Marketing lessons from the world of Physics


The Three Laws Of Marketing (Based On Newton’s Laws Of Motion)

Several years back, I had the pleasure of watching Dan Cobley’s TED Talk, “What physics taught me about marketing.” In this talk, Cobley illustrates how physics and the scientific method can be applied to marketing principles.

As marketer and fan of the great Sir Isaac Newton, Cobley’s talk inspired me to explore how Newton’s Three Laws of Motion could help explain brand growth and marketing success. I adapted these three laws specifically to my experience, and at my agency, we call them our “Three Laws of Marketing.”

The First Law Of Marketing: Apply Force

Based on Newton’s formula (force equals mass times acceleration), the first law of marketing is the application of force. How do we apply force? We strike early and strike often, which we call “start fast – fail fast.” Agencies often tend to come up with elaborate campaigns that require months of planning, only to find out that the strategy was wrong in the first place. However, by coming out of the gate strong, we can dive in and begin to move the needle quickly for our clients.

In the early days of our company, Magneti worked with a startup that had a great concept: an online marketplace for university students to trade textbooks with each other. Instead of being forced to buy high-priced books at the bookstore, this product gave students a quick, easy and cheap alternative. Given the company’s low initial budget, we had to get our marketing efforts rolling quickly. We skipped the typical long, drawn-out strategy phase in favor of a leaner approach. We hit the ground running and found a major flaw in the initial social media strategy. Most students didn’t engage with the social channels because those channels were primarily used as an escape from studying; anything school-related was not a welcome message.

Our discovery was a case of message placement and timing. Because we started early with a strong application of force, we were able to quickly pivot and save the client thousands of dollars. The change of strategy led to our lowest cost per acquisition channel and to this day is one of our greatest wins.

We keep our team focused on the “start fast – fail fast” principle, which gives us the nimbleness to change direction.

The Second Law Of Marketing: Once in Motion, Don’t Rest

Newton stated that an object remains either in motion or in a state of rest unless acted upon by an outside force. In his classic book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes momentum with his flywheel analogy: Because of its inertia and specifically placed weight, a flywheel can maintain momentum without stopping. Think of marketing operations as a flywheel. Motion is the key to sustaining growth; it takes time to build, but once you have momentum, it is easy to maintain.

FoodMaven, a client with a vision to eliminate food waste, applied significant startup force to a good business model and a great brand. In the past two years, they’ve grown from an idea in a dorm room to 22 employees. With such rapid initial success, it would be easy for the brand to become complacent. Regardless of the effort it has taken to get to this point, FoodMaven’s savvy leaders understand that now is the time to capitalize on its momentum. They are seeking additional funding and doubling their marketing and sales efforts.

Many brands have success and then rest on their laurels, but one of the biggest mistakes any brand can make is rest. Growth requires constant motion and consistency. In the business world, I’ve heard momentum described as a “series of successes.” Success begets success. Sustaining momentum isn’t easy; it requires buy-in, consistency and patience. The advice here is simple: Get in motion and stay in motion.

The Third Law Of Marketing: Counteract Opposition

Newton tells us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If you are taking action, applying force and sustaining momentum, there will be opposition from forces outside of your control. These forces can range from unexpected competition to PR nightmares to bureaucratic challenges. In any case, resolve is the key to success.

I’m often asked what the key to brand success is. I dislike that question, but if forced to answer, I always say: “Be the last one standing.” Building a successful brand is difficult — it requires the resolve to counteract a myriad of opposing forces.

All great brands have had to withstand opposition. Remember the Reebok Pump of the late ‘80s? The release of these shoes sent Nike into a tailspin that required an immediate counterattack in the market. This opposition resulted in the invention of the Nike Air series, which was followed by a partnership with legendary NBA player Michael Jordan. Nike did a masterful job of counteracting opposition, and in turn took the organization to unimaginable success.

As you prepare to generate an unstoppable marketing machine, remember these laws. Apply force, keep moving and be ready to counteract opposition.

This article first appeared in

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About Author

Adam Williams

Adam Williams is the CEO of Magneti, a brand and digital agency based in the Rocky Mountains.

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