Don’t Extend Yourself Too Far

“By far the most violated law in our book is the Law Of Line Extension. What’s even more diabolical is that line extension is a process that takes place continuously, with almost no conscious effort on the part of the corporation. It’s like a closet or a desk drawer that fills up with almost no effort on your part. One day a company is tightly focused on a single product that is highly profitable. The next day the same company is spread thin over many products and is losing money.”  The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing brings us law #12, which is the Law of Line Extension, and as you can see here, it is a problem for many consumer products companies.  I understand why this law is broken so often because any good leader wants to take a success and ride the wave. They want to milk that momentum for as long and as far as they can. The problem is it doesn’t work in most cases.

The book says it has a lot to do with the leaders in the company that believe in the brand so much, they are “blinded by their loyalty.” I agree but say it a little differently. I think there is a lot of ego involved in these decisions and companies just think that because they have done well with one product, they will do just as well with the next one. Many times they forget about all of the hard work that it took to make those past products successful and they think that their brand can do anything. Isn’t the diversion a problem as well? In my blog post on the Law Of Focus I talk about companies that try to be everything to everybody and in most cases that doesn’t work out too well; same thing here. Extensions can take your focus off of your core business which can send you to a place you don’t want to be.

I will give some credit to Select Comfort, Therapedic and Tempur-Pedic on this point and I’m sure there are others. These companies have done very well in developing sleep accessories that compliment their brand in adjacent spaces. The product development teams have found great solutions and are driving their business outside of their core competency. These are definitely the exception however, as there are many more failures than successes.

 Dont Extend Yourself Too Far

Nothing Sleeps Like A Hog

Want to avoid missing the sweet spot? In the mattress industry I have seen several attempts by bedding producers to establish relationships with other consumer brands outside of our industry, brands in the entertainment space or even fashion designers, and they rarely work. Borrowed interest can be a good thing, just make sure that the extension makes sense. For example, I don’t see a Harley Davidson mattress doing that well. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good hog, but I want to ride it not sleep on it.

If you want a great example of how to do a brand extension the right way, just look at Apple. I am pretty sure they are the benchmark. If you are successful with portable music players, phones, television devices, tablets, computers, and entertainment content among other things, you are the undisputed KING.

PS-Extra bonus tip!: On a personal note, I just started to binge watch Game of Thrones. I have heard references to it many times but was never interested enough to tune in. Do yourself a favor…subscribe to HBO Now and start on season one; you can always cancel. I am starting season five so I flew through 40 something episodes. It is AWESOME. Who is your favorite character? Tell me in the comments section!

The Law Of Division And Perspective

This week I am going to cover two laws in one post. The 10th law from the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is the Law of Division. It says that over time a category will divide and become two or more categories. Take computers for example, when it all started you had computers and main frames. Now there are mini’s, phones, tablets, phablets, laptops and the list goes on. Looking at our own industry and we can apply this one pretty easily. When I started in this business there was really only one category and that was the big bucket of mattresses. Later came pillow tops as a construction type and then specialty and most recently the hybrid which is obviously the most fun of the categories. Don’t agree? Do any of the other categories have their own rap song and music video?

Law #11 is the Law of Perspective and it says “marketing effects take place over an extended period of time…The long term effects are often the exact opposite as the long term effects.” Is alcohol a stimulant or a depressant? It depends on what time of the night you are in the bar doesn’t it? Early in the evening when you have had a few cocktails the volume level of the bar increases, the jokes get dirtier, and the evening gets a little crazier. Check back with that same group around 2 or 3am and what are you seeing? The depressant side of the coin unless of course you went to college with us at SFA, in which case we were just getting started, but I digress. icon smile The Law Of Division And Perspective

What is the short term effect of running big sales in the mattress industry? Sure it drives business for the holiday you are focused on, but does the consumer ultimately learn to wait to buy from you until the next big holiday? The largest retailer on the planet, Wal-Mart, is EDLP or every day low price so I am certain it works but maybe only for general merchandise? That’s not true either because there are some very successful mattress retailers out there that do a bang up job with EDLP price structures. If sales are the drug of choice for our industry, does that make financing the crack/cocaine of the industry?

 The Law Of Division And Perspective

The short term effect that sales and finance offers have on our business is easy to see as it relates to sales spikes. The question on the table is, will those short term gains ultimately have a negative impact because the consumer doesn’t like all of the BS that comes with it. Much of it is deceptive and that can only hurt you long term. Mostly in this transparent age of the internet.

What do you think about the Laws of Division and Perspective, have I missed it?

The Law Of The Opposite

I wasn’t much on “follow the leader” when I was a kid, and for those of you that know me, that probably comes as no surprise. Not that the other kids didn’t have good ideas or take good paths, I just liked to do things my own way. Still do. According to the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, “You must discover the essence of the leader and then present the prospect with the opposite. (In other words, don’t try to be better try to be different.)” Remember the old Coke vs. Pepsi which soon became Pepsi the NEW GENERATION. Go against the establishment and see what that gets you.

 The Law Of The Opposite

Applying that law to this industry made me think of a few examples. Consider the brilliant job Tempur-Pedic did attacking innerspring beds. Those guys were not only trying to be better than the beds in the market, they established themselves as different. They got a lot of attention for that effort and built a nice business from it. Sealy, Simmons, Serta, and just about every other producer out there tried knocking them off and for a while, many of them failed. There are a few reasons for it I think, but one of them is because they were trying to be a “me too” and simply duplicate what Tempur-Pedic had already done. Then Serta got smart and went after Tempur-Pedic in the same way that Tempur-Pedic went after the innerspring category. They told consumers that they had a NEW gel foam bed “without the potential negatives associated with traditional memory foam sleep systems.”  They took Tempur-Pedic head on and presented themselves as the opposite of what Tempur-Pedic was and as result, Serta had the best product launch in the history of the company.

There is a lot to learn from the top dog in every industry, but there could be something to attack at the same time. Where is your competition vulnerable?

 

 

 

2 Comments

The Law Of Duality

“In the long term, every market becomes a two horse race.” Really? I don’t think so. Especially in the mattress industry!

Law #8 in the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is the Law of Duality which basically says if you are not in the top two you are likely not doing much in the way of market share. In our industry the top four guys are separated by a very slim margin of market share. So how is it that we buck this law? I’m not sure I have the answer but I will suggest a few things for your consideration:

 The Law Of Duality

It’s a very close race.

  1.  Serta, Sealy, and Simmons really haven’t invested in their brand all that much. Don’t get me wrong, they are investing like crazy through co-op advertising spend, some national budget, and certainly through their sales force acting as brand ambassadors but in the long run, nobody has really pulled away from the pack. When you give the majority of your marketing budget to retailers to place product and price promotions on your behalf, it does very little to advance the consumer preference for your brand or to do what you really need it to, which is to separate you from everyone else.
  2. The “S” brands have never really found the sweet spot in a message or ad campaign to make them that much different from the other guys. I will give some credit to Serta with the Counting Sheep because they have advanced that pretty well over the years, but it has not helped them pull away from their competition leaving anyone in the dust.
  3. The products are all pretty much the same. Forgive me for speaking such blasphemy but at the end of the day tell me what makes them so different from one another? They all use foam cores, innerspring cores, ticking, foam toppers, gel/foam toppers, some latex here and there, they all have some sort of edge support, and they all have the exact same box spring. (Well it does exactly the same thing anyway.) Yes there are some differences in components but when it comes right down to it, does the consumer really get it? Aren’t all of the manufacturers sort of clustered together? You could easily say the same about other consumer product groups today, but if they are significantly ahead of their competition, they have likely done either #1, or #2 very well to help them pull away.

If you are going to be one of the top two guys dominating an industry you have to figure some of that out. If you look at other industries where two guys dominate, I bet one of these three things I point out here are different, meaning they do STAND OUT in some way.

If you are wondering why I have not mentioned Tempur-Pedic, its because they do stand out for a few different reasons but still have not run away with any market share lead which begs the question why? Their product used to be significantly different, their marketing spend is much higher, and their message is much better if you ask me. All that said, they should be better off than the other guys but even they haven’t blown anyone away.

It is not my intention to upset anyone, but simply to point a few things out as it relates to this book. It isn’t as easy as I make it sound here as there are many more factors but you can see some of what I am getting at. We need to give the top guys some credit because changing some of this stuff is incredibly difficult. It is very easy to say that you need to spend more on your brand but convincing the bean counters of that isn’t easy. So for now we will likely continue to be an industry that is happy to define our own immutable laws.

 

 

2 Comments

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.

PS

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!