Home  › Marketing › Strategies

Competitive Review, the Path to Imitation

  |  August 3, 2014   |  Comments   |  

Focusing on your competitors' strategies will only lead to imitation and mediocrity. Instead, marketers should take a risk and take the path toward innovation and success.

I'm often struck with curious bemusement at the technique, used by clients and agency folk alike, of reviewing competitors to inform their communication strategies. Beyond curiosity and bemusement, frustration frequently appears on the scene when, as often happens, I encounter objections to what is a perfect legitimate (if untried) proposal, the objection normally taking the form of one of the two following questions:

"Have any of our competitors done anything like this before?"


"Can you show me some examples of something similar in our industry?"

The response to either question typically ends with the closing click of a laptop lid and another awesome idea winging its way to the virtual bottom drawer. accompanied by an often unspoken explanation that if it had been done before, it would be an imitation, unlikely to cut through or make a large impact. It would be safe, tried, and tested. It would be mediocre.

What drives this obsession in marketing and communications of comparing and benchmarking an organization's strategy with that of its competitors?

Whilst it makes no sense to me personally, I can only rationalize it to a lack of appetite for risk that tends to be the modus operandi of decision-makers in large brands and organizations, where unfortunately, the downside of a failed risk-taking endeavor is often far worse than the upside from a successful one.

And while I understand the forces that drive this risk aversion, I still fundamentally believe that adopting a competitive review-led strategy is a shortsighted, back-covering approach that should be discouraged. Jeff Bezos sums up my philosophy on this matter best. The Amazon founder and owner of The Washington Post is quoted as saying, "Don't focus on your competitors because they will never give you any money."

And so it is, that by focusing on your competitors you are fundamentally missing the point. That point being that you are trying to reach and influence your audience (customers, prospects, policy-makers, whoever they may be). You are definitely not trying to reach and influence your competitors.

Yes, your competitors are oftentimes trying to reach the same audience as your organization, and the truth of it is that sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they get it wrong. But irrespective, you definitely don't want to adopt your competitor's strategy. How is adopting your competitor's strategies going to give you a point of differentiation? How is it going to infuence the audience to make a positive decision in your favor, rather than your competitor? It won't. It just won't.

To end, I offer an impassioned plea. The next time you are considering the research required to inform your next communication strategy, or the manner in which you plan to evaluate the next campaign idea presented to you, don't ask yourself what your competitors are doing or have done before - that's the path to imitation and mediocrity. Make a decision based on what your audience wants and needs and what's in the best interests of your organization - be brave and take the path to innovation and success.

Subscribe to ClickZ Asia to receive your weekly dose of the region's latest trends, tips, and insights straight to your inbox.

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, Oct 3 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!


Jon  Wade

With an honors degree in economics, and vast commercial and technical expertise in the digital communications industry, Jon provides business, communications and marketing acumen as well as detailed digital technical knowledge to the agencies in the Constituency Management Group (CMG) of IPG across Asia Pacific. Based in Hong Kong, he established the firm's Centre of Digital Excellence in 2012 and also has executive responsibility for the network of in-house digital content studios established across the Asia Pacific region for the benefit of all of CMG's below-the-line agencies including Devries, Futurebrand, Golin Harris, Jack Morton, Octagon and Weber Shandwick.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
If you're considering implementing a marketing attribution model to measure and optimize your programs, this paper is a great introduction. It also includes real-life tips from marketers who have successfully implemented attribution in their organizations.


    • Tier 1 Support Specialist
      Tier 1 Support Specialist (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreThis position requires a highly motivated and multifaceted individual to contribute to and be...
    • Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative
      Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative (Agora Financial) - BaltimoreAgora Financial, one of the nation's largest independent publishers...
    • Managing Editor
      Managing Editor (Common Sense Publishing) - BaltimoreWE’RE HIRING: WE NEED AN AMAZING EDITOR TO POLISH WORLD-CLASS CONTENT   The Palm...