Being first to market does not always mean you will dominate

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

30 September 2010

Your brand must evolve

Your brand needs to evolve and change if it is going to grow and steal share. Your business model needs to do the same, and it needs to remain true to your brand’s promise. If they don’t, even if you are first to market, the brand will fail.

I remember, many years ago, when Bell South launched its Interactive Pager (these were manufactured by RIM and were the forerunner to the Blackberry). The brand promised instant connectivity in that you were able to text a message to another Interactive Pager much the way we do today when we text to a cell phone.

“The need they fostered has grown and blossomed but their role in the revolution was stymied because they couldn’t get out of their own way.”


first to marketHowever, the brand promise did not match the business model. First, you were limited to texting to another owner of the Interactive Pager and, secondly, you were billed by the character. Not only was it hideously expensive to use but no one thought in terms of characters. So your bill was always a major surprise every month. A bad surprise.

The technology changed, the business practice morphed into something much more user friendly so you could pay a flat fee for unlimited text and the Blackberry took the market by storm. Being first to market didn’t help.

Just yesterday, I was thinking about all the innovators in business that had the right idea but failed to have their business models adapt to the needs of the end user. Despite being first to market, this model represented the needs of the company and not the requirements of the end user. As a lesson to us all, most of these innovators and trailblazers are gone. The need they fostered has grown and blossomed but their role in the revolution was stymied because they couldn’t get out of their own way.

Here are a few others that were first to market: The Source (one of the first Internet content portals from the 80s and an expensive subscription service on a dial up modem), CompuServe (same basic model as the Source), Commodore Computers (the list could go on and on in the computer business), and Aldus Persuasion (an early form of presentation software), and Word Perfect. Who is next? Well I can make a guess or two: AOL, (insert name of any cable company here – Time Warner, Comcast etc) and Redbox. Or, how about any cell phone network? There are a lot of important brand values beyond just being first.

See more posts in the following related categories: AOL Blackberry Commodore Compuserve First to market Market leadership Redbox Stealing share


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