What is Better: First Mover, or Second Mover?
There are many factors that can help determine a company’s success. One fairly prominent example is known as the first-mover advantage.
The First Mover Advantage
The first mover advantage describes a company that is the first to market. Because you are first, you have additional time to perfect your product or service and setting the market price for the new item. This gives you the opportunity to establish a strong brand recognition and a sizable customer base before any other businesses. First-movers can also issue patents and copyrights to maintain their advantage over following companies - Gillette being one of the most notable examples.
The Second Mover Advantage
While being a first mover allows you to build up brand awareness and customer loyalty quickly, there are also risks to being a first mover. It costs approximately 60 to 75% less to replicate a product than it costs to create a new product. Thus, second movers can learn from the first mover’s mistakes and improve upon a first mover’s products, capturing the first mover’s market share.
Second movers benefit from a marketplace of buyers the first-mover has researched and educated. Because the first mover has already educated consumers on its product, as a second mover, pitching a similar product will be easier and cheaper.
Examples of First Mover Successes
Coca-Cola is one of the most prominent examples of first mover success, as evidenced by the fact that it is synonymous with soft drink. Coca Cola came out 13 years before its competitor, Pepsi. By the time Pepsi launched, customers were already purchasing 1 million gallons of Coke each year.
Over the past century, Pepsi has been trying to catch up to Coca-Cola, but because of its first mover advantage, Coca-Cola has always had an edge over Pepsi.
Uber pioneered the app-based ride hailing market. Despite scandals, Uber remains as the leading company of the ridesharing industry. Even when referring to other ridesharing companies, people will still refer to the service as ‘Uber’ due to the first-mover advantage of building brand recognition.
When you buy a box of tissues, you probably will only recognize the Kleenex brand. Just like the previous example, ‘Kleenex’ has become a synonym for the product itself – disposable tissues. Originally produced to be used to remove cold cream, Kleenex pivoted its marketing efforts after receiving complaints that people were using Kleenex to blow their noses. Now handkerchiefs have been largely replaced and most schools, homes, and offices are supplied with a box of disposable Kleenex tissues.
Examples of Second Mover Successes
Facebook was not the first successful social network website, with both Friendster and MySpace holding considerable market share before its creation. However, focusing on the college student demographic and promoting the building of a lasting network through its systems and UI quickly made Facebook into the social media juggernaut it is today.
Google was not the first search engine. Nor was it the second or even among the single digits: it was the 21st search engine to enter the market. However, Google has since grown to become one of, if not the most recognized brand in the world. Google built up its large market share of 87% by convincing the public that it was better by implementing new marketing tactics and adding innovative new features to quickly beat dominant competitors such as AltaVista and Yahoo.
Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft
Atari was the first company to break into the video game market and had most of the market share . However, by the turn of the century, Atari’s presence in the market was all but negligible. Nowadays, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft dominate the video game market by utilizing their second-mover advantage to craft a product that would be more sought after by audiences. Microsoft, in particular, came significantly after Sony and Nintendo with the Xbox, but has utilized their later advantage to remain one of the leading competitors.
So Which is Better, First Mover or Second Mover?
While being first to market gives companies the chance to set the industry standard and become synonymous with their market product, you also risk being outcompeted by second movers.
Ultimately, there is no definitive answer to whether the first-mover advantage or second-mover advantage is better. It all depends on the market you break into, the potential of audience engagement, whether you invent or stumble into something innovative, you have the resources to capitalize advantages, and a whole slew of other factors.
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