This is a true story. Some years ago in a land called South Africa, there was a well-established cigarette company. It was called the United Tobacco Company and it pretty much dominated the market. Around this time over in America, the first rumblings about cigarettes and their effect on health were beginning to hit the headlines. Now fear is a powerful motive. Very soon a new artificial filter material appeared on the scene. Called Estron, the first brand to use the new filter was called Viceroy. Not surprisingly, sales took off.
Back in Africa, the United Tobacco Company were quickly on the case. Supplies of Estron were ordered, a bright new pack designed with the name Rex Estron Filters. The scene was set for a grand coup.
No hurry, Estron had only just launched in the US so there was plenty of time.
They didn’t reckon on the competition – a small local company, Rembrandt Tobacco, owned by a smart bloke called Anton Rupert (who would later take over the Rothmans company) – had already learned of the trend in the US. Casting caution to the winds, he and his canny marketing manager an Irishman called Paddy Cork, were already on a plane halfway to New York, nutting out a package design for a new cigarette brand on the back of an envelope.
It was a great design. Plenty of white space, red and black and an unusual name. Arriving in NY they went straight to the Estron manufacturers and arranged for a substantial quantity of the filter material to be immediately air freighted to South Africa. The rest is history. Rembrandt hit the market well ahead of Rex and sales took off to the extent that tobacconists were forced to ration supplies of the new brand.
The name of the new brand which had its beginning on the back of an envelope half way across the Atlantic?
Peter Stuyvesant. The International passport to smoking pleasure.
What this story shows is that to be first in market has it’s advantages. To be first in market to embrace a new technology and to take ownership of that technology, is what paves the path and set’s the leaders apart.