Contrary to popular belief, and most Hollywood movies I’ve seen, being number one at anything gets you hated. Even if a business was adored as the contender, once it becomes the champion it suddenly becomes the evil force everyone wants to hate and conquer.
In spite of all they’ve done for so many fans, Apple has entered the hate phase. Don’t take my word for it. Watch the new Samsung Galaxy ads attacking Apple—and watch more and more of your friends start to tell you why Apple sucks. Before there was Apple everyone hated Microsoft. Before Microsoft there was IBM, Dell. You get the picture. No one is immune. Why?
Love of the Underdog
We love to root for the underdog. Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson was great. Any team in the league going up against Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboy’s 20-year winning streak from 1965 to 1982. Coke vs. Pepsi.
Watching a champion fall is an American pastime. It ranks right up there with cheering the underdog as they climb and claw their way to the top—at which point we want to see the new number one knocked off.
You get the most support when you are "the next big thing" and not actually "the big thing." When Avis Rent-a-car adopted the tagline, “We’re number two, we try harder,” it was under great protest by Avis employees and management. Avis hated the campaign (forced upon them by an ad agency who understood this “being number two rocks” principal). Hated or not, “We’re number two, we try harder,” became the longest running (and popular) tagline in rental car history. Avis retired it this year when they finally became number one. Which means they are in trouble: A new rental car underdog is going to win the hearts Avis broke when they became number one.
How to Be No. 2
So does this mean you should or shouldn’t strive to be number one? It means you should absolutely keep gunning to be the best you can, while simultaneously seeking ways to position yourself as number two. Consistently communicate this one-down position to your following. Actually, the fact is, if you’re one or two in market share there’s not much left for the rest of the contenders, so being two isn’t a bad place to be.
This is encouraging if you’re still noodling around the middle of the market, but what if you’re in the "unlucky" position of being number one in your niche right now? Lucky you! That’s when you start doing brand spinouts—in other words start some new number twos. Now is the time to challenge the king of some hill outside the sandbox you already dominate. A spin out or spin-off just means using the strength of your number one brand status in a different brand category.
Leverage the love from one group of consumers by redirecting it to your new number five, four, three or two status in a different market somewhere else. This keeps people from seeing you as number one, because they’re seeing you slugging it out as number four, three or two somewhere else. So what if you’re number one here if you’re still battling elsewhere? As long as your fans have the opportunity to root for your number two status somewhere, you’re golden.
The absolute master of this type of spinout is Proctor & Gamble. The consumer goods maker reigns when it comes to finding new markets or acquiring new companies where it can be the underdog. Crest toothpaste (P&G) beat Colgate. Pampers diapers, Puffs tissues and Folgers coffee were just some of the products P&G created by spinning off number twos into the market.
So, remember, there are two ways to be number two; one, by remaining number two and focusing on the part of the market that chooses not to deal with the market leader. Or two, by spinning out your brand into other market opportunities. Never be afraid or ashamed to be number two! Be the David. Not the Goliath.
Read more OPEN posts about beating the competition.
Mike Michalowicz is CEO of Provendus Group, a consulting firm that help companies whose growth has plateaued to move forward again. Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, as well as a popular blog for entrepreneurs.
Photo: Getty Images