The first to market always has an advantage. People tend to gravitate,
especially now, to brands they have a history with. I remember the first online
bookseller I saw and it is the one I return to.
Penelope Jackson, Copywriter - November 4, 2001
There is a double-edge to the first-mover because what they do first is what they are eternally known for -- this even has stymied Coke and General Electric.
The first online bookseller is actually a huge department store of items - but the Brand says "Book Seller." Brand is not what a company does, but rather what buyers think they do. It is also fair to view the Amazon and Yahoo brands in the big-picture. Had the media not had fun telling the story (wasn’t Yahoo just fun to say!), would these brands have become as powerful as they are today? Are they really powerful brands, or just fads? Search as presented by Yahoo has been reduced to a commodity. Buying books online is nearly passé. Did the first-mover advantage bite them both by reducing the flexibility they have in expanding and refining their models?
Dane Madsen, CEO, YellowPages.Com, Inc. - November 5, 2001
First to market does not guarantee a winning brand. In fact, some say that the pioneers are simply the folks with the arrows in their backs.
Who had the first diet soda? RC Cola, not Coke. Who had the first graphical user interface? Xerox, not Apple. Who had the first successful online service? It wasn't AOL. First movers do have an advantage but without vision, focus, consistency, and great effort (not just money) over time, you're nothing more than a historical mention in some book somewhere.
Rob Urban, Sr. Mgr., Public Relations, Symbol Technologies, Inc. - November 5, 2001
First to market is always an advantage but this advantage is fragile and only one of several ingredients for success. Lack of capital, conviction, communication, distribution or quality can quickly eliminate the “first” advantage.
Boston Beer’s Sam Adams – one of the first microbrews to market and merely a bubble in the brewing industries beer keg as far as quantity brewed and sold -- could have been squashed in 1985 by any of the large brewers. As crafted beer gained popularity, many microbrewers -- as well as the huge brewers -- jumped on Sam’s bandwagon (or, in this case, beer wagon). In a fickle and competitive market place, Sam continued to offer quality products, promote their quality message, reinforce their “first” position, and remain the best selling craft brewed beer in the US.
Icon brand Oldsmobile had capital and excellent distribution while its history included many automotive “firsts.” Yet, Oldsmobile lost touch with its customers and they (and ultimately General Motors) believed Olds had lost its quality and conviction.
Greg Padley, AE, Richartz, Fliss Clark & Pope - November 5, 2001
It cannot be generalized that first mover advantage ensures brand success. However, it depends on the category itself. If the category required market development, then initial investments on the brand are very high. But at the same time the leverage earned through the first move is significant.
I will site an example of an ISP, BrainNet-Pakistan, which started its operations in Pakistan as the first ISP. They charged premium beyond belief and still managed to gain high share within the existing pie. But as the marketing developed more players entered the market. Now that industry is facing a tail spin, but BrainNet is still as strong as they were to start with because of very good cash flows. So first move helps in charging premium, and investments for the brand development can be generated by leveraging against the positive cash flows. But the question remains whether we can still generalize it or not. In fact, sustaining the share is more difficult than inducing trial of the brand. First move will certainly help you in inducing trial, but sustaining the repeat is what matters, and that's the time where consumers start using their rationale along with their hearts. So real branding issue remains as establishing that critical bonding with the consumers' passions and feelings rather rationale alone in order to sustain and increase the market share for the brand.
In a nutshell, my conclusion is that first move will certainly help in inducing first trial, in increasing awareness and top of the mind recall for the brand, but it may not generate the Consumer Value that's every marketer's target and that the brand requires to perform and win that bonding with the consumers' hearts.
Zubair Ahmad Mirza, Brand Manager, Highnoon Labs Limited - November 6, 2001