Be The Best. Be The First!
Don't be the Best...Be the First!
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 that
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
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
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
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
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
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 7UP.
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 financial institutions.
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.
About the Author
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. 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.