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2004-06-03 14:52:13

Law #3: The Law of the Mind

(This entry is part of a series I am writing on The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.)

The Law of the Mind says it is better to be first in the mind than first in the marketplace.

To be honest, this is not my favorite chapter of the book.  The concept of "mindshare" is important, but I don't think Ries and Trout make the point very clearly.

And as long as I'm giving unsolicited advice to marketing legends, let's remove the word "immutable" from the title of this book, okay?  How can laws be immutable when there are so many exceptions? 

Law #1 says that it is better to be first than it is to be better.  Law #3 says that it is better to be first only if doing so is the way to gaining significant mindshare.

Not too far in the future, Tivo will be the perfect example of an exception to both of these laws.  They were first in the market.  Furthermore, they have enormous mindshare.  The Tivo name is like Kleenex.  Even though my digital video recorder is not really a Tivo, I still call it one.  With that kind of mindshare, and having been first in the market, laws 1 and 3 say that Tivo should be dominant and should stay that way for a long time.

But Tivo will lose.  It is important to understand these marketing laws, but they are not immutable.

Problems in Measuring Mindshare

Our industry seems to spend a lot of its time either underestimating or overestimating the power and value of mindshare:

The problem here is that we talk about customer minds without reminding ourselves that not all of those minds think the same way.  Remember the marketing bell curve?  Changing the mind of an early adopter is cheap and easy.  Changing the mind of a conservative or a laggard is expensive and hard.  These differences cause us to either overestimate or underestimate the value of mindshare:

This is why Tivo will lose.  They built enormous mindshare among the early adopters, but never really made it into the mainstream markets of the pragmatists and conservatives.  In the end, Tivo will end up in the same place as the dotcoms, at the bottom of the chasm.