Healthy competition is good for any business because it forces you to keep sharp and stay focused. But name and brand recognition is contingent upon putting distance between you and your competition. To accomplish that, dash out of the starting block and don’t look back.
Most of us probably remember the fable about the plodding tortoise that beat the speedy hare in a race. The moral of the fable was that slow and steady wins the race.
Alas, this is only a fable. In real life, another race with greater consequences will be unfolding over the next few months as the 2012 presidential primaries get underway. The first two ballots will be held in Iowa and New Hampshire, as is customary. Even thought they are two of the smallest states in the union, candidates from both parties spend a disproportionate amount of time and money, as winning these early races has proven to give a candidate momentum that becomes insurmountable.
The grassy plains of Iowa and the granite state of New Hampshire are stepping stones to the White House. Since 1972, Bill Clinton was the only man who lost both states and still got elected president. For New Hampshire itself, the money the candidates spend there is such a boon to them that the legislature passed a law that if any other state ever schedules its primary before New Hampshire’s, then New Hampshire will simply re-schedule theirs to an earlier date. There’s no such thing as beating New Hampshire to the punch.
I don’t think too many of us plan to run for president next year, including me, which means that Bezras Hashem, get ready for at least four more years of this weekly column. But we can learn an important lesson about the importance of coming in first and getting off to a fast start.
All the time, I am honored to receive readers’ feedback in response to the ideas I am privileged to share here. Some readers pitch me their ideas. I read all of my mail and evaluate all of these ideas. Recently, someone wrote me with a really outstanding idea, but one of his first questions was what could he do to protect it and make sure no one copied it?
This is an excellent question. Of course, one should always seek qualified legal advice to see what aspects of an idea can be copyrighted, patented or trademarked. However, since most forms of expression do not qualify for such protection, there is only one sure-fire way to ensure that your idea will remain yours and yours alone.
Establishing early momentum and emerging as the frontrunner in the public’s mind is the crucial element of any marketing and advertising strategy. Barack Obama’s win in the 2008 Iowa caucus, even as everyone assumed that Hillary Clinton was a cinch to get the nomination, knocked her off of her perch and established him as the frontrunner giving him and his campaign a giant confidence boost. People like to associate themselves with the frontrunner. Just as a winning candidate draws bigger crowds in the next primary state, a winning product or idea draws buyers and customers and discourages and disheartens the competition.
If you come up with a marketing or advertising chiddush the best way to ensure that it sticks to you and no one copies it is to embark upon an aggressive campaign and blast it out there at full force.
Nike serves as a great example. In 1988, Nike devised their “Just Do It” campaign to increase its share of the domestic sport-shoe business. Over the next 10 years, their market share rose from 18%-43% and sales skyrocketed from $877 million worldwide to $9.2 billion. Unlike the hare, Nike never became complacent. You can still order Nike tee-shirts with the “Just Do It” slogan and Nike’s revenues are nearing $20 billion. By the way, it wasn’t the slogan alone that did it for them. It was the $300 million they spent on the campaign that just did it. No one else has caught them since.
By the way, there is an updated version of the tortoise and the hare fable making the rounds at marketing schools. Disappointed at his loss, the hare conducted a root cause analysis. He realized he lost the race due to overconfidence, carelessness and laxity. He challenged the tortoise to a return match. The tortoise agreed. This time, the hare went all out and ran without stopping from start to finish. Mazel tov, the rabbit pulled one “out of the hat” and one!
This Week’s Bottom Line Action Step: Establish your position early and proceed with speed!
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