Memories of marchFIRST.com
I found myself in the middle of a discussion last week whose subject was the critical mistakes that can really torpedo a company, and I immediately thought of marchFIRST.com, which at one point in time was one of the infamous "Fast Five" Web consultancies that included Razorfish (which later became Avenue/A, now owned by Microsoft), Scient, Viant, and IXL. Few people remember marchFirst today, but at one point it was a gigantic interactive powerhouse that employed almost 9,000 people, the vast majority of which were consultants.
marchFIRST died hard and fast when the dotcom bubble collapsed in 2001, but it would likely have flamed out by itself even if the market had held steady. Why? Excessive marketing costs, including a $50 million nationwide ad campaign extolling "the universal human desire to be first." This kind of ridiculous spending was par for the course in those heady days, and it's tempting to think that it's behind us. It isn't, of course: it's just found a different destination. Instead of giving $10,000 parties, buying $60,000 newspaper ads and million-dollar superbowl ads, or sponsoring the Golden Gate Bridge, they're spending it on keywords, banner ads, and trade show booths.
For more on marchFIRST, please see the marchFIRST exhibit in the Museum of Interactive Failure.