"Don't be the Best...Be the First!"
by Dr. Michel Fortin
Often, many businesses build their entire marketing strategy
around a particular brand and its "better" qualities.
Claiming superiority smacks of being untrue and is often a very
risky endeavor. In other words, if you claim that you're the best,
your statement will be suspect.
Years ago, a mentor once said to me that "Implication is
more powerful than specification." It is much more effective
to imply superiority -- to be perceived as being a superior company
or one with a superior product -- than to simply being (or outright
stating that one is) superior. But how do you get others to perceive
that you're the best? How does one imply superiority without stating
it outright? The following are a few pointers to guide you in
The First Always Lead If you're the first in some category, you
are also considered as the best. People have the natural tendency
to attribute superiority to a product that's first in its category.
But if you're not the first, you can usually invent your own position.
If there's no category in which you can be first, then create
one. By being the first in your very own unique category makes
it tremendously difficult for competitors to copy you. But even
when your competitors do copy you, their marketing efforts will
only help to remind people of you.
Being the first in the marketplace is not as important as being
the first in the mind of the marketplace. Working with cosmetic
surgeons, I've personally experienced this undeniable truth. A
particular hair transplant doctor is one of the first surgeons
of this type. While superiority in this field is a matter of artistic
ability and not seniority, he is still widely recognized as the
best surgeon there is -- even if he still uses outdated techniques.
Jack Trout and Al Ries, the fathers of positioning, developed
the category concept into a science. The first law in their book
"The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing," which
is the law of leadership, is based entirely on the concept of
being the first. In essence, the law states that no two bodies
can occupy the same space. If you get to a position first, nobody
else can ever take your place. Hence, being the first virtually
guarantees your position.
You don't have to be the first with a product or service. You
only have to be the first in the consumer's mind.
By owning the leading position in the mind people will automatically
assume that you're the best. Why? It's because uniqueness separates
you from the rest rather than compares you to them. It's immensely
more effective than actually being the best.
Create Your Own Category For instance, Ries and Trout prove this
point with a very simple question. They ask: "Who was the
third person to fly over the Atlantic in a solo flight?"
Now, if you're not a history buff like me, you will more than
likely be stumped.
Almost everyone remembers that Lindbergh was the first because,
being the first, he comes to mind immediately. But if you were
asked the same question but rephrased in a different way (e.g.,
"Who was the first 'woman' to fly over the Atlantic in a
solo flight?"), your answer will likely be "Amelia Earhart."
Look at your own life. What are the things you remember the most?
More than likely, you will remember your first kiss, your first
dance, your first love, your first car, your first day of school,
your first job, and your first heartbreak. Can you remember your
second kiss let alone your fifth one? In all likelihood, you don't.
When it comes to marketing the same holds true.
Many people try to compete by comparison and may even generate
some recognition as a result of their efforts. But where they
often fail is in creating lasting top-of-mind awareness by drowning
their image in a currently known category -- or ladder, if you
will. Everybody knows who is the first in some category or another,
but rarely do people remember who's second let alone third. If
you market your company as a better firm with a better product
or service at a better price, all you are really doing is reminding
others of that which you are better than, which is your competition.
Again, if there's no category in which you can be the first,
create one. Having your very own category is
powerful because it is impossible for competitors to beat you.
Being the first, your place is therefore guaranteed and you will
thus be perceived as the best by default -- there's no competition!
Go the Other Way Coke, which was touted as being "The Real
Thing," is an old company with a hundred-year old recipe
locked in some secret safe. So, Pepsi decided to go the other
way and proclaimed that it was for the "New Generation."
On the other hand, 7UP floundered until it became the "Uncola."
As a result, the more Coke and Pepsi advertised, the more it helped
For a long time, Avis was an unknown car rental agency. One day,
it finally conceded that it was number two -- second only after
Hertz. Their "we try harder" campaign, which focused
on their underdog position, turned the size of their bigger competitor
into a negative. Domino's Pizza was surely not the first pizzeria.
But by being the first to deliver its pizza "in 30 minutes
or it's free," it went from a small restaurant to a multimillion
dollar franchise operation. And there are countless other examples.
You can be the first to cater to a specific market, the first
to offer an alternative to an existing product or service, or
the first to cater to a market in a unique way -- such as by offering
an ordinary product or service but with a unique twist. You can
also customize a general product or service for a specific market.
For example, you might be a travel agency. You could decide on
being the first to sell business trips catering exclusively to
However, if you're not the first you might then market yourself
as "the first to serve the financially inclined," "the
leader in business trips for bankers" or "the first
travel agent for the smart financier." In other words, don't
be the best in some existing category. Be the first
in one -- one you create.
Dr. Michel Fortin is an internationally acclaimed
and highly sought - after consultant whose marketing advice has
helped countless clients earn millions of dollars in record time.
He is also the Senior Editor of Internet Marketing Chronicles,
a weekly newsletter with 125,000 subscribers, as well as the author
of four books. His latest book, "Power
Positioning Dot Com" reveals how to keep your product
or service indelibly carved into your prospects' uppermost consciousness
at all times.
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