The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing | Violate Them at Your Own Risk

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Summary of “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing”: In marketing, as elsewhere, there are fundamental laws that make the success or failure of companies, even the largest ones; the authors, who are marketing experts and one of whom is the inventor of the positioning concept, unveil these laws one by one while giving us many concrete examples of their application…or their violation.

By Al Ries and Jack Trout, 1993, 176 pages.

Chronicle and summary of “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing”:

Law 1: The law of Leadership – It’s better to be first than it is to be better

Many people believe that the main purpose of a company’s marketing department is to convince its prospects of the superiority of their products or services.

This isn’t true. The main goal of a company is to create a category in which it will be first. For the law of leadership states that you need to be the first. Not the best.

Why? Simply because our prospects and customers have more to do than to remember the name of our company and our products. Being the first makes it possible to easily get into people’s minds.

To demonstrate this, just answer these two questions:

  1. Who was the first person to fly across the English Channel alone?
  2. Who was the second person?

If you answered “Louis Blériot” to the first question, and didn’t find the answer for the second, congratulations! You’re not alone. Now you have come to understand the importance of being first.

In each category, the leading brand is indeed very often the brand that was the first to get into the minds of consumers. Hertz and Coca-Cola are examples.

When a brand becomes a generic term, its future is assured: Scotch, Fridge, Velcro, Aspirin, etc.

But what if your product or company is not the first in its category? Are you forever doomed to being overshadowed by the pioneers? Not necessarily. Because there are other laws.

Law 2: The law of the Category – If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in

Who is the first person to fly across the Atlantic? Charles Lindbergh. What about the second person? Uh… And the third person? Amelia Earhart.

Charles Lindbergh

Doesn’t her name sound familiar? And yet, she is much better known than Bert Hinkler, the second to fly the Atlantic. Why? Because she is the first woman to fly the Atlantic!

Heineken was the first imported beer in the United States and has become a leader in this sector. When they saw this, the American beer maker Anheuser-Busch could have tried to beat them by also bringing in an imported beer. However, they rather thought, “If there is a market for high-priced imported beer in the US, there must be a market for a high-priced American beer”.  So, they promoted Michelob.

Similarly, Miller Lite was the first American light beer. It took five years for an importer to think, “if there is a market for an American light beer, there is a market for an imported light beer”.

Who was the first to prevail in minds in the category of “computers”? IBM. What was the most successful IT firm in the 60s and 70s? IBM. Of the 7 companies that rushed into the same market, which one was second? None of them. The second most successful IT company in the 1960s and 1970s was Digital Equipment Corporation, which created the niche market for minicomputers and was the leader in it.

Therefore, it’s possible to go from No. 2 (or lower) to No. 1 by creating a new category that you will invest first in.

This is possible in many ways. Dell was able to break into an ultra-competitive market by selling its machines over the phone and then directly over the Internet without going through intermediaries.

You must forget the brand and think in terms of categories. Prospects close their ears when we talk to them about brands, as they are besieged by advertisements wanting to prove to them that this or that brand is better. However, everyone listens when it comes to category, because everyone is interested in that which is novel.

Note: an excellent book has been devoted to the art of creating a new category, and is reviewed in this blog: Blue Ocean Strategy.

Law 3: The Law of the Mind – It’s better to be first in the mind than to be first in the marketplace

What was the first personal computer in the world? The PC? No. The Apple I? Neither. It was the MITS Altair 8800. According to the law of leadership, it should have been a leader in its category for a long time. But …there is a simpler computer name, right?

For the law of the mind modifies the law of leadership: to be successful it is necessary to be the first in the minds of the customers, i.e., to arrive first in their eyes. That’s the essence of marketing.

Thus, IBM was not the first in the market for large computers. There was already Remington Rand’s Univac. That said, IBM’s marketing campaign was much more effective, and it was first in the minds of customers.

wangYou need more than an idea that will revolutionize the sector. You must be the first to get the idea into the customer’s mind. It’s often believed that the solution to this is to have a substantial budget, for advertising and press campaigns. That’s not true. It’s very difficult to influence an opinion once it’s made up.

Wang was the leader in word-processing typewriters, having a worth of up to $3 billion. However, it failed to make the transition to computers, despite the millions of dollars spent, and went bankrupt in 1992, 41 years after its creation.

Xerox was the leader of photocopiers and wanted to position itself in the computer market. All in vain.

Why is it so hard? Because we hate to change our minds. Once a prospect or customer perceives in one way, it’s over. You are forever filed away in their mind.

Note: Seth Godin develops a similar idea in All Marketers Are Liars.

Law 4: The law of Perception – Marketing is not a battle of products, but of perceptions

Many people think that marketing is a battle between products, and that in the long run it’s the best one that wins.

This is an illusion. All truth is relative. If someone says, “I’m right and my aunt is wrong,” he is just saying “my opinion is better than hers”. And yet, we are almost all convinced to perceive everything better than everyone else.

That’s why it’s a mistake to believe that the best product will win: it’s the best perception of the product that will win.

It’s easy to demonstrate when you look at two markets separated by distance. Take the top 3 brands of Japanese cars sold in the US at the time of the release of this book: in order, Honda, Toyota, Nissan. Is it because Honda makes better cars than Nissan? In this case, why is it that in Japan the manufacturer selling the most cars is Toyota, followed by Nissan, then Honda, when the car models are identical?

In Japan, if you say that you have just bought a Honda, you will be asked what kind of motorcycle you just bought. And in the minds, Honda is a motorcycle brand, and the Japanese are reluctant to buy a car from a motorcycle manufacturer. It would be the same if Harley-Davidson started building cars.

Coca-Cola released a new formula of its famous drink in 1985, dubbed New-Coke: more than 200,000 blind taste tests showed that this drink was superior to Pepsi, which itself was superior to the classic Coca-Cola. The result? Consumers protested for the return of the worst drink of the three, because in their minds Coca-Cola was the best, period.

Similarly, in the US, everyone knows that Japanese cars are better than American cars… even if customers who spread this idea have no knowledge of mechanics.  So, if you have a breakdown with a Japanese car, it’s that “you’ve just been unlucky”, while if all is well with an American car, “you’ve just been lucky”.

Law 5: The law of Focus – The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind

The principle of focus states that it’s by narrowing the target that we creep into the minds, and the best possible focus is reduced to a single word: in this case all the energy of the message is focused on only one point, which greatly facilitates its transmission.

In the United States, the word “overnight” belongs to Federal Express; “copier” belongs to Xerox; “cola” to Coca-Cola; “long-lasting” to Duracelle; “slowest ketchup” to Heinz.

Law 6: The law of Exclusivity – Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind

Once a company has associated a word with its brand, it’s futile to want to take it from them. We cannot change the opinion of people. Once made up, an opinion is essentially final.

Attempting to go against this law will only result in a lot of time and money wasted and with very few results.

Law 7: The law of the Ladder – The strategy to use depends on which rung you occupy on the ladder

Your number 1 objective is to be first in the prospect’s and customer’s mind. But if you don’t succeed, all is not lost: positions 2 and 3 are playable and can pay big.

For a long time in the United States, it was Hertz who was the leader in car rental, followed by Avis and National. And for years, Avis has touted its rent-a-car service as the “finest in rent-a-cars”. What consumers found skeptical: everyone knew they were number 2, so why claim to be the best?

Avis then went back on their previous strategy by recognizing its true place: “We are number 2 in rent-a-cars. So, why go with us? Because we try harder!”

With this strategy, Avis stopped 13 consecutive years of losing money and started making lots of it. Yet the difference between the slogans was subtle: the only difference is that in one case, it went against Avis’ place in the minds of customers, while in the other case, it reinforced it.

You must identify your product’s ladder in the customer’s mind. The number of rungs varies a great deal, from very few (for objects that are rarely bought and associated with an unpleasant experience, such as car batteries or tires), to many (for items that are bought daily like fruit juice, beer, cereal). In general, there are no more than 7 possible rungs in a consumer’s mind.

You can find yourself well positioned in a very small category. In this case, it is sometimes better to have a worse place in a larger category than to be a leader in a small one.  7-Up was leader of the “lemon-lime” category, with Sprite in second. But the category “cola” is much bigger than the category of “lemon-lime”. 7-Up decided to occupy a small place in this gigantic market by making an advertising campaign called “The Uncola”. As tea is to coffee, this turned 7-Up into an alternative.

Note: To learn more about this 7-Up campaign and even see vintage advertising, read the Ready, Fire, Aim review.

Law 8: The law of Duality – In the long term, every market becomes a two-horse race

When a market is created, there are often many competitors who try to force themselves into it. But quickly, a large part of this market is the subject of a battle between the two leaders, while the others barely live off scraps. Canon and Nikon for digital cameras, McDonalds and Quick for fast-food, Nike and Rebook for athletic shoes, etc.


In 1969, three brands dominated a market in the USA: the first held 60% of the shares, the second 25%, the third 6%. In 1991, the leader had only 45% of the market, followed by 40% for the second, and only 3% for the third. These brands are Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Royal Crown Cola.

Is your fate sealed if you are not already first or second in your market? Certainly not. However, it’s not by attacking the two leaders head-on that you’ll get by. It’s better that you create an original niche in which you will be the leader and make sure you’re at your very best by applying law no. 5.

Yet, when a market is created and is expanding, even the number 3 or number 4 spot seems desirable, as long as the numbers remain strong. But in the long run, it’s better to create your own market to dominate in than to end up eating the scraps left over from the no. 2 or no. 3 leaders who are far ahead.

Law 9: The law of the Opposite – If you are shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader

Against a powerful leader, the right strategy is to turn one of its strengths into a weakness. It’s the same principle as in judo: using the opponent’s strength against him. In order to retain second place, you must study the number one spot and ask: “what are its strong points? And how to turn them into weaknesses?”

Because in any market, there are two categories of customers: those who want to buy from the leading brand, and those who don’t want to buy from it. To obtain second place, you have to appeal to the second group.

And, by positioning yourself as “the anti-leader”, you prevent other competitors from positioning themselves as such and you take away their customers. Coca-Cola is the classic of colas, whose reputation is second to none. Pepsi has turned this strength into weakness to present itself as the champion of the new generations, thus making Coca-Cola seem old-fashioned and leaving little room for a third player in this market.

When German beer Beck arrived in the United States, it realized that it could not present itself as the first imported German beer (a place taken by Heineken) or as the first German beer sold in the US (Lowenbrau at the time). It managed to become successful by using the law of the opposite, and “repositioned” Lowenbrau. Their slogan was: “You’ve tasted the German beer that’s the most popular in America. Now taste the German beer that’s the most popular in Germany!”

And it worked, because as far as beers are concerned, the Americans trust the taste of the Germans more than their own. Beck was number two in European beer when the book was released.

A no. 2 cannot avoid being aggressive: as soon as it becomes timid and gives up focusing on the leader, its market share collapses. Burger King had its greatest period of growth when it attacked McDonald head-on, then saw its growth halted as soon as it became “wiser”.

Law 10: The law of Division – Over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories

At the beginning a category is monolithic, then is subdivided into many categories. Then, there were only computers, then came mainframes, minicomputers, personal computers, laptops, notebooks, pen computers, etc.

Same way at first, there were only cars, then there were the inexpensive models, luxury sedans, sports cars, 4×4s, minivans, etc.

And at first there was only one TV channel — now, there are thousands!

Each of these categories has its own leader, which isn’t often the leader of another category in the same field. If a leader wants to tackle another market in its field, it’s better for it to use a new brand name, because it’s unlikely that customers want to buy products from a leader of one category in another category.

So, when Volkswagen created the “small cars” category in the US with the Beetle, it was a huge success, grabbing 67% of the imported car market. Volkswagen decided to import its other cars and to compete directly with the major American car manufacturers, still marketing them under its brand.

Big mistake. Although the brand was the best-selling brand in Europe, in the minds of American consumers, Volkswagen meant “ugly, economical and indestructible little cars” and they didn’t see the point of buying anything else from this brand. Volkswagen tried to “force the hand” of American consumers by removing the Beetle from the market, and the result was that its customers went to buy their economical car from Japanese car manufacturers.

At the book’s release, Volkswagen’s market share in the United States went from 67% to less than 4%.

Next to that, Honda, one of those car manufacturers known for its economical cars, decided to get into the high-end car market as well. But instead of marketing them under its brand, it created a new one, Acura, with a distribution network of its own. At the book’s release, Acura was selling more cars than Volkswagen.

Law 11: The law of Perspective- Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time

The authors begin this chapter by giving a very telling picture: they ask us if in our opinion alcohol is a stimulant. If you look at the hectic atmosphere of any bar on Friday night, you might think so. However, if we look at the same people having fun in the bars a few hours later, you would think the opposite.

The true effect of alcohol is as a depressant, but in the short term it acts as a stimulant. However, according to the authors, certain marketing strategies behave like alcohol, and in the long term their stimulating effects are reversed.

According to them, sales have a beneficial short-term effect because they boost a company’s turnover, but over the long term, they teach customers that they pay “too much” outside sales periods and encourage them to hold off buying until these sales.

In the same way, diversifying its products too much can lead a company downhill. They give the example of American beer brands – Miller, Michelob, Coors, Budweiser – which recorded a strong increase in sales after releasing a light beer, and then saw the same sales decline two or three years later.

They also take the example of Donald Trump, the famous American billionaire, who, after having greatly diversified his activities, in hotels, casinos, real estate, aviation, etc., saw his fortune crumble and his debt rise to 1.4 billion dollars… which was true at the time of the book’s release (1993). However, since then, Donald Trump has fully recovered and has become a wealthy entrepreneur and his activities – very diversified – are flourishing. This shows that the authors aren’t all knowing and that they, like all human beings, have a limited understanding of complex situations.

Law 12: The Law of Line Extension – There’s an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand

According to the authors, diversification is practiced by the vast majority of companies and is responsible for large losses of money. They cite IBM as an example, which as long as the company focused on mainframe computers, it was making a lot of money, and then as soon as it started to diversify into all possible types of computers, it lost money.

They also talk about…Microsoft, which, at the time of the book’s release (1993), was trying to get into other categories of software other than operating systems. The authors’ comments make us smile today, and it shows that their laws are not immutable: “Microsoft is the leader in computer operating systems, but it trails the leaders in each of the following categories: behind Lotus for spreadsheets, behind WordPerfect for word processing […] ”

It’s rather amusing to see that 18 years later, Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect are only known by those who have lived through the pre-internet “heroic era”, and that Word, Excel and the entire Office suite are the leaders in their category. Yet the authors predicted all the world’s woes for Microsoft.

Note: Another example of a company whose success contradicts this law is Apple. Apple has had as much success as it has today because it ventured to diversify its activities and go beyond simple personal computers.

Law 13: The Law of Sacrifice – You have to give up something in order to get something

According to the authors, to respect the law of sacrifice, one must resist the three temptations that threaten all businesses: multiplying products, expanding the target and engaging in constant strategic change. They advocate the status quo by always returning to their motto: what is important is to be the leader of a category in the customer’s mind, not just a “pawn” in all possible categories.

They give us the example of FedEx, which managed to overtake its competitor, Emery, thanks to its focus on small parcels delivered overnight, which allowed it to own the word “overnight” in the customers’ minds. However, when FedEx tried to diversify internationally, it began to lose money, causing it to lose $1.1 billion in 21 months ( however, according to the Wikipedia article, the company is doing well in 2010 since it took in $34.7 billion in sales and $1.2 billion in profits).

Likewise with Eveready, which has long been the leader in batteries. But technology — or rather the lack of good positioning strategy on the part of Eveready — would be a game changer. Because when alkaline batteries landed on the market, what did they do? As Eveready was a famous and leading brand, they named their alkaline batteries “Eveready alkaline”.

Which gave their competitors the opportunity to adopt a better positioning: it was PR Mallory with its famous “Duracell”, which prevailed. Because everyone knows that the little Duracell bunny lasts twice as long 😉

When Eveready tried to thwart Duracell by renaming its batteries as “Energizer” batteries, it was too late: in the minds of customers, the leader in batteries was “Duracell”.

Law 14: The law of Attributes – For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute

Law No. 6 (the law of exclusivity) states that you cannot take away a word, a niche market or a key attribute that belongs to your competitors in the prospect’s mind. Yet, far too many companies spend their time copying leaders, telling themselves that you only have to repeat what they do to succeed.

This isn’t true. It is better to compete as a rival than a cheap imitation. And to do that, you have to find a key attribute in your competitor that you are going to play off of.

For example, what strategy could Burger King adopt against McDonald’s? Could it try to own the word “slow”? Not that great for a fast food chain. However, McDonald’s has another key attribute: to be fast food for kids. Part of its success is indeed children who drag their parents to McDonald’s so they can enjoy the playgrounds and children’s menu with toys.

Burger King then decided to pose as a rival by opposing this attribute: as McDonald’s had won the hearts of the “little ones”, Burger King only had to win the hearts of “grown-ups”, which Burger King defines as “children above the age of 10”. It started a campaign that encouraged children over the age of 10 to “grow up” and to come to Burger King, which was way “cooler”.

In doing so, they sacrificed the under-10 market share, but stuck a “baby-only” label right on McDonald’s forehead in the minds of all grown-ups and teens.

Law 15: The law of Candor- When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive

As human beings, we are often reluctant to admit our weaknesses, and that is true for companies as well. However, admitting a weak point has an advantage: in general, a negative judgment about ourselves is immediately perceived as true, contrary to a positive judgment, regarded with mistrust, especially when it comes from a company “who wants to sell us something”. Therefore, it may be much more effective to admit weakness than trying to hide it.

Some companies have created slogans that have been very successful:

  • Avis: “We are only number two in rent-a-cars”
  • Smucker’s: “With a name like that, it’s has to be good!”
  • Volkswagen: “The VW 1970 will stay ugly longer”

While a positive affirmation must be solidly supported, this is not the case with a negative statement. But once an opinion is made up, it’s very difficult to change it. The whole art of marketing is to juggle these opinions, ideas and concepts. These “self-evident facts”. And to do so without challenging them head-on.

So, what does the prospect think, seeing these surprising slogans from well-known companies?

  • Volkswagen: “A car that ugly must be good”
  • Smucker’s: “If they succeed with a name like that, it must be good”

And for Avis, it’s simply “since they’re number two, they must try even harder!”.

Obviously, companies help prospects to interpret these slogans in this way, and then continue with a positive view of this negative point. Because this law is to be handled with great precaution: it is necessary 1) that the negative point is perceived already as a negative point, and 2) it’s then necessary to very quickly get to the positive part of the message. Your goal is not to apologize.

Law 16: The law of Singularity -In each situation, only one move will produce substantial results

According to the authors, the extent of your efforts in marketing only has a minor influence on the results. What really matters is hitting very hard, in one strike, in the right spot.

Al Ries and Jack Trout draw parallels with battlefields, where good strategists try to discover and apply the boldest maneuver that will be victorious.

Because what works in marketing, as in war, is simple: the element of surprise. Hitting the enemy where they least expect it, and preferably where they’re most vulnerable, such as Hannibal who crossed the Alps, beating the odds of the Roman generals, or Hitler who went around the Maginot Line with his army, sending it through the Ardennes, even though it was considered impossible to cross with armored vehicles.

That’s what happened with General Motors in the 80s:

Rather than attacking it head-on in the mid-range car category, where it reigned supreme in the US, several car manufacturers went around its Maginot line to attack it with flanking moves. For example, the Japanese manufacturers attacked it on the low-end car segment, and the Germans on the high-end car segment, with great success.

General Motors

Distraught, General Motors made the mistake of multiplying its models in the mid-range to the point of making them indistinguishable. Ford took the opportunity to step into the breach, soon followed by the Japanese, weakening General Motors even more so.

Note: On this point, the authors’ analysis and predictions proved to be accurate. General Motors went through major difficulties, especially due to the competition from the Japanese (its US market share increased from 50% to 25%) and was nearly bankrupt in 2005 (the group lost more than 3 billion that year, and its debt was $292 billion). Ever since, its situation has improved a little and kept only 5 out of the dozen brands it had in the early 2000s (see the Wikipedia article on this subject).

Law 17: The law of Unpredictability – Unless you write your competitor’s plans, you can’t predict the future

If an army of weather engineers using the most advanced computers in the world cannot predict the weather correctly after a few days, do you think even the best experts can predict how a market will be in 3 years?

No, of course not. No company can predict how the competition will act in the next 3 years. Does this mean that we should focus on the short term?

It depends. What really hurts companies is not short-term marketing strategies, but short-term financial strategies. Having your eyes peeled on the quarterly report is a sure way to forget the big picture; and to always think short-term in the short term.

The right way to plan in the short term is to find the angle or idea that will personalize your product or company. Then you have to determine a long-term marketing plan that will get the maximum results from that angle or idea.

Law 18: The Law of Success – Success often leads to arrogance and arrogance to failure

To succeed and continue to succeed, data (especially the market) must be analyzed objectively. However, the more successful we are, the more difficulty we have in remaining objective.

The authors again give Donald Trump as an example, since he is the archetypal entrepreneur with a huge ego (he puts his name on everything he does, from his buildings to bottled water that he sells), and he “wallows in the sin of diversification”.

The Trump Tower in Las Vegas, one of the many skyscrapers named Donald Trump

Indeed, when “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” came out; Donald Trump had significant debt and was a good illustration of what happens when one violates the authors’ laws. Since then, however, Donald Trump has recuperated and has not changed his diversification strategy or stopped putting his name everywhere. It’s true that the financial health of some of his businesses remains fragile; but he has managed to reduce his debt; has the whimsical lifestyle of a billionaire; and is still a leading media character in the United States.

He’s perhaps an exception to the rule. Let’s continue to analyze the thought of the authors: according to them; the ego still has its usefulness, because it is an excellent source of motivation and energy; when you create a company. However, it’s when the ego dictates the market strategy that things go wrong. Brilliant marketers put themselves in the customer’s shoes; because marketing is a battle of perception; and perception is very difficult to change once it is established. The perception of the customer is HIS truth and you must deal with it.

However, the more successful a man is, the more difficulty he will have when connecting with his clients. This is particularly true of CEOs who are overworked and who receive all the information only after it has gone through many filters. A solution is to go directly on the ground, as did Ross Perrot, American billionaire, when he worked with General Motors. He spent his weekends going to dealers to buy cars in disguise. A nice way to stay in touch with the front lines.

Law 19: The Law of Failure – Failure is to be expected and accepted

In far too many companies, failure is punished, while bold initiatives are not rewarded. This encourages executives and managers to adopt a wait-and-see attitude; where a strategic decision is first made based on the risks and personal benefits to the decision-maker; and only then according to the company and the market.

To break this, there are several possibilities. The Japanese use consensus management that spreads the risks and benefits across multiple individuals; eliminating the influence of ego and career management. Wal-Mart adopted a “Ready, Fire, Aim!” approach (perfectly explained by Michael Masterson in his book Ready Fire Aim) which is a strategy of constant improvement, and which considers error as part of any innovative strategy. But “woe to whoever makes the same mistake twice” says the CEO.

It is also possible, like 3M, to put in place a “Champion” system that showcases employees who are making positive changes in the company or in its strategy. An example of this was during the introduction of the Post-it Notes, the development of which lasted a dozen years (!), the researcher Art Fry was brought to the fore.

Law 20: The Law of Hype – The situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press

It’s only when a company is in difficulty that it’s in the spotlight. When all is well, the company doesn’t need to make headlines.

And sometimes it takes very little to start a rumor: novice journalists; or second-class journalists, pick up information published by their colleagues without even verifying it.

Many products have received hype at the time of their release, only then to be a monumental flop: the New Coke (never released in Europe, it was an improved version of Coca-Cola, which never got off the ground), the NeXt (computer that promised to be revolutionary, created by Steve Jobs), the personal helicopter, the Tucker 48

It is also interesting to compare the hype around this “botched” car; with that of the arrival of Toyota in the US market. Did the media hype it? Not at all! Toyota only was entitled to a few disdainful articles about its “soap boxes”. And yet its arrival dramatically changed the face of the US auto market, putting American manufacturers at risk.

Because true revolutions aren’t announced. They happen when you least expect it.

Law 21: The Law of Acceleration – Successful programs are not built on fads, they’re built on trends

Fads are temporary, while trends last. It’s possible to make money with a fad, but you must be careful not to invest in expensive production equipment; and in a distribution circuit that will no longer be used once the fad has passed. In addition, some fads return regularly, like Halley’s comet.

If your company has a product for which there is widespread enthusiasm; the paradox is that it is more so in your interest to contain it in order to make it last; rather than to try and accelerate it. Why? Because if you create many products around your leading product and hype it up like crazy, you will eventually lose interest, creating the phenomenon of disaffection that ends all fads.

For example, at the time of the book’s release, the cartoon “The Ninja Turtles” was all the rage; and many derivative products appeared in record time; to the point that soon everyone was sick of the sight of them. Today ninja turtles are forgotten, except by children of the 90s, who sometimes remember them during nostalgic evenings.

On the contrary, the Barbie doll has established itself as a sustainable trend; especially because it has never been massively exploited in other sectors.

The biggest entertainers know how to leave people wanting more by controlling their media appearances. For a product to create a trend rather than a fab, it should never totally invade the market.

Law 22: The Law of Resources- Without adequate funding an idea won’t get off the ground

According to the authors; it’s not enough to have a good idea and to entrust it to a marketing magician for it to be a success. Marketing is indeed played in the minds of customers, and conquering a mind is expensive.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak could never have done anything with their genius idea if they didn’t have the $91,000 from Mike Markkula, who obtained in exchange one-third of Apple.

Mike Markkula

Advertising is not a silver bullet because it’s expensive. A small company trying to position itself on a new sector can catch the eye of a larger company; and then fight at a disadvantage for dominance of that sector.

Note: This could be true in 1993, but I think the internet has changed the game a lot. Certainly, the largest companies like Google; Facebook or Groupon needed capital to really get going; but today it’s possible to start a small business on the Internet for a fraction of the cost; that was needed 20 years ago. For example, I started this blog with the laughable investment of a few dozen euros a year; (the cost of hosting and domain name) and had a better first year; than my best year in my previous business (which lasted 10 years).

Conclusions about the book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing”:

I have mixed thoughts about this book. Josh Kaufman included it in the Personal MBA, but I find that “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing ” is sub-par relative to most of the 99 books he lists.

Why? Simply because the authors present these 22 laws as immutable laws. In the French translatatio, the term “immutable” has been removed from the title by the French publisher; and for once, that’s good. Because the authors make predictions based on these 22 laws, which, for the most part, proved to be false.

For example, they predict Microsoft’s future difficulties; and the fact that the company will not be able to prevail against the WordPerfect word processor; and the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, largely forgotten today. Moreover, they repeatedly beat down on Donald Trump; who, at the book’s release, was in big trouble; but he has since raised the bar and is again a leading economic player in the United States; however without ceasing to “violate” the laws set forth by this book. The other predictions are similar; with some exceptions that have proved correct, including the difficulties of General Motors; which apparently has managed to solve them by reducing its mid-range supply; following the book’s principles to the letter.

Of course, it’s impossible for any book making predictions to have a 100% success rate; but the success rate here seems rather low.

Likewise, it’s easy to find counterexamples to most of these laws, as I did with Law No. 12 and Apple. However, it’s also possible to find examples that are in accordance with most of these laws.

The main problem of this book is that it presents what are merely factors as laws. If one reads this book from the angle; “let’s study some marketing factors that can influence the fate of a company”; understanding that these factors are only a few of many; and that they don’t generally explain on their own the success or failure of a strategy. Then it all makes sense, and that’s how you get the most out of its content.

If you look at it like that and you reject the authors’ simplistic analysis of systematically explaining the success or failure of a company by whether or not it followed one of their “laws”, without taking into account the complexity of the situation, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” becomes a very interesting read, especially for the laws at the beginning of the book (law 1 to law 9).

The law of leadership, the law of the category, the law of the mind, the law of perception and the law of focus are an excellent introduction to the concept of positioning, and are based on comprehensive concepts in books like Blue Ocean Strategy or All Marketers Are Liars.  It just so happens that the authors have also written an entire book on the subject (of which only an old edition is available in French, unfortunately), Positioning, which, according to reviews, is an excellent book on the subject (I will perhaps write a review on it one of these days😉).

So, what more to say about the book?

It’s short and easy to read. It has, as our Anglo-Saxon friends would say; an “in your face” style (which means “very direct and authoritarian”); and therefore particularly lacks nuance and depth of analysis; but it has the merit of summarizing some complex concepts in a simple way. However, another of these flaws is that it merely says what to do, but not how to do it. What should a business leader, convinced by some of these “laws”, do to apply them in his company? Find out how to do it himself. It’s feasible for some laws but difficult for others.

In short, you have understood that my feeling about this book is half-hearted, and I only recommend it if you are looking for a quick book to read in order to increase your general knowledge of marketing, and maybe decide if you have an opinion different from mine (the ratings on are quite positive), or, if you already have a business, to test the “laws” that are the easiest to understand and to apply, such as 14 and 15. Otherwise, read Positioning instead, if you are fluent in English 🙂.

Strong points:

  • Concise and quick to read.
  • Good introduction to the concept of positioning and how it applies in marketing.
  • Potential gateway to other books that further elaborate on some of these “laws”, such as Blue Ocean Strategy or All Marketers are Liars.
  • Some “laws” are easy to understand and can be directly tested in companies (like Law No. 14 and Law No. 15).

Weak points:

  • Presents that which are only factors as “immutable laws”.
  • Makes predictions that have proven to be false, although no book making predictions can boast a 100% success rate.
  • Lack of guidance for practical application, focuses more on “here’s what to do” rather than “here’s how to do it”.

Authors’ analyses are oversimplified and neglect all other factors (besides their laws) in a company’s success or failure.

My rating :

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