A Flawed Premise

What some marketing people see as the natural laws of marketing are based on a flawed premise that the product is the hero of the marketing program and that you’ll win or lose based on the merits of the product. Which is why the natural, logical way to market a product is invariably wrong.

Jack Trout & Al Ries, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

There's a spot in my old neighborhood where two thriving pizza shops sit across the street from each other.

In one, you order at the counter & they shout your name when it's ready. You grab your own table, your own utensils, & you clean up after yourself. The slices are enormous & the TVs play sports.

In the other, a hostess seats you. A server takes your order & checks in on you a few times during your meal. They have gluten free options & source their ingredients locally. There aren't any TVs.

No matter which you choose, you're getting good pizza.

How is it possible, then, that both exist within spitting difference of each? Are the pizza patrons in Brookline, Massachusetts such connoisseurs that they're able to decide based upon the distinct differences in the spices each restaurant uses for their red sauce?


It's more likely that some people are in a hurry & just want to grab a quick slice. Or that some people are on a first date & looking to make an impression with how generously they tip. Or that some people want to sit for three hours & watch the soccer game.

If the pizza or the service in either place were terrible, they wouldn't have lasted this long. The joint across the street would've eaten them for lunch. But because of the competition, good pizza is just the price of admission. Good pizza isn't enough. It's gotta be good pizza, plus…

Plus good music. Plus an inviting ambiance. Plus the right people or the right speed or the right price or the right story.

It's not enough for either to try & sell good pizza to people who like pizza.

Both restaurants have to dig deeper. They both have to look at all the ways their brand executes on the values they’ve determined most important. They have to double-down on satisfying the kind of people most likely to choose them over the other place. (Maybe one focuses on decreasing the wait time between when an order is made & the slices come out, while the other focuses on adding more craft beers to the tap.)

It's not enough for them to just focus on making better pizza, since most of us can't tell the difference between good pizza & great pizza.

But we can tell when we’re comfortable. We can tell when we’re surrounded by people like us, when our expectations are exceeded.

Building a great brand starts with recognizing that how you do something is just as important as what you do, & that the items on your menu are not the only things your customers are buying.

Patrick Cummings