Welcome to another great guest post on StartupFlavor. Our last post, from Ash Maurya was one of the most popular ones ever. I have linked to it often, and will continue to, as suggested reading if you or someone you know has an idea. That post by Ash is where you should start! Brilliant content. Go take a read if you haven’t already.
I’m pleased to follow up that post with one that is a bit lighter, but just as relevant, to today’s entrepreneur. My friend, Jeremy Page, is like many of you. He has startup dreams while he works his day job as an SEO specialist at SEO.com (one of the few .com business names that really is worth keeping). Jeremy is a good writer, a scrappy dude, and someone that is chasing the dream. His post about The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (by Al Ries and Jack Trout), is one that is unique and should resonate with each of you.
A short time ago, a business mentor recommended The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, by Al Ries and Jack Trout. He even pushed it further and challenged me to read it before any business venture. You can probably imagine how shocked I was when I ordered it the next day on Amazon to discover the book was originally published in 1993.
How can a book on marketing be relevant—from almost 20 years ago?
I quickly realized these “laws” really were timeless marketing principles. Principles that are proven to work in any dynamic market or industry. The laws were well-supported using examples of companies at the time, either through their stories of success or blunder. Though they didn’t successfully predict the outcomes of all the businesses, many of their predications were borderline prophetic.
Al and Jack wrote about the 22 immutable laws, but I want to talk about the three that most influenced the way I market a brand or product.
1. The Law of the Category
This is a reminder that it is more about the category you’re inventing, not the brand. When you are the first in a particular business category (ex: Miller Light was the first domestic beer), your brand will grow along with the category you invented.
This was brilliantly illustrated in the book using Amelia Earhart. Amelia Earhart, ironically, was the third to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. But we all recognize her name, because she created her own category: “first women to fly over the Atlantic Ocean”. A lot of people know that Lindbergh was first overall, but hardly anyone knows who finished second overall.
People will remember your company if you are the first in the category, as exemplified by Band-Aid and Xerox. Ask yourself, “what category is my business first in?”
2. The Law of the Line Extension
You see this one all the time. This law is cited in the book as the most violated law of them all. When a company becomes successful, it invariably plants the seeds for its future problems by trying to add a bunch of line extensions to their product.
7-Up is a great example of this in the eighties, where it lost more than half of their market share after it added 7-Up Gold, Cherry 7-Up, and assorted diet versions. Other companies cited of getting too carried away in line extension included Sears and General Motors.
More interesting perhaps is IBM’s struggle. “What does IBM stand for? It used to stand for mainframe computers. Today, it stands for everything, which means it stands for nothing.” If you need to add another product, build it under an entirely different brand. The more products and markets a brand creates, the less powerful your brand becomes. A company shouldn’t try to be all things to all people.
3. The Law of Failure
This was easily my favorite law. The law of failure addresses the “safe zone” that happens to corporate America jobs. People high in marketing management don’t take high risks because they fear failure. They could lose their jobs. When the senior executive has a high salary and a short time to retirement, a bold move is highly unlikely. A big contrast to the fearless, egoless marketing approach you often see in small business.
Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from making a bold move. Qualify yourself to work for a company (or your own company) that takes higher marketing risks. Outside the context of the book, I am reminded of the quote: “boredom is the enemy—not some abstract failure.”
The above are just 3 of the 22 immutable laws. I encourage reading the other 19 before launching a start-up or new business. Or, as the book subtitle accurately cautions: “Violate Them at Your Own Risk!”