P&G is taking a big gamble on its Tide Pods—a product it says is supposed to revolutionize laundry.
The basic idea for one-shot laundry packs has been around for a while now—everyone has just been trying to perfect it. Tide Pods are an attempt to do just that, and are quite different from its existing competition.
And it has spent eight years perfecting the product, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in and devoting 75 researchers to it full-time.
But even if the product really is a game-changing innovation, that's not enough to guarantee success. Especially since P&G had to delay the launch, allowing competitors time to fire up their own products.
As a result, the fight has become a case study for whether or not a "first-mover" advantage really pays off, reports Warc.
The other players are Church & Dwight (Arm & Hammer), Sun Products (All) and Henkel (Purex), who have all come out with single-use packets while P&G was bogged down with delays.
"The first mover sometimes overcomplicates in the beginning," Eric Schwartz, GM of US laundry care at Henkel, tells Barney Jopson at the FT . "At the end of the day it's not about how intricate you make a new offering. It's about how close to what the consumer wants your offering is."
The first mover, Jopson argues, isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's often better to be a "fast follower," because they can use the first mover's experiences to learn about the size of the market, improve designs and manufacturing, and better identify what consumers really want.
Malcolm Gladwell agrees that it's better to take an existing idea and improve upon it. He ripped apart the "Creation Myth" in a New Yorker article last year, and explained to NPR in an interview, "we go around thinking the innovator is the first person to conceive of something. Maybe the innovation process continues down the line, to the 2nd and the 3rd entrant into a field."
Even if you're not first-to-market, it's possible that consumers will think you are anyway. A lot of the time, consumers will identify the brand that's peppering them with advertising as the first mover—and P&G is notorious for its astronomical level of ad spend.
It's also about success, which no one has yet obtained in this space. In 50 years, people will remember the first product that conquered the marketplace—the one that was the best, and connected with consumers and their needs. By spending the time and money to get the product right, P&G's betting that Tide Pods are the one to do so.
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