The First Mover Advantage

By Tom Dougherty

Being first mover is secondary. Smart wins.

“Being first mover in the market is most important — Being best ensures your success” No, being first only assures your brand of an entrance opportunity. Remember, the market graveyard is littered with failed and failing “firsts.”

Being biggest simply says no one has successfully challenged you. SONY was once the world’s biggest electronics brand. Today, they have given up leadership in TVs and just about every other category that they once dominated.

A telling example – Pampers and Luvs

first mover

Luvs was not first.

Over 40 years ago, P&G launched Pampers disposable diapers.

And Pampers built the category. By 1968, they owned the category — with the brand name becoming synonymous with the delivery system. Plus, it quickly became P&G’s most profitable and dominant brand. The brand continued to build the category, stressing product efficacy and innovation. But something happened in 1968.



Kimberly-Clark entered the market with Huggies. It quickly became P&G’s biggest competitor. But Pampers forged on. They sold leakage protection, barrier leg cuffs, absorbency and a host of other product innovations. What P&G did not sell was a brand. P&G looked to further segment its market and launched LUVS.

first mover advantage
The first mover advantages lose to smart mover

No one is saying there is not an inherent advantage for being a first mover. Being first should be the springboard to market dominance. But, all too often the first mover advantage causes complacency.

The market is littered with former first who gave up market leadership.

If you think it is harder to stay at the top, then get to the top. You’ll find you’re wrong.

Success uses the same discipline. Newness is fleeting. And the exploitation of filling a new need has a short life.

Smart branding infuses even new categories with emotion. The leader can get to the top by being first. To stay there, they need to be important.

Important is MORE important than first. Why? Because it ties to the value of better.

Read our secrets to packaged goods branding here

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