We are returning to our coverage of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing written by Trout and Ries. We are on law #9
Law #9 The Law of the Opposite
If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader.
First question to ask yourself is if you should be trying for second place at all. Isn’t the purpose to always be the winner and to be first?
Not necessarily, especially if you have been paying attention to my blogs. To be number 1 and be first you have to do certain things. You have to own a word, be the first to do something, and you have to be perceived as the leader. If you don’t have any of these, then your best bet is to go for second place.
Let me tell you a story from my youth. I have two younger brothers and we like to play board games. Lots of games. This was back before VCRs, cable, and Xbox 360.
One brother is 2 years younger and the other brother is 6 years younger. When you are 15, 13, and 9, those age differences are a big deal. When we would play I would convince my youngest brother to help me win. It completely upset my middle brother, who one day in a fit of exasperation yelled at my youngest brother:
“Don’t you realize if you do what he says you are going to lose?”
To which my youngest brother calmly stated..”No, I won’t lose, I’ll finish second”
I can say that we were ruthless as young brothers but are much more forgiving as we have grown older. I’m sure my brother is going to make some comment on this blog so we will see if he is still sore about losing.
My point is that you can’t always be the #1, and if you can’t, and still want to be in the market, and want #2, then your tactics are oftentimes determined by the leader. What the leader does, you do the opposite.
SouthWest Airlines is a perfect example. Everyone reading this blog has flown them at least once. Before 9/11, SouthWest’s strategy was determined by what the Airline Industry Leaders did.
If they served meals and had first class seating, then SW didn’t serve any meals and didn’t have any first class seating…they were the opposite and they pushed that difference, making a perceived weakness into a strength.
If the leaders gave you an assigned seat, then SW gave you a cattle call.
If the leaders gave you stiff flight attendants with their formal announcements, then SW gave you relaxed staff having fun.
Leader gave you multiple planes, SW gave you only one.
This strategy only was able to work if SW was able to point out the value of them being the opposite. Their strategy was that the leading airlines had to pay for all of that extra stuff you got, a cost passed onto you, the flyer. SouthWest’s premise was that you didn’t want all of that stuff because you wanted cheap flights.
The strategy worked.
But charging a lower price isn’t necessarily only way to differentiate. Sometimes charging more money is a strategy.
If you buy your groceries at a normal grocery store, you are paying for the convenience of mass production and mass distribution. Food is cheaper.
But if you wander down the organic aisle of your grocery store, you will notice a significant jump in prices of the organic tomatoes over the mass produced ones…and you know what, the organic ones even look less appealing. More costly and less appealing, what kind of strategy is that? It is a strategy that is working for a company like Whole Foods that has built itself up as a more expensive alternative to the common grocery store. The leader determines the followers strategy.
Novell and GroupWise as a #2
A secret to the Law of the Opposite is that you must study the company above you. And once you study it, you must find the weakness and then exploit that weakness.
Visit my blog to read the rest of my analysis of how GroupWise can exploit Exchange weaknesses
Richard Bliss Blog http://gwbliss.blogspot.com