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

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?

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

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