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Book Summary – The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing: Violate Them At Your Own Risk!

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing - Book summary

Al Ries and Jack Trout are world-renowned marketing consultants, with more than 25 years of marketing experience. This book presents 22 immutable laws of marketing that have stood the test of time, and determine the success (or failure) of your marketing strategy. It’s an essential resource for any business owner, marketing or business executive. In this free version of The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing summary, you’ll get an overview of all 22 laws.

According to the authors, these 22 Laws of Marketing are like the laws of nature. If you violate them, your marketing program is doomed to fail, regardless of what you throw at it—be it the brightest, most creative people, or tons of time, energy and money. To succeed, marketers and business managers must learn these laws and work within their framework; otherwise, the laws will automatically work against them.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Here are the 22 laws of marketing in a nutshell:

The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing summary_List of 22 Laws

1. The Law of Leadership: It’s better to be first to market, than to wait for a better product.
2. The Law of the Category: If you aren’t the first in a category, create a new category you can be first in.
3. The Law of the Mind: It’s better to be first in the consumers’ minds, than to be first to market.
4. The Law of Perception: Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.
5. The Law of Focus: A key to marketing success is to own a word in the prospect’s mind.
6. The Law of Exclusivity: No two companies can own the same word in the prospect’s mind.
7. The Law of the Ladder: Your strategy depends on the rung of the ladder that you occupy.
8. The Law of Duality: In the long run, all market battles finally come down to 2 key players.
9. The Law of the Opposite: If you’re going for the 2nd spot, your strategy is defined by the leader.
10. The Law of Division: Gradually, a category will split into more categories.
11. The Law of Perspective: Marketing results are only visible after a long time.
12. The Law of Line Extensions: It’s tempting to extend the equity of a successful brand into new areas.
13. The Law of Sacrifice: To be successful, you must give up something.
14. The Law of Attributes: There’s an effective, opposite attribute to counter every attribute.
15. The Law of Candor: If you admit to a negative, your prospects will treat it positively.
16. The Law of Singularity: There’s always one bold move that can bring massive success.
17. The Law of Unpredictability: Since you don’t write your competitor’s plans, you can’t predict the future.
18. The Law of Success: Success breeds arrogance, which breeds failure.
19. The Law of Failure: Failure is inevitable; expect and accept it.
20. The Law of Hype: What’s reported in the press is often the opposite of reality.
21. The Law of Acceleration: Successful marketing is built on trends, not fads.
22. The Law of Resources: To get an idea to take off, you need adequate funding.

We’ll now zoom in on the details of 4 of these powerful laws, and briefly outline the remainder. Feel free to get the details for all 22 laws from our complete, 14-page version of The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing summary!


It’s better to be first to market, than to wait for a better product.

In marketing, it’s always more effective to get into the prospects’ minds first, than to try to convince them later that you have a better product.

  • Think of Heineken (the first imported beer to establish itself in America), Harvard (the first college founded in America), Gillette (the first safety razor), and Charles Lindbergh (the first person to fly the Atlantic Ocean solo). People tend to remember the firsts, but not the seconds, because humans tend to stick with what we’ve got, and the first brand to market often becomes a generic term for that product category.
  • Not all first movers succeed, especially if they have bad timing or a bad idea. Still, there’s a significant first mover advantage in marketing. Rather than try to watch the market then develop a better product than competitors, focus on developing an entirely new category altogether.


If you aren’t the first in a category, create a new category you can be first in.

Amelia Earhart was not the first to fly Atlantic solo, but she was the first woman to do so; Dell got a foothold in the crowded personal computer space as the first to sell computers via phone. You can always create another category where you’re first in.

  • Think in terms of categories rather than brands. Consumers may be defensive about their preferred brands, but they’re more open to a new product in an entirely different category.
  • Once you’re the first to market in a new category, promote that category intensively, focusing on why consumers should buy a product in that category. With no competitors in that category, consumers will naturally buy from you, and you can “own” that category.


A key to marketing success is to own a word in the prospect’s mind.

Marketing is like a magnifying glass: use it to focus your messages until you “burn” your way into the prospect’s mind, linking your product with one single word or concept. That way, the prospect will think of your product whenever that word comes up. For example, Fedex is linked to “overnight”, Volvo with “safety”, and Crest with “cavities”.

  • You must choose a word that’s not owned by anyone else. The most effective words are (a) simple, (b) benefits-oriented, and (c) create the halo effect, i.e. association with that word brings to mind other benefits (e.g. a “thicker” sauce suggests better quality and richer taste). The narrower and more precise the focus, the more effective it’ll be.
  • However, the word won’t work if there’s no one claiming the opposite point of view, e.g. you can’t own “quality” or “honest”, since no one will declare they offer poor quality or dishonesty.
  • Rather than try to protect your word through legal trademarks, focus on getting as many people to use the word as possible, so you own it in people’s minds.


Your strategy depends on the rung of the ladder that you occupy.

In consumers’ minds, , there’s a decision-making hierarchy, like the rungs of a ladder, and each rung is occupied by a brand.

  • Some product category ladders (e.g. automobiles, toothpaste) can have many rungs, while others may only have 2-3. As a rule of thumb: (a) people usually can handle only up to 7 rungs at a time, and (b) you’d have twice the market share of the brand in the next rung. Thus, it can be more attractive to be #2 or #3 on a big ladder, than to be #1 on a small ladder.
  • Ideally, you should be on the top rung of your ladder. However, even if you’re perceived to be #2 or #3 in your field, you can still take advantage of your current position. Start by assessing where you are on the ladder (or if you are on the ladder at all). Then, develop a marketing strategy that reflects your position on the ladder.
  • Our minds only takes in new data that’s consistent with our perception. By recognizing where you are in consumers’ minds, you could get better results. For example, Avis didn’t do well when it marketed itself as the finest rent-a-car service, a position clearly occupied by Hertz. Avis later changed its message to: “Avis is only No. 2 in rent-a-cars. So why go with us? We try harder.” This new message was well-received by consumers, and Avis became profitable as a credible #2 player.

Getting the Most from The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 14-page text summary, and a 25-minute audio summary.

The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing summary - book summary bundle

This is a succinct, easy-to-read book that’s packed with tips and relevant examples that’d be useful for anyone who own or manages a business, or has sales and marketing responsibilities. You can purchase the book here for the full details of all 22 laws of marketing!

[You can also learn how to find your positioning in 10 steps, from our Obviously Awesome summary (book by April Dunford).]

About the Authors of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing: Violate Them At Your Own Risk! is written by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

Al Ries is a marketing professional and author. He’s also the co-founder and chairman of the consulting firm Ries & Ries, with his partner and daughter, Laura Ries. Along with Jack Trout, Ries is credited with coining the term “positioning” in the field of marketing. Ries started his career with General Electric before founding his own advertising and marketing companies. He was selected as one of the most influential people in the field of public relations in the 20th century by PR Week magazine in 1999.

John Francis “Jack” Trout was an owner of Trout & Partners, a consulting and marketing strategy firm. He was one of the pioneers of positioning theory and marketing warfare theory. Trout started his career in General Electric, before working together with Al Ries for over 26 years in their advertising/marketing firms. He was the founder and president of “Trout and Partners”, and worked with various companies, e.g. AT&T, Apple, Citicorp, HP, P&G. Trout died of intestinal cancer in 2017 at the age of 82.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing Quotes

“The leading brand in any category is almost always the first brand in the prospects’ mind.”

“The only reality you can be sure about is in your perceptions… Marketing is a manipulation of those perceptions.”

“The essence of marketing is narrowing the focus… You can’t stand for something if you chase after everything.”

“When you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble.”

“Marketing is often a search for the obvious. Since you can’t change a mind once it’s made up, your marketing efforts have to be devoted to using ideas and concepts already installed in the brain.”

“Successful generals study the battleground and look for that one bold stroke that is least expected by the enemy.”

Click here to download The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing book summary and infographic

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