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Excellent thought-piece coffee table stuff, but some caveats
on May 6, 2003
After 10 years, this still remains a classic work in the marketing field, and perhaps a must-read for anyone in business. And no, unlike many reviewers I do not believe that Ries and Trout have ever managed to redo the glory of this book in their Laws of Branding, Laws of Internet Branding etc.
Don't expect an excruciating marketing treatise with elaborate case studies and What-If scenarios. Expect instead 22 capsules of business wisdom, or "laws" of common sense marketing with some brilliant examples from the real world to prove them. In this, the book excels and is to date the briefest and best argued work I have come across.
However, given the passion with which some reviewers comment about this book I am inclined to offer a caveat -- please don't base your career around it. Although I love thin, in-your-face books such as this (great reading, great examples to bounce off) they also have a fundamental flaw: the fact that they attempt to shove "laws" on to the ever-morphing scaffold of the business of marketing that does not lend itself easily to codification, much less of an "immutable" nature.
It would be a cinch to come up with examples that go against each law in the book if you really wanted.
(1) Law of Leadership (better to be first than to be best) can be argued against with the theory of disruptions and how first-mover advantages do not always materialize. Why is WebCrawler not more popular than Google? Because Google is (way) better.
(2) The Law of Sacrifice (that talks about focus, as do a couple of other similar if not redundant laws, including, well, the Law of Focus) would not hold much fizz in the case of many very successful conglomerates, especially in Asian countries. Imagine a company selling everything from oil to fruit juice to IT services, and still being a top brand in a country. Examples abound in China, Hong Kong, India, Japan.
(3) The Law of the Opposite that advocates the definition of your strategy by considering the leader's (also redundant with the Law of the Ladder, which essentially says the same thing) can be argued by giving umpteen examples of companies that shot from being No.2 to being No.1, some times because No.1 filed for Chapter 11. In such cases, emulating the leader could have in fact been detrimental.
Anyway, despite redundancies across the laws, and the possiblity of counter-argument against most of them, this is a ripper of a read for the business intent that it was written for, and 10 years after its publication still as charming as it first was.
Highly recommended reading, but keep your discerning senses about you. Noteworthy: Law of Perception (also Law of the Mind), and Law of the Category.