Being First does not always winBy Tom Dougherty
9 July 2014
Marketing best in category is no guarantees success
Marketing best in category did not help Apple. Until the dawn of smart phones and tablets
Marketing best in category. Dispelling Another Brand Myth
How much of your efforts are spent in marketing your product or service as the finest choice in your category?
Building a brand that can steal market share and grow your market is aided in a big way by being the “best in the category.”
It is a great luxury to own that rare equity that maintains a demonstrable lead over the competitive set.
Most of the time, the differences in our product or service over the competitive set is hard to pin point.
Often as not, the differences in efficacy between our brands and those of our competitors is so narrow it would be hard to slide a sheet of paper between them.
FedEx is the preferred next day delivery provider.
But, is the ability to get our packages “overnighted” is better served by FedEx as opposed to UPS or DHL?
Being the best in your class does not promise success and dominance any better than being first in the category.
Apple is A Case In Point in marketing best in category
I doubt if even the most ardent Windows aficionado would argue the fact that Apple Computer has innovation as its middle name. Apple won if ease of use and elegance in design are a fair measure of marketing best in category,
Windows world is entitled to its own claim as best If the availability of 3rd party peripherals is your measure. Let’s assume the former yardstick for just a moment.
Using the measure of best design, innovation and simplicity, Apple wins hands down. And yet, being best did not ensure success.
Let’s look at a prime example. Apple computer became a market leader in the early 80s with their Apple ll. Innovative. Simple. Popular.
1984’s Marketing best in category
In 1984 they introduced the Macintosh — with a graphic operating system and heretofore unheard of graphic capabilities. It was a milestone.
It was the first PC to eliminate the floppy drive and replace it with a CD drive. In 2002 Apple introduced OS X, its 10th operating system. Apple was at least 5 years ahead of the latest Windows release.
Apple’s release of Mac OS X Yosemite, promises to increase the advantage by another couple of years. Before the advent of the desktop PC, IBM was the market leader in computing. Their mainframe systems had set the world standard for 20 years. Their brand was synonymous with the word computer.
Based on Apple’s success, IBM saw an opportunity to grab additional markets, IBM launched the PC Jr. in the early 80’s. The game was afoot. Microsoft received a license to package its DOS with every PC manufactured. Aside from the tightly held Apple market, the only competitor to DOS was a grouping of non-compatible proprietary systems (Commodore, TI, etc.).
A Better Brand is Better
The resulting market share has never reflected the innovation by Apple in the category or their advantages in design and engineering. Most advertising experts considered Apple to be world class. Being best in the category is no promise of success.
As a reaction, Apple experienced success when they rebranded from Apple Computer to Apple Inc. And, this was more than just a change of brand name. It marked a seminal change as Apple began to market its brand.
The Big Lesson
More importantly, Apple began to market aligned products that forwarded the brand and paid off its brand promise of elegance and simplicity.
The success of iPod, iPhone and iPad moved the legacy of Macintosh forward and not the other way around. So, the BRAND was more than the sum of its parts.
The Apple brand became the primal proof point of cultural simplicity and modernism. To choose Apple, regardless of which product became a lifestyle choice. This turned out to be more important than a better or more reliable software system on the Mac.