Companies waste billions of dollars on marketing programs that flop
Different managers assume that for a marketing program to work, it needs to have the greatest design, execution, and financial backup. It is not necessarily so, and IBM, General Motors, Sears, and Roebuck are examples of that.
These four giants had some of the best specialists, but their marketing strategies relied on wrong assumptions. According to a Canadian-American economist John Kenneth Galbraith, America used to fear the abundant corporate power, but the accents have shifted, and now the biggest fear is corporate incompetence.
Let us consider the example of General Motors. They did not have a competition problem. Even though they were not delivering excellent quality, marketing was their real problem.
In today’s world, when a company falters, the competition will whip off with its business. To get the business back and running, the company has to wait for others to fail and err and then come up with a plan of how to use the situation to its benefit. How can a company avoid making mistakes? A company can avoid mistakes by making sure its programs are in tune with the laws of marketing.
In this article, you will read about the right way to make the first and lasting impression. You will also understand why pioneers don’t always end up being market leaders and learn how to find your niche, play off against your competitor’s weaknesses, and become exclusive no matter your company’s size.
People always remember the first one to launch a product, especially if it’s a unique one
Authors Al Ries and Jack Trout studied what works in marketing, and their findings have been distilled into the fundamental laws that govern success and failure in the marketplace. They call these principles the “Immutable Laws of Marketing.”
You might be the type of professional who believes that having a better product or service is a fundamental law of marketing. However, this is a false assumption. If you realize that your market share is small and, to succeed, you would have to fight with larger competitors. Then your marketing strategy was wrong from the start.
An important issue in marketing is creating a segment where you can be first. This is how The Law of Leadership works: it’s always better to be first or pioneer in something than to be better. It’s much more comfortable and straightforward to get into the mind of someone first than to try to convince the person that you have a better product than the one that got there early.
The Law of the Category claims that if you didn’t get into the customer’s mind first, all hope is not lost. You can always find a new segment to be first in.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Digital Equipment Corporation was the second most successful computer company after IBM. They were the first ones to manufacture minicomputers. Many other computer companies or organizations (and their entrepreneurial owners) became wealthy and famous by following a simple principle: create a niche where you can be the leader.
When you launch or start a new product, ask yourself, “How is this new product better than the competition?” Also, this product is “First what?” In other words, what category or class is this new product first in?
Did you know? Charles Schwab opened the first discount broker, not a better brokerage firm.
Win people’s minds and perceptions
The laws put forward in this tidbit modify and influence one another. Moreover, no law is absolute and above the other one. The Law of the Mind, for example, could take over the Law of the Leadership, as seen in the example of the world’s first personal computer MITS Altair 8800. This computer should have been the market leader, but this product is no longer made. Even though IBM wasn’t the pioneer, its heavy marketing campaign helped it get to the minds of the consumers faster than any other company did.
The law of the mind stems from the law of perception. If marketing is a battle or war of perception, not product, the mind overrides the marketplace. If you have an idea that could potentially revolutionize an industry, you must get it into the prospect’s mind.
The Law of Perception
Unlike what many people think, marketing is not a battle of products. Marketing doesn’t see products as best or worst. All that is certain in the world of marketing are perceptions in the customer’s minds. Their perception is the reality. Only by studying and researching how perceptions are formed in the mind and focusing your marketing programs on those perceptions can you develop correct marketing instincts.
Let just one word burn into your customers’ minds, taking its position on the “ladder”
How much space in your mind does a company need to sell you its product or service? As much as is needed to store one word only. This is the Law of Focus. A law that helps you make your way into the mind of prospective customers by narrowing the focus of their attention to a single word or concept. It is the ultimate sacrifice for marketing. For example, Xerox machines make copies, Pampers produce diapers; both brands are generic names for the category.
The Law of Exclusivity follows from the previous one. If your competitor already took ownership of a word, don’t try to adjust it to your brand marketing. Volvo, for example, associates itself with safety. Such giants as Mercedes Benz and General Motors tried to place it in their campaigns, but their attempts were futile. You can’t change people’s minds once their minds are made up.
The Law of the Ladder claims that there are no equal products. They all take place in a hierarchy. The higher, the better. Prospective customers pay attention to new data or information that is consistent with their own product ladder in that category, and the rest doesn’t matter. Further, products are divided into high- and low-interest ones. The first group is things you use every day, whereas products that are purchased infrequently, e.g., furniture, usually have few rungs on their ladders and make up the second group.
Catch up with the emergent trends and put competition into a perspective
No matter how many businesses enter the segment, usually, it is the two biggest ones that end up battling for the customer. This is the Law of Duality. You have probably noticed that you often end up choosing between McDonald’s and Burger King when you crave a burger, and afterward, you will need a mouthwash, so you are likely to hesitate between Listerine and Scope. The two big businesses are usually the old reliable one and the newcomer after it.
The Law of the Opposite is relevant for both market leaders and their #2’s. Every brand has its strengths and weaknesses. What is more, you can also turn each strength into a weakness. Much like a boxer uses his opponent’s power against him, a company should leverage the leader’s strength into a weakness. How? The weakness here doesn’t mean something bad. It means different. If you are a #2, study the business above you. See what their strengths are and propose an alternative for your potential customers. It’s often the upstart or upcoming versus old reliable.
With markets progressing, products and services can never stay the same. The Law of Division states that each product class will divide as soon as a new subclass demand appears. At first, there were only computers, but, with time, we had laptops, PCs, notebooks, and so on. As the leader, make sure you keep abreast of the latest trends and address each emerging category with a different brand name. Successful examples are Samsung and Samsung Galaxy, Uber and Uber Black, Apple and iPhone.
The law of Perspective deals with short and long term results that may differ from the original intentions.
In the short term, sales increase business. But more evidence suggests that sales decrease business in a long time by educating customers not to buy at “regular” prices. Having a sale creates an impression in your customers that your prices are generally very high. Mainly, they will only buy your product(s) when you offer a sale. If you want to avoid such an effect in the future, adjust your marketing strategy today.
To make more money, reduce your product lines, target audience, and be ready to make sacrifices
One of the most violated laws in this summary is the Law of Line Extension. One day a company is incredibly focused on a single highly profitable product. Departing from this success, the company now wants to introduce more products into the line or extend it. Having opted for too many products at once, the company is losing money.
Always remember a simple truth that more is less and less is more. The more products or more markets a company makes, the less money it earns. If you want to be at the top today, you have to narrow your business’s focus to build a strong position in the customer’s mind. The means of conquering line extension is corporate courage.
The Law of Sacrifice is the exact opposite of the previous law. To be successful today, you have to give something up. You have to sacrifice the following:
- Product line
- Target market
- Constant change
If you have more, you are not obliged to sell more. Therefore, to be successful, you should reduce your product line, focusing on the best selling and most demanded products. From a marketing point of view, Federal Express’s main feature is delivering small packages overnight. However narrow that focus might seem, this strategy helped them outgrow Emery — a much bigger company.
A good marketing specialist (and a psychologist) will assure you that you don’t need everyone to like you, your brand, or your product. You don’t have to please or appeal to everybody. To become a market leader, you need to give up the idea of constant change. Novelty indeed excites people, but stability makes them feel safe, so go for the second one. You should also give up the idea of being aware of and reacting to all the twists and turns of the market: it’s exhausting and never beneficial. The best way to maintain a stable position is not to change it in the first place. You may adjust a little, but the complete transformation is highly unwelcome.
Did you know? In 2017, Marlboro was the most popular brand of cigarettes. For their marketing strategy, they narrowed down their target audience to an image of a seasoned cowboy.
One striking attribute, one bold move, and a dash of honesty can help you become a market leader
You must research and find your words to own, as the Law of Attributes states. No matter the size of your business, try to find a strong opposite feature to play off against the leader in your sphere. The keyword here is opposite, not similar. For instance, Coca-Cola was the original drink; thus, the older generation’s choice. Pepsi, however, successfully positioned itself as the choice of the younger generation.
For instance, in toothpaste, cavity prevention is an essential attribute. As a toothpaste manufacturer, you have to own this one. However, the law of exclusivity reminds us that once a brand successfully masters a particular feature, it is no longer an option for you to use. Therefore, you need to come up with a lesser attribute and make it synonymous with the name of your product. Your category may be thus smaller, but, on the other hand, you are much more likely to become a leader in it. Your job is to seize a different feature, expand your feature’s value, and then increase your stake.
The Law of Candor goes against corporate and human nature to admit a problem. It states that to get into a prospect’s mind, you should first accept the negative and then twist it into the positive. First, honesty is very disarming. Ironically, every negative statement you make about yourself is instantly accepted as truth. Positive words, on the other hand, are suspected to be dubious. You need to prove a positive statement to the prospect’s satisfaction. No proof is required for a negative statement.
Being sincere about your drawbacks doesn’t make you apologetic. Instead, it establishes interest and trust with your prospects. Once they believe you are open about your negatives, they will become far more likely to buy everything positive you have to share with them.
Historically, the only thing that works in marketing is the single, bold stroke, which sums up The Law of Singularity. In each situation, there is always only one move capable of producing outstanding results. Experienced marketers always look for this one bold stroke that their competitors expect the least. Military strategist and author B.H. Liddell Hart calls it “the line of least expectation.
Embrace unpredictability and failure
Most marketing plans are built upon assumptions about what the future will be like. Still, these plans are usually wrong because no one can predict the market for years in advance, as the Law of Unpredictability says.
IBM developed a massive marketing plan to hook up all P.C.s to its mainframes. The company called it OfficeVision. Yet, the project has failed thanks to developments at Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, and other companies. Writing your competitor’s plans can help you predict the future and avoid possible failure.
Most companies rely heavily on numbers and accounting, as they believe that calculations are crucial to success. Good accounting may equal lousy marketing. Short-term planning should be your priority and an angle from which you could expand in the future.
That success blinds people is a known fact. When we reach our goals, we tend to be less objective regarding what to do next. The Law of Success teaches us to avoid making rash decisions as we feel we are on top. Being on a dream run, many companies replace their judgment for what the market wants. When a brand is influential and prosperous, the company assumes the name is the primary reason for the brand’s success. So, they quickly look for other products to plaster the name on.
This is not true; the name didn’t make the brand famous (although a poor name might take away its success). The brand got famous because the marketer or brand itself made the right marketing moves. Meaning, the steps you took agreed with the fundamental laws of marketing. You got into the mind and heart first. You narrowed the focus.
More often than not, many companies concentrate on fixing things and retaining them at any cost rather than doing away with them. Admitting a mistake and not doing anything about it might ruin your career. The right strategy is to recognize failure early and cut your losses, according to the Law of Failure. IBM should have dropped their copiers, and Xerox should have dropped computers years before recognizing their mistakes.
When IBM was successful, the company was quiet and said little. The situation changes, and the company starts doing a lot of press conferences. When things are fine, a company doesn’t need hype or special promotions. The Law of Hype states that you need it, most times when you’re in trouble and are not doing well.
New Coke has probably raised the most anticipation in the soft drink sphere. The company used the free publicity resource equivalent of $1 billion, and large amounts of money were spent on an advertising campaign. With all the hype, New Coke should have become the most successful brand of all time, but it didn’t because the reality went contrary to the image advertised. Real revolutions happen when we are least aware of them, and hype alone won’t make things happen.
The laws put forward in this summary are fundamental, but not every company might find them applicable and suitable. This may seem strange: a company has an operational framework to make its way to the top. Why could it possibly omit using it? The answer is the corporate ego which in many cases comes before any rational decision. For instance, the law of leadership is challenging for many to swallow. Many people want to believe they got to the top by being better, not by being first. Most management won’t take kindly to any suggestions that will emphasize their acclaimed product strategy.
Human nature rarely welcomes surprises. We tend to project the fear of the unknown onto everything we do, which refers to our business activities. Many companies miss their chance of becoming successful because they rely too heavily on numbers and predictions. Therefore, when some unexpected crisis hits, they feel powerless. Another common mistake many make is trying to put a brave face on a sorry business. When you do something wrong, it is always best to admit it straightforwardly. The more transparency there is on your side, the more loyalty your customer will demonstrate. If you are willing to admit the negative, your prospects will be more lenient to trust you on your substantial positive achievements.
The first step towards great sales is excellent marketing. Don’t miss your chance to make amazing things happen for you and your customers!
One of the main ideas is that marketing is not a battle of products; instead, it is a battle of perceptions. Consider these tips to measure how your prospects perceive your product:
- Learn what their lifestyles and attitudes are. If possible, go into the sphere of their instinctive responses
- Have your target audience participate in your surveys
- Monitor social media to see what people say about your brand
- Never underestimate online reviews on Google or specialized websites. React when necessary
*Highlighted from The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing with Headway App