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“Can you recommend a book for…?”
“What are you reading right now?”
“What are your favorite books?”
I get asked those types of questions a lot and, as an avid reader and all-around bibliophile, I’m always happy to oblige.
I also like to encourage people to read as much as possible because knowledge benefits you much like compound interest. The more you learn, the more you know; the more you know, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more opportunities you have to succeed.
On the flip side, I also believe there’s little hope for people who aren’t perpetual learners. Life is overwhelmingly complex and chaotic, and it slowly suffocates and devours the lazy and ignorant.
So, if you’re a bookworm on the lookout for good reads, or if you’d like to get into the habit of reading, this book club for you.
The idea here is simple: Every week, I’ll share a book that I’ve particularly liked, why I liked it, and several of my key takeaways from it.
I’ll also keep things short and sweet so you can quickly decide whether the book is likely to be up your alley or not.
If you’ve already read a book that I recommend or have a recommendation of your own to share, don’t be shy! Drop a comment down below and let me–and the rest of us “book clubbers”–know!
Lastly, if you want to be notified when new recommendations go live, hop on my email list and you’ll get each new installment delivered directly to your inbox.
Okay, let’s get to this week’s book: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout, who are marketing legends best known for their groundbreaking 1981 book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, which I also highly recommend.
If you want a short but fantastic primer on the basics of good marketing, including the primary goal of marketing, the fundamentals of good branding, product creation, advertising, and more, then you want to read this book.
One of the reasons I like it so much is it’s concerned more with high-level thinking than tactical application, and strives to give you principles that you can extrapolate into many types of actionables. In this way, much of its advice is universal and timeless.
I’m also recommending it because it has informed many of the better marketing decisions I’ve made in building my businesses, and is a book that’s worth reviewing regularly as your business expands and evolves, and as mistakes and missteps become more expensive and painful.
My 5 Key Takeaways from The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
The basic issue in marketing is creating a category you can be first in. It’s the law of leadership: It’s better to be first than it is to be better. It’s much easier to get into the mind first than to try to convince someone you have a better product than the one that did get there first.
Many marketers try to figure out how to get people to prefer their brands over others, but this is tremendously hard to do. Consumers are very defensive when it comes to the brands they buy and are highly resistant to changing their minds. People are always interested in new categories of products and services, though, because they’re always interested in what’s new and interesting. Therefore, it’s much better to be first in a new category that you’ve created and promoted because then you have no competition.
There are several examples of this in the book, but here’s one: IBM came to dominate the category computers and instead of taking them on headfirst, DEC created the category of minicomputers and told people why they should buy a minicomputer, not a DEC minicomputer. Later, Tandem created the category of fault-tolerant computers and grew to $1.9 billion per year in revenue. Then, a company called Stratus introduced and grabbed the category of fault-tolerant minicomputer.
Does a sale increase a company’s business or decrease it? Obviously, in the short term, a sale increases business. But there’s more and more evidence to show that sales decrease business in the long term by educating customers not to buy at “regular” prices. Aside from the fact that you can buy something for less, what does a sale say to a prospect? It says that your regular prices are too high. After the sale is over, customers tend to avoid a store with a “sale” reputation. To maintain volume, retail outlets find they have to run almost continuous sales. It’s not unusual to walk down a retail block and find a dozen stores in a row with “Sale” signs in their windows.
Sales are the cocaine of commerce. They produce immediate highs, but the more you do them, the worse the fallout. This is one of the reasons why I only do a few sitewide sales per year over at Legion in addition to semi-regular smaller, product-specific sales.
More is less. The more products, the more markets, the more alliances a company makes, the less money it makes. “Full-speed ahead in all directions” seems to be the call from the corporate bridge. When will companies learn that line extension ultimately leads to oblivion? 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.
Line extension is taking the brand name of a successful product and putting it on a new product that you want to introduce, and this is almost always a mistake because it’s hard enough to be top-of-mind in one category let alone several.
In short, it’s better to have a very narrow, specific focus and build that position in the minds of consumers than to have a broad, all-encompassing approach where you’re trying to be everything to everyone.
This is why I decided against launching a full-scale apparel line under the Legion brand, which needs to remain solely focused on 100% natural, clinically dosed health and workout supplements. If I were to get into the workout apparel space, I’d have to create a new brand and new category to be first in.
But the best, most profitable thing to ride in marketing is a long-term trend.
No matter how clever you might think your product is or how much money you have to spend, one of the worst marketing decisions you can make is to buck a trend, and one of the best decisions you can make is to align to one.
This is one of the reasons why I decided to get into the fitness industry in the first place: becoming fit and healthy is more mainstream and popular now than ever before in my lifetime, and I think it’s going to continue gaining ground for a long time.
…one of the most effective ways to get into a prospect’s mind is to first admit a negative and then twist it into a positive.
Admitting negatives has a powerful psychological effect. Self-deprecation immediately makes you more likable, and when a company admits a problem, we almost instinctively accept it as true and open our minds to whatever else they have to say. If a company leads with a positive statement, though, we’re immediately dubious and demand proof.
This is one of the reasons why a core component of my supplement company’s message is even the best supplements can’t give you a great physique. Not only is it true, it’s an admission of a negative–that buying my products won’t magically give you the body you want–that opens people’s minds to the positive part of the message, which is that once you know what you’re doing in the gym and kitchen, the right supplements can speed up the process of gaining muscle and strength, losing fat, and getting healthy.