Of cryptocards
and being first

In a feat of logic, the BitPlastic, Xapo, CoinKite, and Bit-x cards each claim to have arrived before the others


FROM THE MOMENT in 2009 when Bitcoin debuted as the world’s first decentralized cryptocurrency, I knew it was a question of time before someone introduced the world’s first cryptocurrency-based debit card.

What I hadn’t expected was just how many someones that would turn out to be. A casual search reveals that the BitPlastic, Xapo, CoinKite, and Bit-x cards all claim to have been first. In fact, they make a big deal of it.

For all of them to have been first presents something of a mathematical impossibility. Why go to the trouble of making that claim? I cannot help but wonder if someone in their marketing department read Al Ries and Jack Trout’s book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind and decided they had to be first at all costs.

If that was the case, they don’t understand firstness.

Don’t get me wrong. Being first has its advantages. 3M Post-It® Notes provides a good example. Of the many knockoffs out there, I bet you can’t name one.

And remember Snuggie, the blanket-bathrobe hybrid that took the world by storm a few years ago? Bet you can’t name one Snuggie knockoff either.

Fooled you. Snuggie is a knockoff. The first blanket-bathrobe hybrid was the Snanket. And I bet you never heard of it.

What soft drink comes first to mind? If you’re like most people, you thought of Coca-Cola. (And yes, the name really does derive from the fact that the original recipe contained cocaine from the coca leaf and caffeine from the kola nut.) Yet orange soda, root beer, and Dr Pepper all came along first. Somehow, I don’t expect that revelation to win away very many Coke aficionados.

All of which demonstrates a point about being first that not a few marketers miss.

First in the customer mind, which is a strong position, doesn’t necessarily follow from being chronologically first. It follows from delivering a level of quality that sets you apart, and from effectively communicating as much to your target market.

Sometimes advertising goes to absurd lengths to get away with claims of having been the first to market. Don’t bother. You needn’t have arrived first to be first.

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