I remember my first love: the Atari 2600, the first popular home video game system. It was 1982, I was 10 years old, and I was broke. I wanted one bad. I had to find a way to get one.

My parents made me a deal: They'd pay me a dollar every time I vacuumed the house. Not just one room, mind you, the whole place. The Atari 2600 cost about $125, before tax, which meant four full months of vacuuming. Vacuums were heavy back then, and we had a lot of carpet (it was the 1980s, after all). It was a big, thankless job. I jumped at the opportunity.

I kept our carpets spotless for 125 consecutive days—that's four months of vacuuming, no breaks—and got my Atari 2600.

It was the best moment of my young life.

In June, I was reminded of my childhood triumph as I attended the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the biggest video game convention in the world. Tucked in a quiet corner of the convention hall, far from the spectacle of today's major publishers, was a museum-like display of Atari's vintage products. My heart jumped at the sight of it.

The encounter reminded me of some of the great lessons that Atari and the video game industry have taught me about building strong brands.

Here are the most important lessons.

1. Position your brand as a "first"

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Dan Lazar is founder of Monkeysuit, a market research firm that specializes in video gaming and other entertainment industries.

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