Monday, 28 March 2011


Even the originators of the FMA theory (“First Mover Advantage”), Lieberman and Montgomerie, seem to have had a change of heart. Last week I heard the eloquent Professor of Marketing at IMD, Seán Meehan, define Apple as a fast follower and not an innovator as such at all.


At last the dumb truth about innovation is being laid to rest. Be best not first. That ‘s also what Jonathan Mills, Director of the Edinburgh Festival, said in laying into “premieres” in the arts.

The secrets of success lie in listening to the customers who use the products, fixing the problems that exist, constantly improving the product (iPad2 looks like being a bigger triumph than iPad1 just 8 months later) and being totally clear about the promise - in Apple’s case a confident “thinner, lighter, faster.”

I loved this assertion about clarity. Most mission statements are a confusing mish-mash.

Better to be a Ryanair saying “we are the cheapest” – and reacting with surprise and indignation to the question “do you do customer satisfaction surveys?” No, they focus all their attention on their core promise. They are living proof that it is better to be respected than liked.

So the message is to nail down brilliantly what you have in that box before you think of getting out of it. Stop trying to be an “original.” Focus on getting better and better and better.

And this is a tough new world.

Motorala’s global market share in mobiles fell from 45% to 9% between 1994 and 2008 whilst Nokia’s rose from 20% to 40%. And now Nokia are facing a near death experience. Brands are not immortal. Not Nokia. Not GM. Not Toyota. Not Apple.

Which is why life is so exciting.

Anyone out there who wants to be the next Steve Jobs might make it if they are as demanding about relentless improvement, brilliant design and speed to market as he is.

They don’t have to be first, though, just much better than the others.

Although looking at the Boat Race on Saturday I wondered if there wasn’t something in FMA after all.

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