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2004-06-18 14:52:58

Law #14: The Law of Attributes

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

The Law of Attributes says that "for every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute."


There was quite an uproar from fans after the recent season finale for Star Trek Enterprise.  You see, the episode contained a serious error.  One of the characters states that the year is 2152 when in fact, as every Trek fan knows, the current episodes take place in the year 2154.

I've heard several people say that this mistake ruined the whole episode.

I concede the mistake is silly, but come'on -- the whole episode?  Perhaps we need a bit of perspective.  That date wasn't a central point of the show.  It's a detail, and aside from the fact that it was incorrect, it doesn't matter.

Incidentally, guys, this is the reason why your girlfriend or wife doesn't like going to see movies with you.  Nobody wants to watch a film with some anal-retentive dork who is ready and waiting to discard the entire film because the producers made a minor mistake in science or technology.  Try to just enjoy the movie, or at the very least, shut your pie hole so that she can.  (This tidbit of relationship advice is provided at no extra charge.  :-) )

Marketing Books

Geeks like us are lousy at marketing for the same reason that nobody wants to see movies with us.  Marketing books are written for big-picture thinkers.  They contain broad sweeping generalizations which are only true most of the time.  Guys like Ries and Trout don't feel the need for a lot of precision.

So a geek sits down to read this book.  Somehow he manages to cope with the word "immutable" in the title, which is obviously a gross exaggeration.  Somehow he manages to smile at the examples, which are now ten years out of date, especially the one about Lotus Notes.  Somehow he manages to overlook most of the little imprecisions in the first 13 chapters.

And then, he reaches chapter 14, the Law of Attributes.  The subtitle of this chapter is "For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute."  In the mind of this geek, a yellow alert goes off when he sees the word "every".  Is this really true?  Is there always an attribute which is both opposite and effective?  Surely not.  Warily, he proceeds.

And then, on the very next page, the authors discuss the market for toothpaste, where Crest owns the attribute called "cavity prevention".  Something in the mind of our geek snaps.  'How can there be an attribute which is the opposite of "cavity prevention" and which is effective?  Ha!  I knew it all along.  This book is a crock!'

The book sails across the room in a high arc as the geek stomps off in disgust, no doubt on his way to sign the online petition to have Enterprise canceled because T'Pol couldn't remember what year it is.


I can't defend the book.  This stuff bugs me too.  I want marketing to be as logical and precise as programming.  But it's not.

So if this problem really bother you, then you have two choices:

1.  Give up on marketing completely.

2.  Give up on this chapter and hope the next one is better.

I encourage you to choose option #2.  I'm trying to make the world a better place here.  The gap between technology people and marketing people must be bridged.  If you give up on getting clueful about marketing, then you are implicitly saying that you expect marketing people to get clueful about technology.  We both know that's not going to happen, so stay with me.

Oh, and by the way...

Read the chapter.  It's a bit redundant with respect to chapters 9 and 13, but the discussion of Burger King and McDonalds is interesting.