The New Immutable Law Of Marketing

Jack TroutSeptember 15, 20082833 min

The New Immutable Law Of Marketing

I have been sifting through my interview files. Today I am sharing some of the questions and my answers from a 2006 interview with Ned Roberto and Ardy Roberto of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Q: If you had to rewrite, add or take out anything from the book, 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, what would that be?

I would only add one law. It would be called “The Law of Involvement. Top management must be involved to achieve success.” All too often, top management is not involved with marketing strategy. David Packard, one of the founders of Hewlett Packard, once said, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people.”

Q: Which global brand today would you think has the most challenging job in terms of positioning?

General Motors has the most challenging job. They have to clearly reposition all their brands, which have for many years looked alike and have been priced alike.

Q: How do you think Sony’s Walkman, the brand that took advantage of the “Law of the first,” can reclaim the No. 1 position versus Apple’s iPod? Or is that even possible given all of Sony’s woes and distractions?

All Sony can do is try to become a strong number two to the Apple iPod. I’m afraid, the iPod has too big a lead and has become a generic brand. Sony missed the digital turn in the road. They didn’t preempt and ‘attack’ themselves by coming up with digital (music).

Q: Where do you think the IBM/Thinkpad brand will be going now that it’s owned by China’s Legend/Lenovo brand? It’s going nowhere! It’s over for them.

Q: What was the most interesting or challenging consulting question ever asked of you in your career?

How should America improve its brand around the world? I was asked this by the US State Department to develop a program on behalf of their diplomatic officers. But then America invaded Iraq … So this “brand America” [consulting] became the most frustrating as well.

Q: What are the burning issues/questions that your consulting clients are asking you? What are their SOS’s? What keeps them up at night?

The thinking that keeps everyone up is the ever-increasing amount of competition that is playing out around the world.

Q: Are you working on a new book?

Yes. It’s about the importance of specialization in a very competitive world. Being exceptional at one thing is your best chance of surviving in this very competitive world.

Q: What’s the story behind your splitting ways with Al Ries? Any chance of the two of you getting together again to write another book?

Al Ries left to work with his daughter. That was what he wanted to do and he did it. Since he puts his daughter’s name on his books, there will never be another Trout and Ries book.

Q: What advice would you have to a fresh marketing/business graduate hoping to make his/her mark in the marketing world?

Find a good company to work for and in that company try to find the smartest people from which to learn. Marketing is all about on the job training.

Q: How did you get started in the world of brand marketing? What was your big break or ‘tipping point?’

I started at General Electric at a time when they had extensive on-the-job training programs. My biggest break was meeting and working with Al Ries for 25 years. We taught each other a great deal.

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Jack Trout


  • Ted Grigg

    September 17, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Fascinating interview.

    I think Trout’s answer to branding the US and implying that the country lost any chance of securing its brand reflected his own beliefs rather than an opportunity to strengthen the country’s brand.

    Sometimes, we have to fire thousands of people to salvage great companies. And sometimes we have to make tough decisions to stand true to our mission in the world.

    So its all in the perspective we take when positioning a company or a country.

  • Hazel Grove

    September 26, 2008 at 12:32 am

    All notions if pursued fail.

    Individuals and organisations use brands to better understand how to make their way in the world. It is not helpful to attempt to make the notion of brand to fail. It would need to be replaced with something else more useful. But what?

    Brand is not ultimate but it is useful. Brand attempts to find handles on very slippery notions, some of which find themselves in commercial space.

    All discrete identities can be usefuly held as opinions and opinions can be usefully held as brands.

    People trade in stories. They exchange value packaged and handled in the form of stories. Brands are stories. This is how people make sense of the world – physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. If the definition of brand does not include these dimensions then the term should be abandoned. If brand consultants do not include these elements in consulting on brand then they too should be abandoned.

    Brand is not just about business. Brand hasn’t been invented artificially for financial gain. Brand is latent in all trade. Some brands are just more effectively articulated than others and so make their way more effectively in the world.

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