The Law Of The Ladder

During the Furniture Today Bedding Conference I was sitting there listening to “MURPH” with Afterburner, Inc.  talk about peak performance inside organizations. James D. Murphy or Murph was in the Air Force  and was a fighter pilot that flew F-15′s all over the world. As I was listening to him I thought to myself, “I don’t know what the ladder of ‘cool’ looks like but I am pretty sure that ‘fighter pilot’ occupies the top rung.” In the marketing world we have ladders also. Hertz used to be on the top rung of the car rental ladder as they dominated that field. Then came Avis with their campaign of “We try harder” and that turned a very unprofitable company into a profitable company in short order.

james murph The Law Of The Ladder

Recognizing where you are on the ladder is important because it will help you understand what your strategic approach to the market needs to be. Consider that “a mind accepts only new data that is consistent with its product ladder in that category. Everything else is ignored.” If you claim to be the best but you are third in market share, the consumer quickly dismisses you, but if you behave like Avis, it makes sense and you advance your position. According to the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, which is where all of this stuff is coming from, “Products that are purchased infrequently and involve an unpleasant experience usually have fewer rungs on their ladder.” That about sums us up don’t you think?

The mattress space in traditional channels has Serta, Tempur-Pedic, Sealy and Simmons as the top four but it drops off pretty fast from there.  As I mentioned in my blog about the Law of Exclusivity, Serta, Simmons and Sealy have awareness but very little if any preference for their products. For us, doesn’t that mean that if somebody was to define themselves with some FOCUS, then they could establish their company on the ladder? Maybe even find a smaller ladder and end up being the top rung of that one instead of trying to climb the big one? Sound familiar in the e-commerce space?

 The Law Of The Ladder

This kitten has nothing to do with my blog, but there is a ladder.

One thing is for sure, our industry bucks many trends and laws when it comes to marketing and business in general. The most talked about brand isn’t even the #1 brand in our business, so how often does that happen!?! If you are out there on a rung of a ladder make sure you know which one it is, grab the ankle of the guy above you and yank him off. I’m kidding. Kind of. Keep climbing and looking for a way to get to that next level or jump off and create your own ladder. Hell, throw the ladder away and find the escalator if one is around. Just ascend to your position whatever that might be.


Afterburner, Inc. employs top level veterans to come into your company and use their military training to help you achieve the next rung on that ladder. Murph was a lot of fun to listen to and left us all with some great thoughts on how to improve in our own world. My takeaway from Murph was to debrief with my group after every major task or event. Take the name tags, titles and politics out of it and have some honest communication about what went right and what needs to improve. Check him out at Afterburner, Inc.

For any of you veterans out there or if you have family currently in the military or who have served in the past, I am humbled by your service. Thank you for the sacrifice you make on my families behalf. My father-in-law, George Gordon is a Marine Veteran who fought in Vietnam and I know what he gave up for us and I am in awe of what he did. Thanks George. I hope we all took a few minutes to thank a vet over the Memorial Day Weekend!

tgen Wins Big Thanks To Magowitz Foundation

I am going to take a brief timeout from the 22 Immutable Laws review to bring you this update from last week in Orlando Florida. First of all, Dave Perry and the staff at Furniture Today did a great job of bringing us the 2015 Bedding Conference. It was very well attended as always, and for those of us that were there, we walked away with at least a few things that can “move the ball” as they say.  If you are not making it to this event, you really should consider it because it is a great time with some great people. Well done Dave and team. Matt Slaine, give that man a raise! icon smile tgen Wins Big Thanks To Magowitz Foundation

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Gary Fazio, Roger Magowitz and Karl Glassman

Thanks to the wisdom of Furniture Today and the Seena Magowitz Foundation we now have these two events back to back in the same location so it makes it much easier on those of us attending both. (THANK YOU for that one.) The Magowitz event was a HUGE success thanks to a few groups in particular. First of all a big thank you to The Mattress Firm for raising $1 MILLION DOLLARS. In addition, this years event Chairman, Gary Fazio, and the entire Serta/Simmons organization raised an additional $600,000. To top it off, Mark Kinsley and I, (yes Dos Marcos back together for charity), were the live auctioneers for the big dinner event helping attendees part with an additional $100,000. (Thanks to our big bidders Jerry Wooten with Dream Fit, Tony Smith of Simmons, Leon Ellman at Sherwood/Spink and Edgar, Karl Glassman at Leggett and Platt, Phil Sherman of Customatic and of course Michael Fux with Comfort Revolution winning the grand finale item of a private box at Yankees Stadium. Price tag was a very generous $40,000!) All said and done the two day event raised about $2.2 million!  All of this money will go to the tgen foundation and to Dr. Dan Von Hoff and his team to advance their work in beating this deadly disease of pancreatic cancer.

low res Seena Magowitz Dinner 4 of 8 tgen Wins Big Thanks To Magowitz Foundation

Steve Stagner, Roger Magowitz, Howard Young, Dale Carlsen

low res Seena Magowitz Dinner 18 of 18 tgen Wins Big Thanks To Magowitz Foundation

Roger goes in for the big THANK YOU hug from Fazio and the Serta/Simmons group

I started getting involved in this event about four years ago. Then Roger asked Karl Glassman, my COO at the time, to be the Chairman of the event so I got a chance to help him and get even more involved. Karl and his wife Cathi and my wife Bridget and I, all made a trip to the tgen facility to meet Dr. Von Hoff and his team. I want to tell you that there is not a more genuine, deserving group for this money than these guys. This is a very nasty disease and these guys put their heart and sole into trying to help the people with pancreatic cancer live a little long and a little better with the time they do have. There is no doubt in my mind that they will find a cure one day and when they do, the mattress industry can take a big bow because we will have played a substantial role in finding that cure.

low res Seena Magowitz Dinner 13 of 18 tgen Wins Big Thanks To Magowitz Foundation

Dr. Daniel Von Hoff

My son Nick and my daughter Gabby pray for Dr. Von Hoff every night by name. My wife and I also give to the foundation because we believe in the people doing this work. Please join us in supporting these guys find a way for early detection and ultimately a cure. I promise you, your time, energy, and treasure could not be invested in a better way. Click on the picture of Roger and Maddison and see if you can help!

PS Liz McBeth and Nicole Rector, I know that Roger is THE MAN and his light shines all over this event. HOWEVER, as Roger said that night at dinner, you guys did an incredible job and deserve a lot of credit for making it so unbelievable. Well done!

Seena Magowitz Golf Low Res 11 of 16 tgen Wins Big Thanks To Magowitz Foundation

Roger Magowitz and the INCREDIBLE Madison McBeth








The Law of Exclusivity

First off I want to thank my friends Pete Primeau and Doug Stewart for interviewing me for their podcast on the Primeau Furniture Sales blog/podcast. It was a lot of fun to do and it game me a chance to talk about the latest with my new venture Spink and Edgar. We also talk about the luxury category and what is wrong with it today so if you have any interest give it a listen HERE. On with the blog….

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing #6 says that “When a competitor owns a word or a position in the prospects mind, it is futile to attempt to own the same word.” I am not sure that I agree completely with this law.

I understand that Volvo translates to “safety” but is that the rule or the exception? For adjustable comfort in the mattress business you have to think about Sleep Number as the primary because nobody has really tried to step up and take it away from them. Okay, a few have tried, but with very small budgets or inferior products or launches that didn’t fire on all cylinders.  Consider the memory foam world. Tempur-Pedic is the first group that comes to mind of course, but to my knowledge they never tried to own “memory foam”, but instead used the term “Tempur Material” or their version of memory foam. My research experience says from a consumer perspective it is all pretty much the same stuff; nobody owns it. Tempur-Pedic has spent hundreds of millions of dollars driving that platform and they certainly have top of mind awareness and some preference, but I wouldn’t say they own it. iComfort cracked the seal on that one and Tempur-Pedic has been attacked with generic versions of memory foam products from everywhere imaginable. So much so that the entire category is now no different than the bottom end of the innerspring side of things. Burn it as low as you can and let price be the king.

 The Law of Exclusivity

The Race To The Bottom

Other than those two, has anyone even earned the right in our world to have an exclusive on a product or comfort technology? I don’t even know what that would look like, and in a world where media is so diversified and messages are hitting consumers from every angle possible, I think it would be tough. 22 Immutable Laws was written back in 1994 which is over 20 years ago. This may have been true back then but as I sit here writing this, there are few if any products that I can think of that have an outright exclusive on anything!

Maybe today you have to be happy to be dominate instead of exclusive. If it were up to me, I would be happy to know that what we were doing for the consumer was COMPELLING. Unless of course you are Sleep Number. Well played adjustable comfort people.

Am I wrong. Have I crossed a line to object to one of the sacred 22 Immutable Laws? Let me know in the comments section.

The Law of Focus

As we continue our analysis of the book 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing we hit the 5th law today which is the “Law of Focus”.  Let’s play a word association game. I will throw out a word or phrase and you tell me what it makes you think of:

Volvo____________ Nordstrom_____________Memory foam____________  Adjustable comfort____________ Best mattress blog ever written__________

 The Law of Focus

You should have answered SAFETY, SERVICE, TEMPUR-PEDIC, SELECT COMFORT and of course Q’S VIEWS! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) The law of focus says, “You become stronger when you reduce the scope of your operations. You can’t stand for something if you chase after everything.” This is a really interesting law when you apply it to our own industry.

The two mattress examples I slipped in to our game are both companies that started out standing for one thing. The problem that most manufacturers have in our business is that they try to be everything to everybody. I don’t care what consumer brand or trade brand we talk about, most bedding producers today have a full line of products starting at the opening price points, featuring some version of a high end product as well as a specialty category. Some have even branched out into the adjustable bed business. Most of these guys don’t have the cash to build their brand, much less a part of the product portfolio, so they end up trying to own it all. Look at Corsicana on the opposite end of that. Carroll Moran has never claimed to be or tried to be anything other than what they are which is a value line of products. They did branch out later into some trade brands, but have not had the same kind of success in that space. In my opinion it is because they don’t understand it as well and it takes them away from what they are good at. (I also talk about this in more detail in this past blog.) Think this is crazy? Try the word association game with the following brands and see if any dominate idea pops into your head OR does anything really define them? Serta________Sealy_________Simmons_________. Now these guys are doing very well so they are getting many of the other laws right, but you see the point.

Consider that it is also hard to own a position that nobody wants to be on the opposite side of. You can’t really claim to be the comfort brand because nobody is going to be the          un-comfort brand. Politicians can’t claim to be honest because nobody will own being dishonest but they can claim to be pro business if you apply this logic. Look at what Kurt Ling did when he entered the market owning latex. Kurt himself will tell you that there is no genius in that. He was simply willing to step up and define Pure Latex Bliss as something nobody else was claiming, and he built a significant business out of it. That part WAS brilliant, well done my friend.

Do people know how to define you personally? How about your company? What do you stand for?



The Law of Perception

“There is no objective reality. There are no facts. There are no best products. All that exist in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect. The perception IS the reality. Everything else is an illusion.” I pulled this quote from chapter 4, “The Law of Perception” out of the book I am working through, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. There is a lot to unpack from that so let me give it a try.

Have you ever walked into somebody’s house and thought to yourself, “WOW, these people have no taste!” Come on, you know you have. Is it that they have no taste or that their taste is not YOUR taste. For them, they made a great decision when they purchased that velvet Elvis painting to put over the fireplace. Their perception is that their home is perfect, and for them it is. Do you know anyone that often presents their opinion, or their perception of things as just being right. I do and it is annoying, but that is often times how people see their world. Their opinion or perception of it is right and you are not going to change that. “Truth and perception become fused in the mind, leaving no difference between the two.” Man I love this book.

 The Law of Perception

The Velvet King

Companies make marketing mistakes all of the time because they think they are fighting a product battle and they really are not. I am not saying that product doesn’t matter because it does, but for me that is the price of entry. Just because your product might be better does not mean you are going to win the battle with the consumer. Consider for a minute that Serta is the #1 mattress brand in the United States. Is it because of their products? Maybe some, but if it were all about that then they would be #1 in every foreign market they compete in and they aren’t. Is Casper a better foam bed than the others out there? I have seen them and do not believe they are, HOWEVER, they are doing a brilliant job of telling their story and winning the perception battle on line.

We have to understand how people arrive at their beliefs or perceptions, and only then can we hope to change them. Today it isn’t just about addressing your target customer either, you have to get their friends and family on board so that you can make sure the reviews are going your way. Once a wave of people think you stink, that momentum can kill you and before you know it you stink. Its real.

Remember Audi. Not the Audi of today, the Audi of 20 something years ago. They had a problem with quality and “unintended acceleration.” It was not an issue with every car but pretty soon, that is how it was perceived and their brand was hurt in a big way. It is just recently that they have really come back, and I bet if you talk to the executives there,                   (those that survived), they would tell you that it was one helluva long road.

Are you winning the battle of perception? Does your team think it is just about the product?





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