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Weekly 3: "Go-to-mind Strategy," Identifying a Big Idea & Leaders vs. Followers

Summary: First to market = first to mind. How to know when you have a big idea. Leadership qualities

Idea Journal Weekly 3

December 24 · Issue #14 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: First to market = first to mind. How to know when you have a big idea. Leadership qualities of the first follower. ~5 min read
(Also, Merry Christmas!)

#1. According to one perspective, the “basic issue in marketing” is creating a category that you can be first in — not having a better product or service.
For marketing strategists Al Ries and Jack Trout, the first of their 22 “immutable laws of marketing” is the Law of Leadership: “It’s better to be first than it is to be better.”
Ries and Trout argue that this law can be applied to any brand, category or product for the following reasons:
  • Conceptual inertia and the cost of switching: it’s easier to get into a person’s mind first than it is to convince them that you have a better product than the one that did get there first.
  • The brand or product that’s first in a category often tends to remain in a leadership position because its name becomes generic; they cite examples from Gore-Tex to Kleenex.
  • Marketing is more a battle of perceptions than products. Regardless of reality, “people perceive the first product into the mind as superior.”
They use two familiar “brands” to demonstrate their point:
  • George Washington was the first President of the United States, but who was the second? (Answer: John Adams)
  • Advil was first in the ibuprofen market, but what was the second? (Answer: Nuprin)
And yet, because of timing or other factors, being first to market may not always be possible.
For Ries and Trout, that’s why there are 21 other laws, including the Law of the Category: “If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category that you can be first in.”
#2. Use Ogilvy’s five-question checklist to identify a big idea in an advertising campaign.
Advertising legend David Ogilvy writes in his book Ogilvy on Advertising that you’ll never achieve fame and fortune in the industry unless you come up with big ideas.
It takes a big idea to attract customers and motivate them to buy your product, and without it your advertising “will pass like a ship in the night.”
Ogilvy points out that recognizing a big idea is “horribly difficult” (he admits to having at most 20 over his own distinguished career as a copywriter), but he recommends asking yourself the following 5 questions to increase your odds of success: 
  1. Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
  2. Do I wish I had thought of it myself?
  3. Is it unique?
  4. Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
  5. Could it be used for 30 years? 
#3. At the beginning of a movement, the “first follower” is at least as important as the leader.
As entrepreneur and author Derek Sivers explains in his TED talk, the leader of a movement is typically the one that gets most of the attention, but the movement’s first follower plays a necessary role in these ways: 
  • They transform the otherwise “lone nut into a leader.”
  • They show others how they too can follow.
  • They provide social proof and help reduce the risk of ridicule for successive followers.
Sivers highlights 3 lessons that can be useful for both leaders and followers:
  1. The leader should treat their first few followers as equals – this places more emphasis on the movement itself, rather than the leader.
  2. We’re often told that we all need to be leaders, but this is an ineffective strategy because it devalues the crucial function that followers play.
  3. For the first follower, “when you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.”
How to start a movement | Derek Sivers - YouTube
Quote of the Week
“In other words, a real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.”
- David Foster Wallace in his essay Up, Simba
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