Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Don't Aim to Be the Next, Be the First

Are you chasing what's next or working to be the first?
In the sports world, it is common place to talk about being the next somebody. Is Kobe the next Jordan? Is some high school kid the next Lebron?

In music, this is common as well. Up and coming bands want to be the next somebody. Or fill in their shoes. Backstreet Boys had N'Sync. Eminem had Bubba Sparxxx (remember that comparison MTV threw on us). Think about boy bands and pop punk bands.

The thing is, if you are chasing a trend, no matter what business you are in, there is a high probability that you will lose. You will put all your eggs into an "autotuned" masterpiece only to realize that fans are ready to throw up if they hear someone use that damned plug in again.

All of the trends we are a part of today were started by visionaries, by people who were the 1st, not the next. Twitter is killing it right now because it was the first service to utilize SMS based technology and plug it into computers and cell phones, let the community drive its focus through the API and not try to be the "next" Facebook.

While the automakers in Detroit are "this close" to bankruptcy, they are running farther and farther away from the people that can help then innovate and stay away from the next Hybrid, next SUV, next waste of money and create the 1st Electrical Car, the 1st Hydrogen Car or the 1st Car that really changes the way we commute. I think America is ready for a 1st in that department and not another next.

Obama took the presidency by being the 1st President to utilize technology, leveraging young voters and embrace pop culture. The next presidential race will need to have more firsts, not a repeat of this election.

The Zune failed because it tried to be the next iPod. No one wanted another iPod, especially when Apple was making the 1st iPhone. Zune needed to be the 1st gadget to do something remarkable, not another MP3 player in a competitive market owned by a "cooler" company.

When you are plotting your "next" marketing campaign, don't be the next company to do the same thing, repackaged and on the market. Be the first to do something remarkable.

  • Are you the first restaurant to take reservations via text message and do it great, so great in fact that all your reservations are now done via texting?
  • Can you be the first musician to make more money through online streaming of your shows than income from your physical shows?
  • Are you the 1st company to say screw the crappy online ad model and make a business model that will change the way this Web 2.0 bubble is bursting?

How are you being the first?

-Greg Rollett


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