As I said last week, we are going to take the book 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing and apply those laws to the mattress industry. Last week we looked at the “Laws of Leadership” and this week it is “The Law of the Category.” Essentially it says that if you can’t be the first in a category then create a new category that you can be first in.
Remember old Bert Hinkler, the second guy to fly the Atlantic. Nobody does, but I bet you can remember the third person to fly the Atlantic. Amelia Earhart. Not because she was the third person to do this but because she was the FIRST woman. We can see examples of this law all around us. Miller Lite was the first to market with a light beer, so they occupied the top spot. Amstel decided they couldn’t be the #1 light beer but they could be the best selling IMPORTED light beer, and that is exactly what they did.
Look inside our own industry. For years, companies like Tempur-Pedic and Sleep Number defined innerspring beds as old and dated. It worked for them and they created what is known today as the “Specialty Sleep” segment. That segment was the darling of the industry as it was the fastest growing and most profitable for years. It was frustrating for my team at the time being innerspring guys, because we knew that comparing a $2,500 sleep set to the entire category of innerspring mattresses was a very unfair thing to do, given that innerspring beds started at the very bottom. That caused us to look for a new way to talk about, or position innerspring mattresses. We defined the term “hybrid” in the mattress business, essentially creating a new category of our own. (Remember the rap video called GET HYBRID that Leggett and Platt produced with Second City Communications out of Chicago? If you have not seen it, give it a few minutes of your time for a good laugh.) Sealy liked the idea and ended up creating their own version of a hybrid mattress, leading the industry into the category. It has been hot ever since with everybody else following behind the Sealy launch, and the innerspring portion of the industry has out performed specialty in growth for the past 10 quarters.
How about politics, just think about that for a minute.
George Washington=First President
Barack Obama= First Black President
Maro Rubio wants to be the first Latin American President.
Hillary Clinton wants to be the first female president.
Jeb Bush is in real trouble if you listen to this law in trying to become the third Bush President!
Craft beers, energy drinks, hybrid cars, hybrid beds, and phablets, are all great examples of products that have spun off from other successful consumer product categories. If you can’t be the #1 where you are, then create a new reality for yourself and look for another way to position what you do.
What other examples can you think of? Have we created the next new sleep system already? Maybe the smart bed is the next big thing?