DON’T WORRY IF YOU AREN’T FIRST.

By

Lee Newham

Reading time: 3 min

BEING FIRST TO MARKET ISN’T ALWAYS A GOOD THING. BEING FIRST TO MARKET MEANS YOU ARE THE FIRST TO MAKE MISTAKES, WHICH MEANS OTHERS CAN LEARN FROM THEM.

Sometimes, it can be disparaging if someone beats you to it.

But should it be?

TAKE FLIGHT

We all know the first powered flight was the Wright Brothers in 1903. Those few feet of air started a revolution. But do we all fly in Wright Brothers planes today?

No.

From Wikimedia Commons. The first flight of the Wright Flyer, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip.

The de Havilland DH 106 Comet was the world’s first commercial jet airliner, With integrated engines in the wings, it looked like the future (and still does today). But the first version of the aircraft had multiple crashes due to a variety of issues not properly understood at the time.

Do we all fly on de Havilland planes today?

No.

Rigorous testing and investigating the reasons for the crashes sorted out the problems. But the competition also learnt from the disasters and didn’t suffer from the same cancelled orders. 

De Havilland never rebranded the Comet and their sales never caught up. The De Havilland brand disappeared in 1963. 

Now the two biggest aircraft manufacturers are Boeing and Airbus. Not the Wright Brothers. Not de Havilland.

TAKE MUSIC

Do we listen to music on a Fraunhofer Institute MP3 player?

No. Yet they invented both the MP3 encoding and the first MP3 player.

Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player or MP3 encoding of music. They made the best, most distinctive, coolest MP3 player with the best advertising, and even then it took a few years for sales to take off. The iPod and iPhones dominated the market.

Apple didn’t invent the smartphone either (that was the IBM Simon). They made the best, most distinctive touchscreen phone with the best advertising. Advertising and design made both of these items desirable and different.

The iPod family: iPod Shuffle 4G, iPod Nano 7, iPod Classic 6G and iPod Touch 5G. © Matthieu Riegler, CC-BYWikimedia Commons

TAKE A DRIVE

Do we all drive a Robert Anderson electric car?

No.

Yet he was the first (or one of the first) to develop a moving horseless carriage powered by batteries.

Tesla didn’t create the first electric car. Until they made electric cars sexy they had been odd-looking compromised vehicles that often delivered milk…slowly. Tesla created the first fast, long-range, beautifully designed, desirable electric cars.

Milk float Whitechapel, Liverpool. Source: Wikipedia

Betamax was before VHS tapes, who were before DVDs who were before streaming services. One thing replaces another or improves it. 

SO DON'T WORRY ABOUT BEING FIRST

Being first to market isn’t always a good thing. Being first to market means you are the first to make mistakes which means others can learn from them.

What really matters is being the best in the market and the best to market it.

And the best way to market it is, to be honest, and interesting. This builds trust and empathy.

You don't automatically lead by being first. You lead by being better.

We’d love to help you achieve this.


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