Is Being First the Best?
In-N-Out didn’t invent the cheeseburger.
There is a common misconception that you have to be first to market your product before anyone else. Too many people believe their big idea is something that no one has ever seen before and it’s going to make a big boom. It’s not true! There were cheeseburgers, shakes and fries way before In-N-Out came out with its simplistic menu, but what has In-N-Out done to better that market?
It just might be their secret sauce or maybe it’s not a secret at all. Not too often do you hear people complaining about the service at In-N-Out or how awful their cheeseburger was. In-N-Out delivers great service, great food, and they market themselves well. It’s as simple as that; user experience, product, and marketing. The 3 elements that any company can implement into their “new idea” or into improving their own cheeseburger.
Lionel Sternberger is alleged to have invented the cheeseburger in 1926 while working as a fry cook at his father’s Pasadena, California sandwich shop, “The Rite Spot.” In-N-Out opened it’s first burger joint in 1948. That gave In-N-Out, and many other burger restaurants, 22 years to perfect the cheeseburger. The lines outside of In-N-Out’s drive-thru today are proof that they have surpassed the industry they have entered — not invented.
Coming in first place in many things can be absolutely rewarding, but it’s not always ideal in a variety of situations. Being the first on the road the morning after a snow storm may look beautiful from afar, until you find yourself pushing your car out of the middle of an intersection with no one around to help. You don’t have the pleasure of seeing the car in front of you fail to learn from their mistakes, or to clear the path for you to successfully get through the intersection.
Another great example is Apple. Apple did not invent the first smartphone, they did not invent the first mp3, the first laptop, the first desktop computer, the first wearable tech, the first tablet, the first smart TV, and they didn’t even put 4K into their more than capable apple TV. But you can argue that they made each of those products better.
Apple didn’t jump into each market headfirst to prove they were the first to invent each product. Instead, they tip-toed into each and waited for others to prove it’s a worthy market to enter. Apple is bar none the most profitable tech company in the world but they weren’t the first to invent the mp3 player — they just did it better. The iPhone was definitely not the first smartphone — remember the Blackberry? yeah, exactly. That ancient thing was out for years before Apple entered into the race. And before that was the IBM Simon Personal Communicator introduced in 1992, often referred to as the first smartphone ever.
Apple has been developing products for emerging markets since they first started in 1976. Apple focuses on markets that are new and thriving. Their products aren’t normally the first of their kind, but they are almost always the first to get it right. The iPod wasn’t the first portable mp3 player as we’ve said before, but it was the first to be intuitively designed and well-marketed.
When inventing something new, the reality is that you are more than likely not to win. Neil Patel with Forbes stated that nine out of ten startups will fail. He believes that Entrepreneurs may even want to write their failure post-mortem before they launch their business — that is the hard and bleak truth. This isn’t to discourage anyone to pursue their dreams but simply to put things into perspective. More importantly, how often do startups that invent something fail?
In-N-Out, Apple and many others entered themselves into growing markets and made them better. They didn’t have to invent something big in order to make it big. Their user experience is supreme, their product is desirable, and their marketing is impressionable compared to the products they may have “piggy-backed” off of.
You don’t have to invent things, you just have to make things better.