Law #6: The Law of Exclusivity
(This entry is part of a series I am writing on
Immutable Laws of Marketing.)
The Law of Exclusivity says that "Two companies cannot own the same word
in the prospect's mind."
It's time to face the facts. Some of these laws seem to have more punch
than others. For example, I find the Law of Focus to be a
concept with a lot of impact. It's very counter-intuitive, and yet very
Other laws here seem almost, well ... obvious. These other laws
don't seem to deserve their pages quite as much as the great ones like the Law
of Focus. I speculate that for some reason, Ries and Trout wanted exactly
22, so they kept adding laws until they got the right number. Too
bad. If they had stopped at 21 they could have used some sort of a
The Law of Exclusivity would have been a candidate for
removal. It is fairly intuitive to me that two companies cannot have the
same market position.
Still, let's not dismiss this law too quickly. After all, obviousness
is not always a reason to ignore a topic. It is obvious that we should all
eat better and exercise more, but we don't.
Similarly, marketers do routinely find a way to violate this
law. They do a Smart Thing by following the Law of Focus and choosing
one key benefit around which they build their product message. Then do a
Dumb Thing by choosing the same benefit as somebody else. Almost
invariably, they end up beating their head against the wall in futility.
It is obvious that we should not try to beat somebody else at their own
game. And yet, we often try.
The chapter cites the war between Duracell and Energizer as an
example. It is interesting to note that even though the book is ten years
old, this war is still going on, with both companies fighting to own the word
"long-lasting". I think this is because no other word matters in this
market segment. What attribute could possibly be more important in a
battery than "long-lasting"? I think these two companies are doomed to an
eternity of shouting the same message. Ten years ago, it was apparently
clear to Ries and Trout that Duracell was the owner of the word
"long-lasting". I'm not sure this seems so clear to me today, but Duracell
has the lead with 46% market share to 33% for Energizer.
Incidentally, the fact that this book is ten years old actually makes the
examples more fun, in my opinion. For example, in the previous chapter, it
was interesting to read the authors' perspective on Lotus and compare it to the
ten years of hindsight we now have.