On Ducks and Instagram Before it Became Instagram


One of my favorite stores in Amsterdam is one that sells rubber ducks.

Only rubber ducks.

The owners once started as a luxury toy store.

It had all the different types of kids toys you could imagine.

But one thing, they recognized, sold better than all the other types of toys: rubber ducks.

And so they specialized.

They reorganized their store to sell only rubber ducks, in a ton of different types and forms.

And now, they’ve expanded to a number of different cities throughout the globe.

Their rubber ducks can be found everywhere.

Instagram once used the same tactic.

Back in 2010, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger started Burbn.

Burbn was a location-based app allowing users to make future plans, hang out with friends and post pictures.

Burbn was quite well received.

Early adopters loved it, they could finally share their daily lives with the world.

But for new users, the app was simply too complicated.

You could make plans. And hang out. And take pictures.

When they listened to their users, they discovered that when people posted pictures on Burbn, they’d run them through photo filter apps.

That’s what people liked the most. Just like the rubber ducks in the toy store.

So they specialized.

They created a new app that was much simpler: Instagram.

Take a picture, apply a filter, post it; done.

But we always want to be everything to everyone.

We want to sell rubber ducks, and sell all the other types of toys.

We want to have people post pictures, and make plans and hang out with their friends.

But the truth is that if you try to be everything to everyone, you won’t be anything real to anyone.

Success is achieved through limitations. Through focus.

We can’t do everything. We shouldn’t.

Simplification is the gateway to success.



Inspiration and Insights

On advertising and marketing

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Inspiration and Insights

On advertising and marketing