“There’s always a hierarchy in the minds of consumers that they use to make purchase decisions. The brand that came first and hence occupied the top step of the ladder wins.”
Every marketer wants their brand to be at the top of the mind of consumers. This means the brand’s products are perceived as being superior and better than competitor products.
A helpful theory to understand how consumers perceive your brand compared to competitors is the Product Ladder, developed by Al Ries and Jack Trout.
The Product ladder is a diagram illustration with a human mind. Inside the mind is a ladder that represents a product category. On each step of the ladder is a brand that the consumer ranks based on his individual perception. Consumers can recall up to 3–7 brands at one time.
There’s always a hierarchy in the minds of consumers that they use to make purchase decisions. The brand that came first and hence occupied the top step of the ladder wins.
Look at the car rental industry. Hertz came in first, then Avis, and then National got in the market. Avis, being №2, used to advertise their high-quality rental service with the slogan “Finest in Rent-a-Cars”. But consumers would wonder why would they be the finest if they’re not at the top of my product ladder?
Later, Avis played it smart by acknowledging their position on the ladder through a new slogan “ Avis is only №2 in Rent-a-Car. So why go with us? We try harder”. They made more sales just by realizing where they truly are in the minds of most consumers.
In the 1960s, soft drinks were getting popular. The market was dominated by Pepsi and Coke. 7-UP joined in. The brand was really popular among a group that used it to spice up their alcohol. Obviously, 7-UP didn’t want to be associated with them.
So they came up with a marketing campaign and called themselves “The Uncola”. The campaign did so well. People perceived them as a family-friendly lemony fizzy soda, which is what the brand image they wanted.
The marketing strategy of any brand should take into consideration how soon the brand gets into the minds of consumers and which step of the ladder they occupy.
Consumers use their ladder to decide which information to reject and which to accept. The mind accepts data only that is consistent with the product ladder of a particular category, and everything else is rejected.
Marketers play a battle every day to get the desired message inside the minds of consumers. And minds are very selective. Once a piece of information is accepted, changing it is extremely difficult.