Elephants and Applying the 22 Immutable Laws

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This is a guest post by Mark Kinsley

First, I’ll address the elephant in the room. The answer is, “No, Mark Quinn and I do not have a secret bet to see who can launch the most offbeat marketing campaign in the mattress industry.” But when I follow along as Mr. Quinn examines the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing and how they can apply to the bedding business, inspiration tends to take over.

That’s where the elephants come in.

Watch this video, then keep reading to find out how this campaign for SomniGel used many of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

Why Elephants? 

It was a crisp winter morning when the two 9,000-pound Asian elephants walked into Leggett & Platt’s IDEA Center. After putting our SomniGel comfort layer through they paces, they packed their trunks and went home. Under all that weight, SomniGel always bounced back. It is quite possibly the most durable comfort layer on the planet.

SomniGel is, in my opinion, an incredible component. It’s 100% real gel (not infused or sprayed) and the hollow columns comfortably deflect pressure. SomniGel’s contact surface is 78% open air and it is scientifically proven to transfer heat away from the body up to 93% more efficiently than memory foam.  It’s non-toxic and hypoallergenic and really fun to squeeze like a stress ball.

If this incredible gel has all these amazing benefits, why focus our marketing campaign on durability? In other words, why elephants?

It all comes down to positioning, and a difference between advertising and marketing.

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Positioning: The single piece of real estate you own in people’s minds.

Marketing: All the benefits a product offers your audience.

Advertising: Getting people’s attention.

The first law from The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing tells us the leading brand in any category is almost always the first brand into the prospect’s mind. When you think, “Who is the leader in bedding components?” odds are good you think of Leggett & Platt. That’s because we were, in many cases, first. We invented the bedspring and own more than 600 bedding components-related patents. But when you think of comfort layers, you probably think of foam—and when you think of foam, you may even think of a specific brand. (I’d argue that nobody really owns foam, but in consumer’s minds Tempur-Pedic owns “pressure relief” or “no motion transfer”)

Let’s assume in a consumer’s mind foam “owns” the comfort layer real estate. What should I do to promote our new comfort layer, SomniGel? The Law of Exclusivity says two companies cannot own the same word. That’s where the second law comes into play: if you can’t be first, then create a new category. Burt Hinkler was the second guy to fly across the Atlantic. Even though he was faster than Lindbergh, nobody really remembers Hinkler. Trailing both was Amelia Earhart who was third to fly across the Atlantic, but she was the first woman. She created a new category and that makes her memorable.

For SomniGel, the new category is durable comfort layers.

We often hear that the #1 reason for mattress returns is body impressions. In the overwhelming majority of returns, it is foam that’s breaking down. In creating a new category, it’s important to avoid shoehorning your product into a meaningless vacant lot. For SomniGel, we have a product that solves a real problem that can plague consumers, retailers, and manufacturers.

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Why not concentrate on our other benefits like cooler sleep or pressure relief? It comes down to The Law of Focus and what I call creative potential.

In developing the SomniGelephants campaign we identified the main benefits and then had an open brainstorm around each angle. The conversation surrounding cooler sleep produced some fun material, and there were awesome ideas for promoting our pressure relieving properties. But nothing had the stopping power—and the demonstrability—of elephants testing SomniGel’s durability. Remember the old American Tourister commercial where they toss a suitcase in with a chimpanzee and it doesn’t get smashed or ripped? Same principle. Show and tell.

If you’re trying to find your focus, brainstorm around your main benefits (the ones you’re actually willing to trumpet) and find out which is most inspiring. Many times you’ll find yourself talking more about one idea over another—that’ a good indicator you’re onto something big. Don’t ignore it. Here’s an anchor if you feel your ideas drifting: Remember, you first must capture people’s attention or they will ignore everything you’d like to share. Think about it like this: if your best idea seems over the top and uncomfortable, you’ll probably default to the second best idea. But here’s the problem, does your second best idea actually grab people’s attention, or is it easy to ignore. Are you being a good steward of your marketing money if you know your idea is easy to ignore?

Zooming back out to our elephants idea, here’s the basic step-by-step breakdown.

Positioning is choosing your unique category (Law 2) or setting up a new category. The Law of Division states that over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories (the comfort layers category has fractured into several categories like latex and memory foam). SomniGel is aiming at splitting the category again to create durable comfort layers. Don’t be afraid to strategically set-up your own category.

Marketing, in this case, is the combination all benefits and selling points geared toward a specific audience. Use your category-specific, focused, big idea to grab their attention and they’ll be more willing to listen to the other marketing messages and benefits.

Advertising focuses on a single selling point. The Law of Focus tells us we can own one word or thought in people’s minds and for SomniGel we chose to own durability. Also, The Law of Sacrifice, which states you have to give up something in order to get something, meant we had to whittle away our main messages and use our primary selling point to hook them into listening. Your ads must stop people in their tracks—which dovetails with The Law of Singularity that states in each situation, only one move will produce substantial results. For SomniGel we could have tried to pepper all the benefits into our campaign and it would have been far less effective. As Ries and Trout point out, many marketing people seem to think the best way to grow is the puppy approach—get into everything. When you’re into everything, you’re maximizing nothing. The same goes for your advertising messages—when you try to tell them everything, you’re saying nothing.

Have you chosen your category? Does your creative have elephant-style stopping power? Are your marketing benefits real or contrived?

A BIG thanks to Mark Quinn for having me back as a guest blogger, and for putting together a great series on The 22 Immutable Laws.

Be sure to share your ideas and feedback in the comments.

The Law Of Resources

Before I get started I guess I should tell you that I have decided to continue writing this blog. As soon as I posted that I was no longer going to write Q’s Views I had a few friends reach out and suggest to me that I should reconsider that decision. So I did. There is still a lot going on in this industry and I have many thoughts to share (your shocked I’m sure), so for now Q’s Views will continue. I am grateful to those friends of mine because I know it is the right call.

Chapter 22 will bring to a close my review of this classic book, 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.  The last chapter of the book is the Law of Resources which says if you don’t have money then get some. One of the biggest mistakes new business ventures make is to try to go to market under capitalized. If something happens and they don’t have the funds to react, it almost always ends badly for them. Having money simply means you have the leverage that can keep your motor running until that big break happens but if you don’t have that leverage, you could end up giving up more than you want to stay in business.


Some big news today from Leggett and Platt, my old employer. Dave Haffner is stepping down as CEO and is being replaced by Karl Glassman the current President/COO. Haffner has been the CEO at Leggett since 2006 and has been successful restructuring the company and shifting strategy. Under his leadership the stock price is up to around $50 a share and the company is looking at record earnings in 2015. There are a lot of share holders out there that are very happy about that result so on behalf of them, great job Dave.

There are very few people that I respect as much as I do my own father when it comes to business but Karl is one of them. Dave has been the CEO of Leggett and Platt and I know the partners at L&P are grateful for his contribution, but Karl has long been the heart and soul of that company. Karl is a a terrific leader and I am sure it has a lot to do with how he is able to connect with his team. Yes he is highly intelligent, great with strategy etc. but he knows how to empower people in a very genuine way. Perry Davis was always my boss at Leggett and was a great supporter of what I was doing, but that went for Karl as well. Karl and I used to give each other a lot of crap when we were together just because it was fun to do, but when it came down to getting support when I needed it, I could always count on him.  Leggett and Platt has done some great things in the past but there is much more on the horizon now that Karl is steering the ship. To him and to the entire company I say congratulations; it is well deserved!

 The Law Of Resources

Bridget and Mark with Cathi and Karl

Karl tells me that he doesn’t read this blog (most certainly to irritate me or he can’t read I’m not sure which), so what I say next won’t matter… now that he has this big job, maybe he can afford some new ties and a fresh hair cut. He has to start acting the part.


The Law’s Of Hype And Acceleration

In the book The 22 Immutable Law’s Of Marketing law #20 is The Law of Hype and it says, “The situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press.”  Most of us have had the experience of seeing something promoted on television, getting excited about that and picking up a phone to have one delivered to your home. Then you get it home, bust it out of it’s box and it falls well short of doing what the guy on television said it would do! I remember as a kid wanting this incredible race car track that would allow your cars to virtually defy gravity doing loops upside down among other things. Well it didn’t perform as advertised and I was MAD! What kind of company would crush the hopes and dreams of a little kid after all? Over selling your products can kill you if your not careful, mostly today in the You Tube world we live in.  Check out THIS video of some guys giving the Ron Popeil hair in a can a test drive. I think Ron oversold this one. Think about how many mattress companies have launched lines in Vegas to great hype that are no longer being sold at retail? What does it do to your credibility if everything you bring to market is tagged as THE NEXT BEST THING. Not everybody does that but there are a few that go that big on all product launches and at the end of the day it has to hurt them. I think it is important to be enthusiastic about the products that you develop, but if you are going to tout them as the “end all be all” then they had better deliver or your credibility will suffer.  As they say, under promise and over deliver and you will make everyone happy.

 The Laws Of Hype And Acceleration

You gotta love Ron.

Law #21 is the Law of Acceleration. “Successful programs are not built on fads, they are built on trends. A fad is the wave in the ocean and a trend is the tide….Like a wave a fad is very visible but it goes up and down in a big hurry. Like a tide, the trend is almost invisible, but its very powerful over the long term.” When memory foam came along, there were a lot of people that thought it would come and go as a fad, similar to water beds but that didn’t happen. The category started out slow and was built over time and supported in a very substantial way with a strong marketing program that turned it into the tide/trend. The book says that if you have something that looks like it is going to be a fad, your best bet is to slow it down a little, maybe even restrict distribution so you don’t over expose it, and create a long lasting demand. Sometimes being red hot can burn you out. If you look at what everyone is doing with memory foam these days in bringing it down market and driving a lot of the focus to price, this trend could turn to a  fad in a hurry.

Have you ever created something that turned into a trend in the market? What did that take and can you do it again?

The Law’s of Success and Failure

I am back from vacation and I am fresh so thank God for time away! Before I get into this post I want to let you know that I will stop writing Q’s Views after 2-3 more post. I love writing this blog, but it’s time to focus 100% of my time on Spink and Edgar. I will however start a new blog that will be featured on the new Spink and Edgar site when we get that launched. The good news for me is that I get to start writing for the consumer instead of writing for the trade. This fires me up because I think there is a lot that needs to be said so I am going to dive in with some purpose.  I want to finish talking about the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing and then I will post my final blog so stay tuned as I am sure I will be on a rant for that one. I will share some of my thoughts on the state of the industry as it currently is, and where I think it is headed so get ready to share your own thoughts!!!

Law #18 in the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is the Law of Success which basically says, “Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.” I have seen this story played out so many times where a company is rolling along and doing great, and they start to lose their objectivity. I think it is true that success breads success, but that same success can cause you a lot of pain if you don’t treat it right. I have talked about the Tempur-Pedic launch of Simplicity in a past blog so I will try not to rehash what has already been said. The summary of it is that Tempur-Pedic believed that they could defy basic merchandising laws, build an inferior bed to the competition and succeed. I would love to have been in that meeting where they placed Simplicity next to their competitors, clearly saw that it was NOT AT ALL competitive to what was already on the floor at those prices, and then someone made the decision that it wouldn’t matter. I am sure part of that process included giving a lot of credit to the Tempur-Pedic brand to carry it into a successful position. It didn’t work. Their competition was no better early on, thinking that just because you had a big “S” brand you could market your memory foam product across the aisle from Tempur-Pedic who actually launched the platform and owned the category.  At first some of the “S” brands started selling memory foam $100 above Tempur-Pedic and when that didn’t work, they started reducing prices. A lot.

 The Laws of Success and Failure

The Law of Failure speaks to the idea that many companies are risk averse because many of the senior executives making the big salaries don’t want to rock the boat and screw something up. They are making a lot of money and to take on risk just doesn’t make sense to them which is why you have to mix up your talent at the top! If you have people in key positions just coasting in for retirement, you could have a problem. “Nobody has ever been fired for a bold move they didn’t make.” Take a look around your organization. Get out your pen and make a list of the guys/gals that are pushing the envelope, driving new ideas, thinking of ways to get more out of your business but with some greater risk. Who are they? Do they even exist? According to the book, “Failure is expected and accepted.”

Next week I will cover the Law of Hype and the Law of Acceleration so stop back by for a quick read. The last chapter of the book talks about the Law of Resources so I will attempt to tie that back to the industry, along with a score card on Spink and Edgar through the filter of the 22 Laws, (did we follow the rules) and then I will publish my last blog post the week of August 24th so stay tuned.



Back Next Week!

I am sorry to the faithful followers of this blog for being out of the saddle. Last week I was in Orlando, Florida where my daughter was playing in the fast pitch softball World Series at the ESPN/Disney Wide World of Sports complex. They took 7th place which really isn’t too bad considering we are small team from a small market playing against the big guys. Then we hit Universal Studios and met Harry Potter, went shark fishing and now we are in Rosemary Beach in Florida enjoying some family time on the beach.  Next week I will be back at it!

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The Quinn’s at Graceland. This was on my son’s bucket list so there you go. icon smile Back Next Week!

What I have confirmed once again this last few weeks is that you have to carve out time for yourself and your family to keep things where they should be. Investing time and money on a vacation where you make incredible memories and connect with your wife and kids on a deeper level is something that I will always be grateful for. I hope you have had that kind of time with your family this summer.

Talk to you next week!