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Don’t Only Be First. Be Better. But Also Be First.

3 min read

Jeremy Carson is an Associate Creative Director, working in the advertising and design industries for over 15 years.

Way over a century ago, there were these things called “land rushes.” Hundreds of people would jump on their horses and race to literally capture the flags of unclaimed American land.

The first ones there would make it theirs.

(Tom Cruise does it in “Far and Away,” a movie where he really wants Nicole Kidman to tell him she likes his hat.)

You didn’t have to be rich.

You didn’t have to be smart.

You just had to be first.

And that’s what it’s like in the creative world right now.

Because when it comes to merging creative and data, some people are dragging their feet. Meanwhile, others are jumping headfirst into this uncharted world.

They’re plucking up beachfront property in Malibu before it was Malibu.

But if you settle with being first, you'll fall short. Because someone better will come along.



First Movers, First to Fall

There’s a lot of forgiveness given to trailblazers. They’re the ones who pave the way. They get the quick and early attention.

Because nobody is competing against them.

So they don't have to be good.

And they usually aren't.

Like the first iPhone apps: the Fart Noisemakers, the Flashlights, the novelty items.

It’s the same in marketing: we're nostalgic and idolize a few brilliant ads. But in reality, most of it was probably shit. But it was all so new, so that was okay.

First movers don’t need to be good. They’re first.

Creative Catch Up

Let's look at creatives today: it’s no secret that technology is beating creative in its ability to keep up with the changing tide.

Well, creatives are finally waking up.

We’re not scared of data anymore.

...well, the good ones aren’t.

More and more people are experimenting with how to use it. Maybe it’s to create insights. Maybe it’s used as targeting. Maybe it’s used to actually generate the creative itself.

Some of it’s pretty good.

And some of it sucks.

But they're first.



I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better

So what happens after a while?

When being first doesn't matter anymore.

Being first wears off as soon as there’s a second.

Well, first movers, you also need to be the first to get better.

Because the shine of being first is short-lived.

Because second place could be better than you.

Be First, So You Can Be Better

So, be the first to experiment.

Be the first to play with that new app.

The first to test out that platform.

First to know what works and what doesn't.

Then, do it again. And again. And again. Keep being first until there are no more firsts (which is never).

Don't let anyone grab that flag from you.

But at some point, the land grab is over. You can’t just show up and expect to win.

So, be better.

Better than before. Better than what was good enough a year ago.

A month ago.

A week ago.

Never be satisfied with your success from being first. Use that advantage to keep ahead of everyone else.

Because constantly being better means you’ll constantly be first.

(QUESTION: I tried a different writing style with this article. Did you like it? Did you hate it? Let me know! @thejeremycarson on all things social)

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