Prime Movers: The Added Advantage of Acting FirstBy Joe Walsh
September 4, 2007
You will learn:
1. Why the first-mover advantage pays
2. Which marketing innovations have had significant success
3. What it takes to earn first-mover attention
Choate, Hall & Stewart launched a groundbreaking Web site earlier this summer to critical acclaim and a large dose of industry buzz. While the entire site is a stand out, the Careers section earned the most attention. It integrates reality-TV style vignettes, professionally acted commercial videos, vintage film footage and a healthy dose of humor—all to communicate the many benefits of working at Choate. Check it out yourself at choate.com/careers.
Hitting the Mark
Targeted campus recruits give the site high marks for its form and function. They think the videos “put a human side” on the firm that they aren’t seeing at other firms and they especially appreciate the professionally acted videos for “saying it all while saying so little.” At the same time, Choate recruiters report that the Web site is getting rave reviews. A typical interview starts with a student smiling and remarking that he or she likes the Web site. Recruiters also feel that their job is easier because some points have already been made before the students meet them.
Can it Get Any Better than That for a Marketer?
You bet. Off campus, choate.com earned the attention of the press and the general legal community. Since its mid-July launch, the site has been featured in The Wall Street Journal’s legal blog, the Boston Business Journal, The National Law Journal and in an upcoming issue of The American Lawyer. On top of that coverage is the resoundingly positive banter on several legal marketing sites and blogs.
What's the Hullabaloo? And Why the Buzz?
Well, first, choate.com is the sharp execution of a smart idea. But it’s also a true original in the legal space. Choate is the first mover. And as a result, Choate gains the first mover advantage. Choate joins a class of notable marketers who have dared to be different and set new precedents.
Here are a few of our favorites—some old, some relatively new:
ET & Reese’s Pieces (1982)
While blockbusters like ET have a long Hollywood history, this is a product placement first: the bite-sized peanut butter and chocolate candy was an integral part of the ET plot. It was a win/win proposition for the movie and Reese’s Pieces. As people lined up for the film, the Hershey product’s sales soared and the company had to increase production to keep up with demand. On the market share side of this story, the legend is that M&M’s turned down the opportunity! 25 years later, product placement is so pervasive that the product and the content are often inextricably linked (example: this coming fall’s show featuring the Geico cavemen).
Apple’s 1984 Campaign (1984, duh)
Do you recall the introduction of the Macintosh computer with the 1984 Super Bowl ads based on the novel 1984? Probably, but you might not recall that, at the time, Super Bowl commercials were not the attraction and big deal that they are today. The novel Mac spot, featuring Hollywood-style production, involved hundreds of extras, included special effects and required an outsized budget. It’s reported to be one of the most talked-about spots in the history of advertising. And it certainly achieved Apple’s principle goal of “calling attention to the Macintosh.”
The Blair Web Project (1999)
This is the “first mega-hit born in cyberspace.” The independent filmmakers had no budget for traditional advertising, so they built a captivating Web site to let potential moviegoers experience the film before even seeing it. Reports at the time said, “Rather than throwing up a Web site as an afterthought, the makers of Blair Witch made it their first priority.” Then they counted on word-of-mouth viral marketing on the Web. They updated the site periodically to keep people coming back. And they did: we remember the film was a box office runaway and one of the most profitable films of our generation.
American Idol & AT&T (Spring 2003)
An old headline states it best: “AT&T and American Idol pioneer the textual revolution.” In 2003, host of the new show, Ryan Seacrest, encouraged viewers to vote for their favorite contestant via text message using their AT&T cell phone. Industry insiders credit the show with “making text-messaging mainstream in the U.S.” A marketing spokesperson from AT&T expands on the move: “Everyone in the wireless industry had known text-messaging had a potential market in the U.S., especially among the young… this campaign… crossed that threshold into mainstream awareness. You had a huge audience of 20 million including the greatest concentration anywhere on TV of young people. American Idol was the catalyst for adoption.” And how, IMHO!
You Want In, Right?
A meaningful connection with your targets, the coverage in the press, the spike in results—these are the benefits that accrue to first movers. But, what does it take to be a first mover?
1. A need. We’re not talking about a “nice to have” need, but a clear and present business reason supported or driven by executive leadership.
2. Moxie. Most of these examples involve risk. And risk taking is not for the faint-hearted (see 1. A need).
3. A big idea. One that makes you uncomfortable, makes your knees shake and makes your own people debate whether the risk is worth it (see 2. Moxie).
4. Passionate execution. That means paying as much attention to the little details as you did in generating your big idea. Budget accordingly.