Immutable Law of Marketing 6/22: Law of Exclusivity

These posts are notes from the book: “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

It is futile to try to own the same word or position as a competitor.

Example: Volvo owns ‘safety’. Others have tried to run campaigns on safety, but only Volvo has succeeded in getting into prospect’s mind with a safety message.

You can’t change people’s minds once they are made up.

What you often end up doing it reinforcing your competitor’s position by making its concept more important.

Marketers are lured down this path by research and focus groups. What comes back is a wish list of attributes that users want from a product or service. What researchers never tell you is that some other company already owns the idea. It encourages the theory that if you spend enough money, you can own the idea. This rarely, if ever, works.

“Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘if I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
(Steve Jobs, source: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson)

Notes from this book. It’s a slim, easy read. You should buy it.


  • Can you think of an example where a word was owned by an existing company and then was taken over by a competitor? How did they manage to do that?
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