Book Report: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

22 Laws“Marketing is a game of mental warfare.  It’s a battle of perceptions, not products or services…There is no objective reality.  There are no facts.  There are no best products.  All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect.  The perception is the reality.  Everything else is an illusion.” (The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing – p78 and p19)

Title: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Author: Al Ries & Jack Trout

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: 1993

Origin: Honestly, I don’t remember how I first found out about The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.  I know I purchased it and read it for the first time in the 2005-ish timeframe, so it’s most likely that I heard about it at a Communitech seminar/event.  I’ve subsequently seen it mentioned in Pragmatic Marketing training, and by a colleague who’s a big fan of Ries and Trout.

Summary: The title does a good job of summarizing this book: Ries and Trout present 22 laws of marketing that they believe are immutable/unchanging.  These laws cover a range of ideas and topics (I don’t think I’ll be giving much substance away by listing them, and in any case I can’t recommend more strongly that you read this book if you’re in marketing):

  1. The Law of Leadership
  2. The Law of the Category
  3. The Law of the Mind
  4. The Law of Perception
  5. The Law of Focus
  6. The Law of Exclusivity
  7. The Law of the Ladder
  8. The Law of Duality
  9. The Law of the Opposite
  10. The Law of Division
  11. The Law of Perspective
  12. The Law of Line Extension
  13. The Law of Sacrifice
  14. The Law of Attributes
  15. The Law of Candor
  16. The Law of Singularity
  17. The Law of Unpredictability
  18. The Law of Success
  19. The Law of Failure
  20. The Law of Hype
  21. The Law of Acceleration
  22. The Law of Resources

More often than not, these laws and the authors’ instructions fly in the face of the actions of most companies, so much so that they include a warning at the end of the book: “We would be remiss if we did not warn our readers about the potential dangers of trying to apply the laws of marketing within an existing organization.  Many of these laws fly in the face of corporate ego, conventional wisdom, and the Malcolm Baldridge awards…Thus are you duly warned.  If you violate the immutable laws, you run the risk of failure.  If you apply the immutable laws, you run the risk of being bad-mouthed, ignored, or even ostracized.  Have patience.  The immutable laws of marketing will help you achieve success.  And success is the best revenge of all.”

Fittingly, the dedication page says that the book is, “Dedicated to the elimination of myths and misconceptions from the marketing process”.

My Take: Back when I first read The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, I was new to marketing (having transitioned over from quality assurance to development, from development to project management, and then from project management to product management) and wanted to get up to speed quickly with industry best-practices.  At the time, I enjoyed the book immensely (it’s easy to read and filled with neat examples), but little did I realize just how much it truly does go against what most companies actually do.

Reading it again, now, with 9 years of marketing experience under my belt, was once more illuminating and just as fun: over the years, I’ve seen time and time again, both firsthand and from a distance, just how much companies stubbornly keep repeating the same mistakes as if assured mediocrity is a better alternative than trying something new that has high potential but comes with a risk of failure.  It’s also interesting to see how a book written in 1993 (!!!) can still be relevant in today’s connected age.  To put things in perspective, some of the examples talk about the introduction of personal computers and how there’s a trend to connect office workstations to networks.  Yet, despite the obvious technological advancement since the first publication, I can’t find any of the laws that have been changed (Law 22 is perhaps impacted the most, as the Internet has given smaller players an opportunity to be seen via guerrilla marketing tactics, social media outreach, and viral content).

You’d really be hard-pressed to find a more efficient use of 132 pages.

Read This Book If: You want to be an effective marketer (applies to B2B and B2C), or really want to turn some heads at your next strategy meeting by suggesting something that goes against all the so-called common wisdom.

Notes and Quotes:

  • My genuine advice: just read the book…it’s only 132 pages, and I-kid-you-not I marked 41 separate passages.
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Posted in Advertising, Books, Marketing
7 comments on “Book Report: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
  1. […] Think of some of the ideas explained by Al Ries and Jack Trout in Positioning and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. […]

  2. […] of one of the main messages of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, that there is no objective reality, xi: “It’s not what you say, it’s what people […]

  3. […] is important only to the extent that it allows you to get in the mind first.” (p15 of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing) Tricia recognized this and credited it with much of their […]

  4. […] effective or not, contributes to others’ perception of us, and as we know already from our studies of marketing, “There is no objective reality.  All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions […]

  5. […] (e.g., cited by speakers, referenced in marketing training, etc.).  Plus, I thoroughly enjoyed The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, by the same […]

  6. […] me, thought leadership is a little bit like Rule #5 of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: “The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.”; […]

  7. […] Additionally, I’ve seen some common themes between the lessons presented in this book and those outlined in The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. […]

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