New tech has afforded us the opportunity to engage customers in unique ways. We're able to collect data, deliver personalized experiences and use some of the coolest tools out there to make it all happen.

Just because we have a shiny new tool or the ability to do something, does that mean we have to? Not necessarily.

I think the easiest trap for marketers to fall in is to hop onto the latest trend, be it a social network or other media platform, and go all-in on it. We become too focused on first-mover advantage without looking at the big picture. Sometimes the best use of our time and resources isn't the newest shiny object.

A Real Life Example from an Industry Innovator

I've started re-reading Velocity by Ajaz Ahmed (AKQA Founder) and Stefan Olander (VP of Digital Sport at Nike). Ajaz shares a story about pitching Fiat back when Second Life was all the rage for brands. All of the agency partners prior to AKQA's presentation had recommended some sort of Second Life engagement strategy.

Ajaz's team, however, did not.

He notes that their agency (a leading digital agency at that) was the only one with the courage to proactively not recommend the next big fad. His team counseled Fiat that there were more productive uses for the budget they had available. They won that pitch.

It's Not Anti-Innovation or Anti-Technology

I'm not advocating against investing or paying attention to emerging platforms. There are times when that new fad does make the most sense for your brand, depending on who your customer is.

It's imperative to have a deep understanding of emerging platforms. Every marketer should. It's also necessary to have that deep understanding in order to make recommendations against a shiny object if needed. Ajaz's deep understanding of Second Life (and similar platforms) made him knowledgeable enough to tell Fiat that it wasn't the best use of resources for them.

It's irresponsible to make strategic recommendations without a full understanding of what you're advocating for or against.

Second Mover Advantage

It's not as sexy but there is something to be said for second-mover advantage. There are times to be first-to-market with an idea but then there are also times to be intentionally patient. Not complacent or stagnant. Just actively patient. In Velocity, Ajaz sums up second mover advantage well:

Second-mover advantage isn’t about hanging on the coat-tails of the innovator. It’s about knowing that winners can come second by refining and learning from what’s already been done and then redoing it better. Bandwagoneering, on the other hand, means doing something just because others have.
— Ajaz Ahmed, "Velocity"

I think it takes a load of courage to recommend blazing a new trail that nobody has attempted. I also believe it's courageous to make recommendations against the mainstream.

What do you think?