Growing up as an only child, I enjoyed the perks of receiving all of my family’s attention, being the only one vying for their time, and not being compared to another sibling. However, I was the lone soldier in the fight for all the coming-of-age rewards. If there had been an older sibling, I’m sure I would’ve greatly benefited by him/her paving the way for me. Regardless, I consider myself an equivalent to the innovators over the past few decades that have paved the way for the brands we know today.
Internet Explorer, Dell, and MySpace are all companies that were megabrands in the nineties. However, they now lag behind their competitors who have begun to dominate their respective industries in the 21st century. The early pioneers controlled the market upon their initial release because there were no competitors. However, the mistakes made by these early ventures paved the way for future advancements and set the precedents of the technology world.
Internet Explorer give people initial access to the Internet, but failed to add the new features that other browsers have emerged with. It was notorious for being slow and ineffective. Newer versions were buggier than the old. For years it was the only Internet browser on my computer, but as its service deteriorated, Firefox and Safari were added. Google has now jumped into the game and is dominating with its features, speed, and usability. Google in particular has expanded its brand to encompass more than a search engine—it’s a company that provides tools for any area of life. They’ve revolutionized how we use the Internet in so many ways (but that’s another story for another day).
Internet Explorer is still trying to regain its prior dominance. It knows the now twenty-somethings grew up using their browser, and there’s a sense of nostalgia there. Take a peek at this advertisement that highlights all the things kids from the 90s knew and loved. It reminds us that Internet Explorer is still there and it’s improving. Unfortunately, it may be a bit too late for the company to regain our trust now that our allegiance has shifted to other browsers. Social media followed a similar pattern as one company picked up where another left off.
Facebook learned from the mistakes of MySpace. It added more privacy features to combat the fears of parents. It organized friend’s information into a succinct form to allow you to easily scroll the day’s events. It reinvented itself regularly—often to the criticism of many—but people soon adjusted and favored its alterations. Myspace is now trying to make a comeback, and I think it’s been quite smart in many of its decisions. It is utilizing its best feature—access to music—as the starting point for this community. It’s certainly a niche market, but I believe it’s a valuable one. Facebook is currently holding onto its position as the leader, but it’s going to have to keep innovating to stay ahead. It is in the process of preparing to release an updated newsfeed and graph search; hopefully those changes will resonate well with users. Otherwise, they might meet the fate of my next example.
Perhaps my favorite comparison is that of Dell and Apple because I have clear memories of my family’s experiences with Dell. The first Dell computer was purchased when I was four years old. However, there were times, numerous times, actually, something would go array with the system. My mother would call customer support at Dell full of optimism that we could fix this; she would usually hang up the phone frustrated with the problem unresolved.
My parents still own a Dell. I now own an Apple MacBook Pro. It’s a lovely and efficient little machine. I rarely have problems with it. The few times I’ve needed support, the Apple Store has been incredibly helpful and effective in solving my dilemma. I once had a question about my insurance policy, but the customer service lines were busy. I found a portion of the website that said if I put my phone number down, customer service would call me. They did within minutes. By that time I’d solved the problem, so I just hung up on the operating system, but it was smarter than I was. It called my house twice more before I told the machine to connect me with a person, which it promptly did, and I told them I no longer needed the help but the machine was quite eager to assist. Although a little overzealous, I’d rather receive more help than not enough.
These are all brands the general public is familiar with, but there are many more examples. In Boston, popular music stations Kiss 108 and Amp 103.3 are going head to head as Amp emphasizes how their listeners “made the switch” to a station that offers 103 minutes of commercial-free music. Businesses everywhere are looking at not only what competitors do, but also what they don’t, and that is often the most valuable piece of information. It’s a competitive economy, and only the fittest and most adaptable will survive.