Blog post #237 Adages – The early bird gets the worm

Blog post #237 Adages – The early bird gets the worm

I’m doing a series on adages or common experiences.  With yesterday’s adage about ‘Birds of a feather flock together, I’m staying in the bird category with “The early bird gets the worm.”

So … thinking about that.  If the supply of worms is low and the quantity of birds in high, if you are one of the first birds to swoop down on the worm population, you will get something to eat (and with robins and other birds – something to take back to the nest for your baby birds).  If you go to the extreme – and there is only one worm, the very first bird will get the worm – that is the earliest bird to go after the worm will be the one and only winner.

Does the parallel work in real life?  Most of the time (with exceptions).  

Let’s think of Yeti coolers (and cups).  Yeti was definitely an early bird on the improved cooler (and cup) scene.  

In their story, the brothers that founded the Yeti cooler wrote:

But the coolers that were out there just weren’t up to our outdoor adventures — the handles would break, the latches would snap off, and the lids would cave in. Not only was it a hassle to replace our coolers after each season, but also these cheaply built, ordinary ice chests were limiting our good times. And that frustration led us to a solution.


In 2006 we founded YETI® Coolers with a simple mission: build the cooler we’d use every day if it existed. One that was built for the serious outdoor enthusiast rather than for the mass-discount retailers. One that could take the abuse we knew we’d put it through out in the field and on the water. One that simply wouldn’t break. We decided early on that product innovation would come from necessity and firsthand experience — not from market research and data analysis. And we’d never sacrifice quality for a few extra bucks. Because having your cooler’s lid cave in when using it as a casting platform should never be part of anyone’s fishing trip.”


Soon the Yeti cooler became famous – mostly from word-of-mouth.  People (outdoor enthusiasts) loved having a cooler than could keep things cool (or hot) for much longer periods.  Even at a higher price that most coolers of that period (2006), it WORKED.  

Aside, on long drives, I like to have coffee – with caffeine – to keep me awake.  I have bought some insulated mugs that promised to keep hot beverages hot for several hours.  They didn’t keep it warm enough for my 13 hour drive to Nebraska!!  But, cheapskate that I am, I just wasn’t up to the price of a Yeti mug (stupid me).  That meant I had to stop at McDonalds restaurants more frequently to get more HOT coffee (of course, the stops also meant I could use their restrooms).

Here the early inventors reaped the early profits (symbolized by getting the worm).  Being first in a new market was very lucrative for Yeti.

Being a leader in a new market – be it online book sales (then everything sales) like Amazon.  Being that first company (or early bird) can define the market and set a niche for the company.

My own take on this is that the first player can define the market, but it also puts a ‘bullseye” on that player / company.  When other companies see the success of the first player, they can work on playing catch-up and work on duplicating the concept.

I now have a coffee mug that isn’t a Yeti – it is a knock-off that was significantly cheaper.  Recently I’ve seen Yeti mugs at a cheaper price in order to compete with the knock-offs.  

So while the early bird gets the worm, the fast followers can duplicate some of the success of the early bird without defining the market.

What do you think?  Does the early bird get the worm?  Did the early leader set the standards?


Go for it!!!


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Thank you!!!


Posted by Bruce White

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