The Business Value in Being First

business value of being firstThere’s all kind of cachet around “being first”.    In Immutable Laws of Internet Branding – we are told that you absolutely MUST be “first” if you want to win in business and branding.   But is it true?  Is there really that much economic value in being “first”?

(Note: I’m not talking about being UNIQUE in this post, but about being the first to market.)

In What Michael Jackson can teach business about social media I shared that the King of Pop did not create the first music video.  He did however effectively use music videos to market the biggest selling album of all time.

There’s a lot of “history” to be made in being “first” – and today there are all kinds of businesses clamoring to make their mark by being the “first” in their field.

For example, according to the LA Times, the first Digi-Novel  Level 26 is being introduced at this year’s Comic Com. What is a digi-novel?  It’s a book which enables the reader to participate in a “companion experience” online.

First usually needs explaining

There’s an old sales saying that goes, “A confused mind always says no.”   This is one reason why being first doesn’t guarantee success. When you hear about a Digi-Novel – the first question that comes to your mind is probably, “What’s that?” (Answer: In a Digi-Novel,  every 20 pages or so – the reader can “log on” and watch a 3 minute “mini-movie” to supplement the story. In addition to being able to tune in for “mini-movies” – readers can also create online profiles for themselves and interact with each other.)

First can be frustrating.

Being first means you get to discover all the bumps and twists in the road.  When a trail blazer cuts a new path through the forest – they usually emerge covered with cuts and bruises.  Being a trail blazer isn’t easy.  It takes dedication and hard work to carve your own unique path through the forest.  It certainly takes a lot longer than taking the well worn path of least resistance.

Sometimes as a trail blazer, you ‘ll cut your way through the forest only to discover you’ve created the most direct path through the forest to a 200 foot drop dead end off .

First means educating your user.

Not only do you have to familiarize your users with what your product is – you also must teach them how to use it before you can sell it to them.

One of my favorite anecdotes to share illustrating this phenomenon is the story of Google.  In the early days,   when “regular” users were sat down in front of a computer and told to “search” – they would looking pleadingly up at the researchers and  ask, “For what?”  Google’s minimal home page was confusing and overwhelming to most internet users at the time.

However, thanks to the dot com  boom and millions of dollars of venture capital, people quickly learned about this new thing called the internet. In the aftermath of the dot com bust-  not only were more people going “online” but casual internet users finally knew what it meant to “search” thanks in part to the millions of dollars invested in promoting companies that couldn’t make it simply because they were the first online.

When you’re first – there’s a significant amount of user education going on along the way.  You’re not only having to create marketing messages which are compelling and selling, they also must be educational as well.

Being first can mean setting the standard.

You’ve heard of social media – and social media marketing – but EQAL is creating the first “social entertainment” company.

LonelyGirl 15 was an example of a new use of a new medium and the ensuing new type of media production company.  LonelyGirl 15 caused a lot buzz online – most of which happened was when viewers learned the whole thing was “staged”.  In the uproar that followed, the  first”social entertainment company” was launched.

Learn more in this video interview with the creator Miles Beckett….

The only way to take users someplace they never expected to go was by being FIRST. In this case –  being first was the key to success.

In an attempt to imitate the success of LonelyGirl 15,  Naked Communications launched a similar “viral video” campaign on behalf of the Australian fashion designer Witchery. Here’s a link to the video.  It generated a lot of buzz  again – not all of it good.

Adam Broitman labeled it as one of interactive media’s most offensive campaigns.  By the way, if you click over to the article, you’ll notice that Adam references “A website was created that cleverly (?) uses an Apple .ME account:”.  That attempt to deceive is no longer around.  However, the video which was uploaded to YouTube is still there – living on in what may well now be infamy.

Which just goes to show –  you don’t have to be FIRST to get bloody and bruised by misusing social media.

Being first is probably the most difficult path of all to choose when you’re starting a new business.

When geese fly in formation – they frequently change leaders because being the leader of the V formation is so draining.

If you plan on being first, know that you’ll need plenty of support as you take that uncertain – but exhilarating – path to success.

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