The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding: A Review

It’s rare that we do a book review here at Men with Pens, but today you’re in for a treat. After my recent shopping spree, I discovered an invaluable book for business. I’ve read it cover to cover, I recommend it, and the best part is, it’s worth the money.

Before you read further, it’s time for a disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use our links to buy this book, we earn a commission fee of a dollar or two from each sale.

But I’m not writing this review to earn money. I’m writing it because I feel the book is a good resource and offers valuable information. I want to share my discovery with you – that’s all. If I earn a few dollars, great. If no one uses our affiliate link to purchase the book, that’s fine, too.

Now. Let’s carry on, shall we?

When I first noticed Al and Laura Ries’ 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, I wasn’t impressed. Looks count, and I can’t say that the book cover sealed the deal for me.

In fact, I browsed books and read summaries and reviews for a long time, thinking over my purchase heavily. Who wants to plunk down money for a bright-orange horror with Tide-style concentric rings? The Ries’ almost lost a sale from a damned ugly cover.

But buy the book I did, and I spent three days enjoying it so much that I nearly wore out Harry’s ears with my crowing.

Many people call me a “branding expert” (which is pretty cool). I’m pleased to say that 22 Immutable Laws of Branding confirmed that fact. I knew almost everything the book covered, which was a damned fulfilling feeling.

In short, if you wished you knew everything I did about branding, well, now you can. Buy this book.

Disclaimer: I may know everything about branding – I don’t apply it all in my own project. In fact, I test the theories continually by doing the opposite of what I should. The result? Breaking the rules doesn’t always get the results I want.

If you want to know why your domain name matters so much, read this book. If you want to know whether you should specialize or generalize, read this book. If you want to know whether you should branch out into a new add-on service, read this book.

22 Immutable Laws of Branding does focus more on stores and items sold by companies, like cars, liquor and Xerox machines.

It’s easy to relate to the big-name branding examples used to explain the concepts of each law. Mercedes cars, IBM computers and Coca Cola are all products we know. Using these examples to drive home their message, the Ries duo leaves no room for misunderstanding or incomprehension.

One downside of the book is that there isn’t much focus on online branding in the bonus section of 11 Laws for Internet Branding. What little there is could certainly be expanded on. (But then again, that’s why we’re here, right?)

Despite the lack of online-related branding examples, the book still shines, because perception is perception, no matter which way people absorb the message. Nearly each of the 22 laws the Ries’ covers in the main part of the book apply to online business and e-commerce, and they are easily adapted to the Internet.

If you’re thinking of opening a business or even if you have an existing business already, 22 Immutable Laws of Branding is worth its weight in gold. It’s already earned a spot right on my desk (reserved for only the most relevant, useful books considering the limited space available). And it should be on yours, too.

Liked this review? Let us know. As we read and work our way through a vast selection of books on marketing, branding, fiction writing, consumer behavior and creativity, we form opinions of what we like and what we don’t. If this is information you’d like us to share, we’d love to hear it.

And if you don’t? That’s cool. This blog is your space too, and we don’t want to publish content that you don’t need and don’t want to read.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. James, I encourage you to read all other books by Al and Laura Ries, Jack Trout. I am sure that you will enjoy them as you enjoyed this one.

    Linas Simonis, PositioningStrategys last blog post..How a Business Blog Forces to Think About Strategy: a Disaster of the New ThinkPad

  2. The book cover was so overwhelming I had to stare and think there must be a message. I also thought of Tide or maybe even something related to the Far East. I like your idea of challenging the theories and seeing the results for your business. You just never know. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention and your review.

  3. The book sounds like a good one. I personally have no problem with you doing reviews that include affiliate links as long as you find the book to be relevant and worth your readers’ time and money.

    Bill K.s last blog post..Altered states 1: Your world on the brink

  4. You can really tell that you’re enthusiastic about this book! I liked the upbeat tone in this review, but a tad more insight in what’s in the book would really make my day (like 2 or 3 of the laws).

    And I also have no problem when you post reviews with affiliate links. There’s value in pointing your readers to books you think were worth your time (or not, that’s valuable info too!).

    And judging by the cover, I wouldn’t have picked it up in the book store either. But I guess that only proves a saying to be true, doesn’t it?

  5. My opinion? Book reviews are always good. Or, rather, Good book reviews are always appreciated. I mean, not all reviews are good ones, and the word “good” can mean the review was favorable or that it was a well-constructed piece of criticism. Um. Maybe I should just say that I like a thorough book review.

    Oh, and the cover? It’s all about branding, and you DID recognize that it was just like Tide right away, didn’t you? Wasn’t that the point??

    –Debs last blog post..Do We Need New Spelling?

  6. James,

    If I saw that book in the store I wouldn’t have given it another glance. It’s darn ugly. I don’t even use Tide because it’s orange and I hate that color. When you can sell me on an ugly orange book…James…that’s some pretty darn good sales skills.

    I like book reviews. I love books so hearing your opinions on books will always interest me and I would rather you make a few extra dollars than some obscure big store somewhere. What have they done for me lately? I know where my loyalties are. 🙂

    Wendi Kelly- Life’s Little Inspirationss last blog post..For the Love of Words

  7. I thought of Tide as soon as I saw the cover too. That’s funny. I think that as long as the book reviews are relevant, your audience will appreciate them.

  8. Euhm…I’ll play the ignorant non-North American. What’s Tide?

    To be frank, if recognizing a particular brand is what the cover designer was trying to accomplish, they’re demographically/geographically challenged…

  9. John Hoff - eVentureBiz says:

    Ok, you’ve sparked my interest. I’ll look into getting the book soon (currently have others I’m reading). You have a great way of selling through your enthusiasm, even though you’re not trying to sell us this book. It’s just an example we can all see how to sell without selling.

    About book reviews. Do to my lack of time for everything in this world, I normally don’t look for book reviews unless I’m in the market for a new book. However, I’ve come to trust yours and Harry’s judgment – yet another way of selling LOL – so if you feel a book truly is worthy, I’d like to listen.

    Thanks for the article and the book is on my list.

    John Hoff – eVentureBizs last blog post..The Foundation Of Successful Thinking

  10. Thank the GODS you said ‘Tide’. I thought I was going mad. I shall look into this phenomenon, oh yes I shall. Shall shall indeed.

    Tei – Rogue Inks last blog post..12 Reasons Why Having Home Wireless is Better than an Internet Cafe

  11. A little trivia for you Tide fans out there…

    One of the most appealing shapes to women is a circle. In fact, concentric circles rate higher for appeal. Who washes clothes? Women. (And me.) What symbol should Tide use to appeal to their target market, women who wash clothes?


  12. Okay…I got too curious. Tide is not available in Europe, it’s sold as Ariel (Dutch site, UK site as far as I can discover.

    And no concentric circles…more like an atom.

  13. John Hoff - eVentureBiz says:

    So are you saying if I gain more weight I’ll attract more women? 😉

    John Hoff – eVentureBizs last blog post..The Foundation Of Successful Thinking

  14. @ John – Only if you wear a t-shirt with a target logo on it

  15. James- What is the Immutable Law on orange and marketing and ugly covers. I just bought Made to Stick Sunday. Duct tape on the cover, now Tide on this one….And they are ORANGE.

    Is it some kind of Get it Done( no that book’s blue ) code I am unaware of? Am I going to have to ugly up my aesthetic sensibility to be a successful marketer?

    Is there a law that says wrap great content up in ugly and they will still buy it? Curious the cat here.

    Janice C Cartiers last blog post..Searching For Subtle Color

  16. I think there are two main cases book review can deliver lots of value:
    1. The book is hard to get / read for some reason and your blog readers are relying on the review and its summary to learn about its content.
    2. The book is little known or very new, so it’s likely your readers haven’t read it yet, and you want to encourage them to read it.

    This is case #2. And am I tempted to click on the link? Hmm. . . not quite, honestly. Because I’m not sure if this book teaches me something I don’t know yet. I’ve already read some about branding — like how BMW screwed up by getting into the mass (cheap) market, etc. I don’t expect the book to deliver 100% new info for me, but I want to know there are lots of new info for me, and I think the only way you can make that clear is to go into a bit more detail about the content of the book.

    But then, you don’t want to compete against Amazon’s book review . . .

    Another way is you earn so much trust and love from your readers that they buy pretty much anything you recommend — you are on the way to get to that star status ^_^

    Akemi – Yes to Mes last blog post..Are Customers Stupid?

  17. ROFLOL! I just saw my comment luv juxtaposed with my comment. Shaking my head chuckling.

    Janice C Cartiers last blog post..Searching For Subtle Color

  18. This is interesting.

    Quite frankly, I wouldn’t buy this book if I saw it on a shelf (or anyplace else). My first thought it, “Might be some great advice in here, but obviously they don’t practice what they preach on their own products, so how good can their advice be?”

    But if James gives it a thumbs up, then that might change my mind. If I ever find the need to purchase a branding book, I’ll be back. 🙂

    Speaking for women everywhere of course (she says sarcastically), circles don’t do much for me. Neither does laundry. Maybe that’s the problem? 😉

    Amy Derbys last blog post..Freelance Writing Success: Your Way or Mine?

  19. Wait a minute, where’s the usual public outrage about a blogger trying to make a few bucks with an honest recommendation of a quality product? Did the rules change when I wasn’t looking? Or do you just have mature readers?

    Hunter Nuttalls last blog post..Is Writing For Search Engines Killing The Web?

  20. So when is this book going in your sidebar with the others?

    Dave Navarros last blog post..Wednesday is “Rock Your Business” Day – So What’cha Want?

  21. @ Dave – click on that image and away you go. And it’ll go in the sidebar this week 🙂

    @ Amy – Tide doesn’t do much for me either.

    @ Hunter – SHHH! They might start bitching!!!

    I’m glad to hear everyone enjoyed this, because seriously, this is a book that rocked and I love it.

  22. So, going on this theory that concentric circles are very appealing to women, that would make Saturn a very sexy planet, no?

    Hmmm…no wonder my mom likes shopping at Target so much.

  23. Urban Panther says:

    Yep, looks like a box of Tide. Pretty garish!

    Yes please to the book reviews. Saves me precious time. Much better for you to do all the research and me reap the rewards. Yup, I like it that way.

    Urban Panthers last blog post..The cost of relationships

  24. bill sanderson says:

    You are reviewing a book published 10 years ago. That means it was written 12 years ago. That means it was researched 15 years ago in a market very different to today. The case studies in the sample pages are of a world which no longer exists. Sure good principles are still good principles whether marketing or branding. But a book this dated – check out the typeface never mind the cover design – has little to add for anyone launching a business at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

  25. @ Bill – Actually, my copy shows 2002 and I found all examples and samples taken from a world I know. Mercedes, Xerox, Coors Light, Starbucks McDonalds and more are very much alive and present. At least in Canada.

    The case studies are samples of where the companies screwed up and not all are dated. In fact, many are happening right now, such as Starbucks spreading into new ventures – the book showed clearly that this is a bad move, and the results of the move are yet to be seen.

    If I reviewed it and wrote about it, it’s because I can clearly see the book has value now, today and in application with the world we live in. Hey – even century old history teaches us a thing or two still today.

    Thanks for your comment, though, and I’m glad to help clear up the misconception of the book being dated. It isn’t. 🙂

  26. The basic psychological principles that work for branding and advertising will never be dated.

    Psychology is psychology, and that won’t change. The surface level things will naturally change with the times, but the foundation won’t.

    To say that there’s little value – if you haven’t read the book in its entirety – is misleading. James is a perfect example – he’s using principles within this book, and business is flourishing.

  27. Loved the review. Other than checking out customer reviews, it’s always nice to get more opinions.

    Susans last blog post..Linoluna

  28. Dave, you are right, basic psychological principles that work for branding and advertising will never be dated.

    This book is relevant today even more than it was twenty years ago.

    Linas Simonis, PositioningStrategys last blog post..How a Business Blog Forces to Think About Strategy: a Disaster of the New ThinkPad

  29. Phillip Hines says:

    Hey James,

    I’m in Vancouver. Anything fun to do while here? So far the city seems pretty tight, but just wanted to get a Canadian’s thoughts.

    Phillip Hiness last blog post..Day 2: We drove over 1000 miles and landed somewhere in Montana

  30. @ Philip – WOOT!!!

    Things to Do in Vancouver

    Me, I’d go for a Hell’s Gate ride, looks awesome. Sea kayaking would be cool… go watch whales. Hike. Trees? Huge trees out there. Huge. You can scuba dive (I’ll just watch, k?)… Hm. There doesn’t seem to be much, does there… Should’ve come to Montreal 🙂

  31. Phillip Hines says:

    haha yeah…actually last night we went downtown and that was pretty fun in Vancouver…we’ll be at the PNE all weekend but yeh I’d like to check out the outdoors too…thanks for the link

    Phillip Hiness last blog post..Day 2: We drove over 1000 miles and landed somewhere in Montana

  32. One also has to become the business rather than just owning a business. Today, price is not enough to compete, we need to make people want to buy from us because it’s coming from us.


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