marketers would be able to find the laws of marketing only if they believe in their mind that there are laws of marketing that can help a company to offset the competition. Here are the first 4 laws from 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Jack Trout.


Try to answer the following questions:

Dhaka University is the first university in Bangladesh, which one is the second?
Institute of Business Administration (IBA), DU first introduced MBA in Bangladesh, which one is the second?
The Daily Star is the most circulated English newspaper in Bangladesh, which one is the second?

People will remember a product or service that is introduced first. Jack Trout says ‘It’s better to be first than it is to be better. Look around, the first company to introduce mainframe computer was IBM, the first company to introduce cola is Coca-Cola, the first rent a car service introduced by Hertz – all of these companies are leaders in their product category. People prefer to have a product that is introduced first than to have a better product. For example, a consumer will always prefer Lux than a ‘better’ product introduced a few years back. So, what makes the first mover the leader in the product category?

Jack trout gives the answer:

One reason the first brand tends to maintain its leadership is that the name often becomes generic. Xerox, the first plain-paper copier, became the name for all plain-paper copiers. People will stand in front of a Ricoh or a Sharp or a Kodak machine and say, “How do I make a Xerox copy?”

Becoming first in the category ensures increased sales of the product than the competitors. That’s why Otobi sells more than the other companies in home improvement category business. Being first won’t get you success. You have to follow some strategy. Jack trout says – “If the secret of success is getting into the prospect’s mind first, what strategy are most companies committed to? The better-product strategy.” Benchmarking, also called as ‘ultimate competitive strategy’, can be used. Benchmarking is the process of comparing and evaluating the company’s product with those of the competitor’s best products. Benchmarking is an essential process in the Total Quality Management (TQM).
‘If you’re second into the prospect’s mind, are you doomed to languish forever with Buzz Aldrin, John Landy, John Adams, some unknown English muffin, and some unknown sports drink? Not necessarily. Fortunately, there are other laws’.


So, what will you do if you aren’t the first company in a product category? The answer is simple- create a category of your own! The first Bangladeshi to conquer the Mount Everest is AB Musa, he got all the spotlights after that. But the first Bangladeshi women to conquer the Mount Everest is Nishat Mojumdar, she also got the same heroic reception as Mr. Musa. Al Ries & Jack Trout in their book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind described this strategy as the ‘Amelia Earhert Approach’.

“If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.”

When you launch a new product, the first question to ask yourself is not “How is this new product better than the competition?” but “First what?” In other words, what category is this new product first in? This is counter to classic marketing thinking, which is brand oriented: How do I get people to prefer my brand? Forget the brand. Think categories. Prospects are on the defensive when it comes to brands. Everyone talks about why their brand is better. But prospects have an open mind when it comes to categories. Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better. When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category. In essence, you have no competition.


It’s better to be first in the mind than it is to be first in the marketplace

Being first in the market (Law 1) is not everything. You have to be ‘first’ to blast into consumers mind. It’s easy to restore and delete something from a computer, but is really hard to delete something from a consumers mind – it’s more like writing on the stone rather than paper. A few companies arrived in the market first, but failed to get into the consumers’ mind. Examples? Too many. IBM wasn’t the first company to invent mainframe computer, Remington Rand was the first, with UNIVAC. But what made IBM to be the largest mainframe computer maker is the massive marketing effort. The law of mind follows the law of perception. If marketing is a battle of perception, not product, then the mind takes precedence over the marketplace. Thousands of companies have new ideas, but what restricts them is the problem to get the idea into the prospects’ mind. The conventional solution to this problem is money. But this raises the perception that the answer to all marketing questions is the same: money. This is not true. Jack Trout argued that more money is wasted in marketing programs than in any other human activity. Sometimes a small amount of money can change the fate of a company. Apple got off the computer ground with $91,000 contributed by Mike Markkula. Probably ‘Apple’ has the easiest name to remember on the time Apple entered the computer market (some of the computer names were: Commodore Pet, IMSAI 8080, MITS Altair 8800, and Radio Shack TRS-80). So, a simple name did the trick to hit into the consumers mind – simplest and easiest to remember.


Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perception.

Companies believe that marketing is the battle of the products. They believe if they have the ‘best product’, then they will win the race to get the slice into the consumers mind. But this is not true. Today’s companies introduce a ‘best product’ based on the research they made on research samples. Will this research work? Not really. After conducting research on the new flavor of Coke, Coca-Cola introduced the New Coke. But the product collapsed in the market. So which is the best product in the soft-drinks market? Coca-Cola Classic is – the product consumers voted as the Coke which tasted worst! Another example can be handy in this law. Most of the people believe Chinese products are the worst in the market. Did everyone in the market tried at least a Chinese product? Unlikely. But it’s the perception that built around the Chinese products. Apple’s products are assembled in China and some Chinese company produces best product possible for the developed market. Yet the perception of the consumers stays.

You believe what you want to believe.

In-depth business & tech coverage from Dhaka

Stories exclusively available at FS

About FS

Contact Us