For marketing strategists Al Ries and Jack Trout, the first of their 22 “immutable laws of marketing
” is the Law of Leadership: “It’s better to be first than it is to be better.”
Ries and Trout argue that this law can be applied to any brand, category or product for the following reasons:
- Conceptual inertia and the cost of switching: it’s easier to get into a person’s mind first than it is to convince them that you have a better product than the one that did get there first.
- The brand or product that’s first in a category often tends to remain in a leadership position because its name becomes generic; they cite examples from Gore-Tex to Kleenex.
- Marketing is more a battle of perceptions than products. Regardless of reality, “people perceive the first product into the mind as superior.”
They use two familiar “brands” to demonstrate their point:
- George Washington was the first President of the United States, but who was the second? (Answer: John Adams)
- Advil was first in the ibuprofen market, but what was the second? (Answer: Nuprin)
And yet, because of timing or other factors, being first to market may not always be possible.
For Ries and Trout, that’s why there are 21 other laws, including the Law of the Category: “If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category that you can be first in.”