Photo: Wikimedia Commons
As the world mourns the passing of Neil Alden Armstrong, the first man to land on the moon, so many are recognising his numerous achievements and marveling at the fact that, unlike other astronauts, he never tried to take advantage of his fame.Like most true heroes, he felt that he was only doing his job.
Those close to him have said that he always felt embarrassed that he was given most of the credit for an effort that involved tens of thousands of other people. Why was he given so much of the credit? Brand marketers will tell you that it was because of one of the most powerful forces in branding—being first to a new position.
The First In So Many Ways
Neil Armstrong was the first to walk on the moon. He was also the first human to take a step on any physical world beyond the Earth. Moreover, he was the first to explore a mysterious new world with TV cameras and so many people around the world watching.
This underscored his place in history and seared the event in the minds of those watching the landing on July 20, 1969. It did the same for those that saw the event on replays or read about it in history books. People don’t forget the first man to walk on the moon because (1) he was first and (2) it was such an important event. Neil Armstrong also helped us to remember this feat with memorable “branding” phrases such as “The Eagle has landed” and “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
First Mover Advantage
Whenever I teach a marketing course or seminar on branding, I ask the question, “Who was the first man on the moon?” In all cases, I get the answer—”Neil Armstrong.” When I ask the question, “Who was second?” a couple of people timidly mumble, “Buzz Aldrin.” Then, when I ask who was third, I have never gotten a response—right or wrong.
This makes my point. It is very powerful to be first. Second, while better than third, does not have the same power. Third is hard to remember, and any position beyond third is nearly impossible to remember. If you ask who won the Super Bowl or the World Series last year, many will be able to remember. Some will remember who came in second, but very few remember beyond that.
Those doing the marketing for businesses that create products should understand this concept. Being first, or what some call the “first-mover” advantage, can be a very advantageous position if the company supports this position with effective advertising and marketing communications. It is usually a big advantage to be first, but unless it is properly recorded and communicated, few will be able to remember who or what is first.
Why Being First Can Be A Powerful Advantage
There are many reasons why being first to a position, with the support of good communications, can provide a big advantage to a business. Here are just a few.
1. Uniqueness: The one who is first achieves automatic uniqueness. Uniqueness if expressed as a benefit to the target audience will get people’s attention and interest. It also means there is no direct competition. For all these reasons, uniqueness provides a big brand advantage.
2. New: People are attracted to things that are new. If advertisers put a “news” word in the headline of a marketing communication, such as first, they will increase attention, interest in the ad, and memorability by double digits (≥10%). David Ogilvy accumulated this data when he worked for the Gallup organisation, and talks about it in his book Ogilvy on Advertising.
3. Memorable: People pay more attention and better remember who is first to a position. Apple was first in the brain with a tablet computer and the iPad still has a big lead over rivals. Gartner says that Apple had a 66.6% share of the tablet market in 2011 and is projected to have a 61.3% share in 2012 (which may be higher depending on the law suit resolution between Samsung and Apple).
May They Rest In Peace:
The first man on the moon, the inventor of Coca Cola, and the creator of Mickey Mouse all share the same distinction. They were first to do something that so many of us appreciate and remember. While Neil Armstrong chose not to capitalise on his fame, Coca Cola and Disney have become extremely valuable brands that are worth, depending on who is counting, many billions of dollars. May they, and all those that were the first to do things that makes people’s lives better, rest in peace.
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