The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing: What I Learned Applying Them To My Business

As some of you might have heard in one of Tim Ferriss’ most popular podcasts with the infamous Noah Kagan, one of Tim’s most beloved books about business is the old school version (my copy was copyright 1993) of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout. I bought this book with me when me and the fam went to cape cod for the week, and I tore through the book in about a day. It was an incredible little book that you could totally use as a workbook, of sorts, for your own business. I’m afraid that you won’t be able to experience this book exactly as it was in 1993 anywhere on the internet, so I want to share with you these 22 original (I think???) Laws of Marketing, and how I plan to apply them to my business.  Almost every rule in the book was tied up with its own prediction as well. It’s incredible, because he totally got a bunch of them right. I’m going to share as many predictions with you that I can, and you’ll truly be blown away by how many these guys got right.

This book is a truly incredible piece of work, especially when you think how much the marketing landscape has changed since 1993. The internet went from a passing fancy, the the main information superhighway of the world. Major companies has risen and fallen, many unexpectedly. There were two massive stock market crashes, and there are so many new companies, new ideas, and new business philosophies based around the internet, that you would like that the world must have changed nearly completely since 1993, especially in the marketing frontier.

However, this book proves that people still really think the same way, and they still react to business in the same way as well. The feeling of comfort from choosing a business to buy from based on these laws, the feeling that you made a good choice, doesn’t go away. In short: It works.

Now, I’m going to go over each and every law from the book here: and I’m going to make a short write up about the essence of the meaning, then I’ll write up the plan I decided to use to apply that law to my own business.. At the end: I’ll write down the guesses that the author made (in 1993!) and let you guys decide how accurate his predictions were  in the comments.

FOCUS: Read through this article, get ideas, and then use this worksheet to help you create a marketing plan that WORKS.

Law 1: The Law Of Leadership:

The Law of Leadership is simple enough to understand: If you’re first in the prospect’s mind for a specific product or service, you will always be first in their mind. A lot of people seem to undermine the importance of being first, and I really did as well until I read this book and Al Ries and Jack Trout pointed out how many companies were “first” in their industries, and therefore were first in market share in their industry as well. Its interesting, but very true: when you think of it, almost any specific product you think of will make you think of a specific brand first. Soda? Probably coke (first.) The first thing that comes to mind for cellular service? Probably AT&T (first.) How about the first thing you think of for hash tagging? twitter (first!)

So how will I be first in online marketing? I want My company, Berkshire SEO, to be the first in comprehensive online marketing. What that means is that we will offer soup to nuts online marketing solutions for small businesses, at reasonable cost. When people think of online marketing, I want them to think of  Berkshire SEO first, and remember that we can do it better than anyone else, for less.

I won’t get into the “how” behind that now, but believe me, it’s been keeping me up at night for weeks now. It’s going to be great. I’m so excited to bring this fully fleshed idea to market.

CHALLENGE: What companies are already the first in your category? are you truly the first? Why or why not? How can you become the first?


  • Coca Cola will still be first in soda forever.
  • The First Domestic Light beer was Miller Lite. It will still be the best selling light beer. (sorry guys, Bud Light took the prize)
  • QUOTE “ Not every first is going to become successful, however. Timing is an issue– your first could be too late. For example, USA today is the first national newspaper, but it is unlikely to succeed. It has already lost $800 million and has never had a profitable year. Ina television era, it may be too late for a national newspaper”
    • USA today is still around, but not doing so hot.

Law 2: The Law of The Category: If you can’t be first in a category, setup a new category to be first in.

This is a brilliant second law. I’m sure a good number of you read that first law (like I did the first time I got through the book) and felt a little beaten down….how can you be first in a category? That’s where the Law of the Category comes in: You can always create a new, completely different category for your business to be first in. Not the first in pharmacies? be the first pharmacy that offers an alarm app on your smartphone. This was a HUGE revelation for me.

I realized that even though what I’m doing (just doing SEO, online marketing, and analytics work) can all tie together to create a new category: Comprehensive Online Marketing. Now this means that I’m making some trade offs (the law of sacrifice… we’ll get there) and I know that, but I want to focus on small businesses. I’m not equipped to work for large firms, especially at the prices that I offer, but I’ve realized that SEO work, Social media automation, analytics, and website maintenance is fairly simple, and low impact at the small business level. Therefore, I can easily organize for ALL of these items for a small business in a short space of time, and give great service doing so. This is something that nobody else is touching on as far as I know. So: While all the big, bloated marketing firms and web development guys are busy chasing large companies who want to talk too much, get nothing done, and not spend money, I can focus on working with the exciting new “Muse business” Market segment that grows every year.

CHALLENGE: What category can you create for your company?


Budweiser: Instead of trying to fight Heineken when they came out with “the first imported beer” They came out with “the first premium domestic beer” which you all know as Michelob.

Law 3: The Law Of The Mind: “It’s better to be first in the mind than first in the Marketplace”

This chapter demonstrated this as a “preparedness” type thing more than anything. Essentially, if you’re going to bring something new to market, don’t attempt to be the first if you aren’t ready to market it properly to actually firm yourself as “first” in the market. Otherwise better funded “me too” companies will show up and crush you. It’s a very good point: If you’re not ready to spend the time and effort to properly promote your business, then don’t try and throw something out there. Wait.

For me, this means that a lot of my plans for the future for my business need to wait for the infrastructure of this one to be set up. I need to get more subscribers to my email list, and tell my story better. I want people to understand that this blog, and this business, is a business about BUILDING Muse businesses. Its about finding a way to take the business, or the idea, or the job that you have, and build it into a business that fits the lifestyle you want.  this is a large goal for me to reach for, at least for 12 months, or until I have a subscriber list of 100,000.

CHALLENGE: what companies are first in the marketplace? can you beat them into the minds of prospects? Why or why not? What is your 6 month plan to beat those companies out?

PREDICTIONS: The chapter didn’t really harken itself to predictions, as you have to look backward to properly see it. some interesting facts that they did mention were how Honda is a far second to toyota for car sales in japan, because they’re primarily known as a motorcycle company there.

Law 4: The Law Of Perception: “Marketing is not a battle of products, it is a battle of perception”

This chapter really drives home how important it is for you to fully understand what your customers are thinking. Marketers are often worried about demographics, surveys, studies, and the like to help them understand what target market they should be going after. At the end of the day, it’s more important to imagine your ideal client, and think of what they would want to hear, how they would want to hear it, and what they would want to see from you so that they NEED to choose you as the one to do business with.

For my business, this means that I needed to change a lot of things for the user interface of my site, and the rhetoric I’m using to promote my products. I want to make a lot more free, high quality content like this, because It helps to drive people to my site, and gives them a reason to trust me. I know that this is the most important thing that I can do.

I’m really excited to start to build a great relationship with all of my readers, and my clients. I want them to understand that  I’m here to help distill the deluge of information that can be found about online marketing, SEO, and social media marketing, and get it down into manageable bite sized chunks so that you know how this stuff works, and how it can benefit your business. This is the goal.

CHALLENGE: how exactly do you want your business to be perceived?  What specific steps can you take to have your business perceived that way today? In the next month? in the next 6 months?

PREDICTIONS: No predictions in this chapter.

Law 5: The Law of Focus: “The most powerful thing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind”

This is one of my favorite chapters! It’s kept me thinking constantly since I’ve read it. The idea is, once again, very simple. If you own a word in the prospect’s mind: meaning a very small idea, then you got them.  When you think of a safe car, you think of Volvo. When you think of Soda: You think of Coke. Adjectives are generally the word you see, unless is a specific product such as copier, which is a word of course owned by Xerox. Being able to own a word within a sector can be just as powerful too. I think this is an amazing idea, and very true. If you try and take another company’s word, you will fail. If you create your own, you can succeed.

I’ve been brainstorming this chapter forever, and I still haven’t really figured out what my word is. As I’ve written this, I’ve started to think of the word “Freedom” which I think really speaks to the idea of the company’s values for creating a lifestyle business, and for what we want our clients to get as well: more freedom. I hate the idea of small business owners sitting at their computers, taking time away from their families learning how to do SEO on the fly, or online marketing, or Search Engine marketing, all because they asked a firm and they wanted to charge them thousands,or they were too afraid to even ask. I want to offer that Freedom to these business owners to get back to their families and their jobs at a reasonable price.

Law 6: The Law Of Exclusivity. “Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind”

This is a very short chapter, but very true. If any company has a word pegged, I.E. volvo and “safety”, another company can’t run in and go “me too!” nobody cares. Its not important. What you need to do is find a good word for your company.

For me, I’m fairly concerned that people will attempt to run in and steal the idea for my word, especially since I don’t have the marketing steam to solidify a word in a prospect base’s mind. Eventually, when I launch another product with more resources, I plan to take full control of a word, and reap the rewards. (keeping this section quiet on purpose :))

CHALLENGE: what is your company’s word? Google search it in as many ways as you can think of. write a report on how google treats the word, other companies that might hold sway over it, and how you can beat those companies out.

PREDICTIONS: They spend the majority of this short chapter talking about Fedex and its attempt to take over the word “global” at the time of this book. They infer that DHL global (obviously) already owned the word, and that fedex will fail.

Law 7: The Law Of The Ladder : “ The strategy you use depends on which rung you occupy on the ladder”

This finally attacks the issue we all worried about in chapter one “what do you do if you’re not number one in the prospect’s mind?” That’s ok. All you need to do is change your strategy. If you’re not number one in the prospect’s mind, then you need to focus not on being the biggest first, or best, but on something else. One of their favorite stories in this book is Avis, who had an ad for a while that said “We’re number two in car rentals so why use us? Because we work harder” And people love it, they grew massively during that ad campaign. Then they changed it to “Avis will be number one in car rentals” and they lost their shirt. Because nobody believed them. Why? Because number one already belonged to Hertz in their mind. You can’t change a prospect’s mind, at least not often, and not easily. So don’t fight it if you’re number two, or three, or 5. Just find a way to carve out your own niche. Become the “whole package” solution, give incredible customer service. Have a specific charity focus. Have a super simple User interface that beats everyone else’s. There’s a million ways to do it, but don’t give up just because you’re not first. REalize you’re not first, though, and act accordingly.

I, am obviously not the first in online marketing. I will also not be the last. Therefore, I’ve decided not to sell online marketing, but a lifestyle. I want my clients to know that if they sign up with me, their online marketing is done: You don’t have to worry about it anymore. Except for the few calls or emails you’ll get from me checking on different campaigns I’ll run for you, you’ll be all set.  When people think of my service, I want them to think of more time with their families, more leads to work when they get to the office in the morning, and a better work/life balance. It’s not that I’m number one, and that I’m working with Coke, and Procter and Gamble. Quite the contrary. Its that I work ONLY with small businesses to help those small biz owners get their lives back, and enjoy the success they worked so hard for.

CHALLENGE: which rung on the ladder do you occupy in your category? Why is it that one? Can you move up? what would cause you to move down? How can you focus your marketing based on your position in the ladder? What specific steps will you take?

PREDICTIONS: As I mentioned above, they talked about Avis and their ad campaign about being second in rental cars. Obviously they never became number one, just as they expected.

Law 8: The Law Of Duality: “In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race”

Coke and Pepsi. Hertz and Avis (is Avis even still around?) Crest and Colgate. These are the companies that they mentioned in this book as two horse races. When you look at just about any “industry”, although I’m not sure thats the right word, you realize that everything boils down to two at the most. there might be a far distant third, but it’s always two. The Iphone and Android (amazon as number three?). Xbox and Playstation (nintendo has its own thing going). PC and Mac. Firefox and Chrome. Google and Yahoo. You can go on forever. There are plenty of different examples of this rule, and even if you’re not a top dog its still important to think about this one in light of your business. Why? Because you can learn a lot from those two top dogs when you look at them.

For instance: In online marketing, I would have to say the two top dogs would be Google and Facebook ,the biggest traffic controllers on the internet. These two, like it or not, control the online marketing scene. Any change of algorithm, or payment structure for ads, will change the entire internet.  Knowing this, I know that my job as a marketing consultant is to react faster than other, bigger companies to change sin google, facebook, and others, and use that speed with which I can react to give better service.

How can you take a look at “the big dogs” in your industry and react to them? is there a new product or service they’re offering that you can use as a springboard to get you more clients? What about a new marketing strategy THEY’RE using that you can piggyback on? There are always ways to react to the big guys to help your own business out.

CHALLENGE: How will you be sure to take one of the two spots in your market? What steps can you take to make yourself “the answer” To a problem in the prospect’s mind?  Are there other companies in top spots that will affect yours? how so?

PREDICTIONS: Long Distance Wars: ATT own(ed) 45% of the market, MCI own(ed) 17%, and Sprint has 10%. They guessed that MCI would win the long distance wars.  MCI is now a subsidiary of Verizon, so I suppose it DID pan out.

Law 9: The Law Of The Opposite: “ If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader”

The best quote from this chapter and maybe this entire book is  right here in the second paragraph:

“Much like a wrestler uses his opponent’s strength against him, a company should leverage the leader’s strength into a weakness”

This is exactly the nature of how you should attack the idea of fighting a big, mean, fully grown company. Look at your competition with their money and resources. You need to find a great way to fight them that will show that you aren’t going “me too!” but instead  “I’m different” Nobody wants to hear about the me-toos. They want to hear, fresh, new ideas, and concepts, and services. When a market leader states plainly what their focus is, you should do the opposite.

I know there are bigger, scarier companies out there than mine. I know that these companies are focused on closing the big, huge, fat, boring companies that want online marketing. They aren’t focused on small business. that’s my Opposite. That’s my different.  I want to offer a solution catered SPECIFICALLY to small businesses, not one that is looking to become huge, bloated, and eventually uninteresting as a marketing idea maker. I want to stay “small” so that my clients can relate to me, and so that they know I’m going to serve them well, because I understand their problems.

CHALLENGE: What is the number one competitor doing in your field? What definite idea or ideal are they using to market? how can you do the opposite?

PREDICTIONS: Burger king had its most successful years when it opened up the “have it your way” campaign, which touted how Burger King would create the burger you wanted, not just the same thing always like Mcdonald’s. Burger king strayed from this marketing path of being opposite, and tried to do the “me too!” system. The prediction was that they would flounder versus the more powerful McDonald’s. Of course, he was right.

Law 10: The Law Of Division: “Over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories”

We all know this to be true. If you look at the “computer” industry 30 years ago, it was just computers. Now its tablets, cell phones, desktops, tablets as laptop replacements, laptops as desktop replacements, and on and on. There are probably about ten times as many categories now as anyone could have imagined in the 80s.

If you think about cars 30 years ago, it was Cars, Trucks, and Vans. That was it. Today there are sports cars, sports coupes, sports 4doors, SUVS, Crossovers, you name it. There are a ton of  different categories of car now. This seems to happen to any industry as it matures, and evolves. Will some of these ideas die out, or change entirely again? Absolutely. But nonetheless it is important to look forward, and understand how your industry might divide as time moves forward.

For me, I can imagine that the online marketing industry will change over the next few years.  Small business owners are now seeing large companies, and maybe even some large local companies, using comprehensive online marketing solutions (usually created internally) to get more business, and keep their company front of mind. As this continues to progress, and small business owners realize that the internet is the only place to market anymore (well, basically) they want a piece of the pie too.  Who will fill that niche? who is going to handle the new market  of small business owners that want, nay NEED a new online marketing solution?  That’s where I will come in. I’ll be looking to fill a niche of small business owners who need to get their online marketing up to date, and want it simple, inexpensive, and one stop shop. Just how people used to go to many different services for email, text, phone, etc, now everyone goes to their phone for everything. Since people use Facebook, Email, PPC, SEO, and such all apart from one another for marketing, I want to offer a comprehensive solution that gives a simple answer for small business owners. The benefit? Biz Owners will be able to 1) step away from the minutae of online marketing, and get back to their lives and 2) having all of these solutions handled by one person, under one roof, will allow for a real synergy between all the methods.

Online marketing is changing now. People look for their next product, service, or idea everywhere now. They look on social media, they look in emails from businesses they know. They look in paid ads on google, bing, and elsewhere. They look in NATIVE searches from google, and then back up their search result with Social media, quality content, and so on. If all of these areas are pushed together into one cohesive strategy, then the marketing solution will be lower cost, more effective, and super simple to use.

CHALLENGE: How will your industry “divide”? what sub industry do you want to be first in as it appears? How will you take control of that sub-industry?

PREDICTIONS: “Prudential, American Express, and others have fallen into the financial services trap. Customers don’t buy financial services. The buy stocks or life insurance or bank accounts. They prefer to buy each service from a different company

The way for the leader to maintain its dominance is to address each emerging category with a different brand name, as General Motors did in the early days with chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac ( and recently with Geo and Saturn)”

Not quite.

Law 11: The Law Of Perspective “Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time”

This chapter can really be distilled down into a single sentence: “Many marketing moves exhibit the same phenomenon (to drinking). The long term effects are often the exact opposite of the Short-Term effects.”

Here’s a simple sample. When you go to Macy’s you see a rack of shirts as you walk in that are for sale at say, $75 a piece. You will never buy one of those shirts. You might look at one of those shirts, you might even try it on, and snap a picture of yourself in it. You wil