Book Reviews


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

Author: Al Ries, Jack Trout
Publisher HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: May 1994

Reviewer:Robert Morris
Based in Dallas, Robert Morris is an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and organizational growth. He is the author of almost 150 Business Nuggets and frequently conducts workshops based on material selected from them. His formal education includes graduate study at Yale, Northwestern, U.C.L.A., and Chicago universities. He has served in several senior-level corporate positions and is currently preparing to launch his own website ( Please contact him at

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With The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (published by HarperBusiness), Al Ries and Jack Trout make another substantial contribution to our understanding of a subject which many people really do not understand. In essence, marketing is the process by which to create or increase demand for whatever is sold. In fact, Ries and Trout provide a convincing argument for Law 23: There are no immutable laws of marketing. The great value of this book lies in the challenges it poses to conventional thinking. The book is dedicated to "the elimination of myths and misconceptions from the marketing process." So many organizations combine the responsibilities for marketing and sales in the same position (eg Vice President of Sales & Marketing); the predictable result is that neither marketing nor sales is effective...nor could it be.

Years ago, Ries and Trout co-authored Positioning and then Bottom-Up Marketing, Horse Sense, and Marketing Warfare, each a brilliant book which has since had a profound impact on how organizations attempt to present themselves to those constituencies of greatest importance to them. In other words, to create or increase their demand for what those organizations offer. 

The "22 Immutable Laws of Marketing" focus on a full-range of business issues. Leadership, for example, but also Sacrifice, Candor, Unpredictability (see Law #23), Success, Failure, and Resources. The authors provide dozens of examples from the real-world (in which they seem to be most comfortable) to support their basic assertion that most (if not all) organizations are captive to assumptions and premises about marketing which are either (at best) inadequate or (at worst) suicidal. Ries and Trout care passionately about helping organizations to challenge those assumptions and premises. Time and again, they offer concrete suggestions. Consider these brief excerpts:

If you didn't get into the prospect's mind first, don't give up hope. Find a new category you can be first in.

When you're first in a new category, promote the category.

It's better to be first in the prospect's mind than first in the marketplace.

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.

[Re speed to market], If a bullet took five years to reach a target, very few criminals would be convicted of homicide.

If you want to be successful today, you should give something up. There are three things to sacrifice: product line, target market, and     constant change.

Brilliant marketers have the ability to think like a prospect thinks. They put themselves in the shoes of the customer.

...for the most part, hype is hype. Real revolutions donÕt arrive at high noon with marching bands and coverage on the 6:00 PM news. Real revolutions arrive unannounced in the middle of the night and kind of sneak up on you.

Here is the bottom line. First get the idea, then go get the  money to exploit it. [Ries and Trout then suggest "short cuts."]

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, and even ostracized. Have patience. The immutable laws of marketing will help you achieve success. And success is the best revenge of all.

How reliable are those 22 "immutable laws"? Obviously, Ries and Trout believe in them. Check them out. Judge for yourself. Consider each in direct correlation with what your organization has done, is doing now, and currently plans to do in the future. And be especially skeptical of all assumptions and premises which, as James O'Toole suggests in Leading Change, could well nourish and thereby perpetuate "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." Ries and Trout presumably share O'Toole's concern about organizational decay which inevitably results from efforts to sustain the status quo. As Ries and Trout explain with compelling clarity, in marketing as in every other other area of organizational operations, all assumptions and premises should be suspect. See Law #23.