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2004-06-08 14:52:31

Law #6: The Law of Exclusivity

(This entry is part of a series I am writing on The 22 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 powerful.

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 blackjack theme.

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 still 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.