Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Bernie O

The 12 Immutable Laws of... Magic?!*
by Bernie O'Connor, 1 Mar 2008

Bernie O'Connor is a Certified Focus Group Director and the Founder and Director of Research at www.armchairresearch.com, an Online Survey company specializing in One-to-One Marketing. He also now reads Tarot cards and uses them extensively in creative brainstorming sessions.

If you're interested in discussing Online Surveys or want to have your Tarot cards read, please email him: [email protected]


If you go sauntering into Cannes with a glass of Pagney in one hand and a DVD of your latest spots in the other, then proudly proclaim that you are a practitioner of the "Craft," we all know what you mean. In fact a week doesn't go by where you don't come across that specific reference to our business mentioned in the trade press, blog or web site. But step into a New Age Shop and say the same thing, and the word takes on a whole other meaning. Or does it really? I found out it may not!

Recently, we had the opportunity to work with a very different kind of client. Our local New Age Shop commissioned us to do an online survey for them and from the results garnered there, develop a direct response program. As with any client, we began our due diligence to learn all about their business in as short a time as possible. I was half way through my cram course on Wicca, Reiki, Crystal healing methods, and Tarot cards when I was stopped dead in my tracks. Suddenly everything I was reading became eerily familiar.

It was when I came across the book: Real Magic by Isaac Bonewits**, and the chapter, The 12 Laws of Magic that made me think that our two "Crafts" really may not be separated by much at all. What follows are the 12 Laws of Magic for your review. Below each law, I have quoted the language we all have used at one time or another, to "weave spells" during strategic planning sessions or new business meetings.

Let us now compare how Magicians use the 12 Laws of Magic. Below each law is what specific spells we, the denizens the world of advertising evoke to make products fly off the shelves. See if you can feel the magic.

  1. The Law of Knowledge.
    If you know all there is to know about someone or something, you have control over it.

    "Your data base is the most important business building tool you have. The more you know about your customers and prospects, the more chance you have of influencing their behavior.
  2. The Law of Names.
    Certain words can and do influence or change both inner and outer reality...

    Targeting groups by their psychographics, Localvores, Baby boomers, Millennials, or GenX'ers for example allows you to speak to your prospects on an emotional level beyond your features and benefits."

    ...AND every word has a measure of power, some words express power simply through their sound.
    "A promotion program is used to generate a maximum number of sales in a very short amount of time. Words such as "FREE" or "SAVE" or the phrase, "BUY-ONE-GET-ONE-FREE can actually move a person to purchase right then and there.
  3. The Law of Association.
    If two objects have anything in common, one can be used to control the other. The more they have in common, the more they influence one another.

    "Brand extension is another useful tool to bring a "new" product to the market. Take the name of a successful brand and create as many variations as possible. The "commonality" of the name will drive sales along the whole line.
  4. The Law of Identification.
    Through a maximum association between your personal energy and the energy of another person or entity, you become that entity and wield its power.

    "Celebrity endorsement is an easy way to gain a positive association for your brand. Another way of achieving this effect is to license a successful property or logo to drive sales of your brand.
  5. The Law of Synthesis.
    Or, the union of "opposites," thesis plus antithesis produces synthesis – the union of two opposing ideas or sets of data produce a third idea truer or more complete then either of the first two – not a compromise.

    "Why big time agency and media company mergers seemed like a good idea at the time...
  6. The Law of Polarity.
    Anything can be split into two parts with completely opposite characteristics.

    - and what happens when big time agency and media company mergers don't work out!"
  7. The Law of Balance.
    In order to survive or prosper, all aspects of a being must be in balance.

    "For your marketing program to be successful, you must carefully and strategically balance your budget and creative efforts, of print, broadcast and web across all the proper media outlets for maximum effect and ROI. Any less of an effort will defeat the campaign and it will fail to meet the brand's sales goals."
  8. The Law of Infinite Data.
    It appears for all practical purposes we will never run out of things to learn. We never know when something new, unexpected, or previously unknown is going to present itself.

    "The competition is relentless. There is always a new method, new product, new service or new offer and experience just around the corner. The tyranny of the flavor of the minute, day, week, or month rules people's perceptions."
  9. The Law of Finite Senses.
    All our senses are limited in both the type and range of data they can receive.

    "Getting a message through to the consumer is almost impossible. They are overwhelmed by more than 3,000+ ads a day."
  10. The Law of Infinite Universes.
    There is an infinite number of ways to see and experience the universe.

    "Each consumer is different in their own particular way. They see and perceive marketing messages in their own frame work of reference, need and experience. Since no one sees the same thing as someone else, your sales message must be as fine tuned as possible so you can limit any misconceptions or misunderstanding by the target audience."
  11. The Law of Pragmatism.
    If anything – concept, method, dream, hunch, data or organization of input – helps an organism survive, it is, so far as that organism is concerned, "true." Anything that hinders the organism will be rejected as "false," or it will kill the organism.

    "This is the way we have always done it. Our copy and graphics have been well tested over time and they always get the same results. They are true to our brand message. So in short, the ideas you presented here are very creative, but we can't take the chance on any new ideas that may irreparably hurt our brand and its sales."
  12. The Law of Personification.
    Any phenomenon may be thought of as alive and have a personality.
    It can, therefore, be thought of as an entity.
    "Word - of-mouth, viral marketing, Blog-chatter and consumer created content are beginning to play an important role in marketing today. If your brand resonates with the consumer on an emotional level, they may decide to "call it their own" and begin making very personal statements about it in different forms of media. This movement has taken on a life of its own and is becoming a vibrant communication channel worth addressing."

Does any of the above resonate with you, my fellow practitioners?

Could Darrin Stephens have been closer to the truth then he realized? Is it all smoke and mirrors? Is showcasing features and benefits just another way of casting spells and creating illusions? What "craft" do we really practice day in and day out?

Just remember these laws the next time someone you meet asks you what you do for a living. Think back to all those many times you had to conjure up a ton of creative work with nothing to go on and an impossible overnight deadline to match.

Don't just say, "I'm in advertising." Instead say, "I'm a "Magician!" It's much more befitting.

* With a tip-of- the-hat to Al Ries & Jack Trout authors of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
**Wiser Books, copyright 1989

Print Article Brought to you by: Bernie O

Do you have a story to tell? Email us your idea and you could be the next Philly Creative Guide Guest Columnist.

View the Guest Columnist Archive.