Sometimes it pays to come second

Be the first, be the best, be different is a catchy line that floated around a few years ago as a motivator for business success. When you think of some real world examples of this line Sony and Apple do a pretty good job. The Walkman, the iPod, the iPad have all ticked the boxes of being the first, the best and different.

By being at the forefront of innovation, Sony and Apple’s brands sit nicely with the desires and demands of people who consider themselves innovators and early adopters. These people are also at the heart of social media and popular trends so it’s no surprise that when Apple and Sony release their new products it creates such a remarkable buzz.

Problem is, there are only a small number of innovators and early adopters in the world and most of them get bored really quickly.

This is where we see ‘copycat’ manufacturers like Google and Dell waltz in, take the innovators ideas that society has liked, alter them slightly and mop up the remainder of the market with similar products sold at a considerably reduced price. That’s where the real money is made.

And this is what’s going to happen with Google’s Android. The iPhone 4 is having some speed wobbles and I just can’t help feeling that Google’s gradually building some momentum underneath the glamour and will be able to use all its arsenal of services to systematically swallow Apple’s profits.

If Google do this Apple will, of course, kick into the next big thing. I do wonder though if they’d make a better profit if they repackaged some of their products to compete with copycat brands after the buzz has settled.

Perhaps be second, learn from the best, be similar might be a better line for those that don’t mind missing out on the glamour, but in doing so minimise the risks and still make a very successful business. Just ask Trade me.

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