Recommended Read: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

“RSPA Recommended Read” is a series of articles in which RSPA staff members share details from books we think would be helpful to leaders and aspiring leaders at VAR, ISV, and vendor member organizations.

By: Chris Arnold, RSPA Director of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships

You already know there are laws of nature, physics, and motion. What you may not know is laws to marketing exist as well. Fortunately, you don’t have to be Sir Isaac Newton to understand the principles outlined by Al Ries and Jack Trout in The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!

As a young professional (a.k.a. millennial) right out of college, I was eager to jump in with a full head of steam, secure results quickly, and “change the game.” But, I learned quickly that’s not how the world of marketing works. I needed to slow down, understand first what has and hasn’t worked.

I was fortunate to spend one of my first weeks in the RSPA marketing department shadowing the seasoned marketing professionals at RSPA member BlueStar. That’s where Mark Fraker, then BlueStar’s VP of Marketing and now their CTO, gifted me a copy of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

Following Fraker’s advice to read the “marketing bible,” I am now better aligned to identify and craft more effective marketing initiatives — and avoid devastating mistakes. I’m not going to break down each law in detail or chronological order, but I will share a few impactful quotes and excerpts from the book:

  1. It’s the law of leadership: it’s better to be first than it is to be better
  2. The leading brand in any category is almost always the first brand in the prospect’s mind. Hertz in rental cars. IBM in computers. Coca-Cola in cola.
  3. Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.
  4. If you didn’t get into the prospect’s mind first, don’t give up hope. Find a new category you can be first in.
  5. 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.
  6. Once a mind is made up, it rarely, if ever, changes. The single most wasteful thing you can do in marketing is try to change someone’s mind.
  7. The theory is that if you spend enough money, you can own the idea. Right? Wrong.
  8. When you take the long view of marketing, you find the battle usually winds up as a titanic struggle between two major players – usually the old reliable brand and the upstart.
  9. If you are #3 in product positioning, you aren’t going to make much progress by going out and attacking the two strongest leaders. What you should do is carve out a profitable niche.
  10. Companies make a big mistake when they try to take a well-known brand name in one category and use the same brand name in another category.

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  1. Less is more. If you want to be successful today, you have to narrow the focus in order to build a position in the prospect’s mind.
  2. Where is it written that the more you have to sell, the more you sell?
  3. If you try to follow the twists and turns of the market, you are bound to wind up off the road.
  4. When a company starts a message by admitting a problem, people tend to, almost instinctively, open their minds.
  5. The purpose of candor is to set up a benefit that will convince your prospect.
  6. What works in marketing is the same as what works in the military: the unexpected.
  7. Ego is the enemy of successful marketing.
  8. Brilliant marketers have the ability to think like a prospect thinks.
  9. The best, most profitable thing to ride in marketing is a long-term trend.

RSPA Recommended Read Rating: 9.5/10

Fun fact: this book is one year older than me and the lessons learned still hold strong today.

Let’s break down a couple lessons I believe are most impactful today. The likelihood of creating a wholly new and never-seen-before product in the retail technology industry is slim. That’s why focusing on carving out a profitable niche is more important than ever for growth. Many retail technology providers have great products, so touting why yours is “better” is often wasted time and money. Instead, focus on a unique value that your product provides, narrow that value proposition down to one or two words, then metaphorically beat your target market over the head with it. Become those one or two words in their mind.

If you’re not sure where to get started or what actions to take, the RSPA’s Jim Roddy led a workshop at Inspire 2022 titled How the Pros Win in a New Niche. Check out the interactive presentation slides via RSPA Academy EXCELerate today and you will receive resources and actions that can help you grow in a new target market.

For any VAR or ISV looking to expand their portfolio, especially in this ever-changing environment, it is more important than ever to follow the laws of marketing. They will help you avoid costly mistakes and follow in the leading marketers’ footsteps. Ries and Trout spent over 25 years analyzing companies in all stages of seniority, from startups all the way up to the most well-known and established brands, very similar to the makeup of the RSPA community.

Across their research to craft the 22 laws they found commonalities among the companies who succeeded and failed. Those who ignore these laws will struggle to launch new offerings and watch sales decrease no matter how much they spend on their marketing campaigns.

I highly encourage you to understand and embrace the laws of marketing and purchase your copy of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing today.

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Chris Arnold is the Director of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). Active in the association since 2017, Chris plays a key role in member engagement, new member recruitment, event promotion, messaging strategy & execution, and content creation. Chris leads the RSPA Marketing Committee and is responsible for the association’s marketing efforts and strategic partnerships. He also serves as the Executive Editor for Connect Magazine and Producer for the RSPA Trusted Advisor Podcast. For more information, contact