Brand Marketing – What’s The Real Value of Your Competitive Review
Brand marketing teams and their creative agency partners typically conduct competitive reviews as part of a new initiative. Whether they’re rebranding, going through a brand strategy refresh, or developing a new marketing campaign, teams will “routinely” examine the practices of their most immediate industry competitors.
Rethinking The Value Of Your Competitive Review
We wouldn’t refer to these competitive reviews as thorough and enlightening. Typically, this learning leads to identifying brand messages and visual identity elements to avoid, and maybe identifying some small way to distinguish from competition—whether a feature or an add-on service. Seldom, however, are there important learnings from these competitive reviews that propel brands forward in any meaningful way.
For some things, vertical industry comparison is especially important. But just checking that box means little when the goal is to imagine new and deeper ways of differentiating from the competition.
What you see in almost every successful brand today is the ability to look beyond their direct competitive set for inspiration, to look at least a little further (if not far) afield to brands doing certain things well in markets that may at first glance seem to have little in common.
Looking Beyond The Obvious
How can clients (in our case, those operating across the health and wellness industry) truly look, feel and act different from their industry peers —the kind of differentiation that can help a brand truly stand out, find meaningful customer experience differences, and engender customer loyalty – by simply tweaking around the edges?
Why don’t more companies think differently about where they journey for learning and inspiration? It’s either because they don’t have the inclination, they don’t have the time and tools to imagine alternatives or because it feels risky for someone or some team to implement (let alone recommend) when they do.
The Case For Looking Differently
Given the ongoing acceleration and transformation of the health and wellness industry, there are four reasons why companies should change their competitive review practices to unlock future opportunities and accelerate new growth.
- First, disruptive companies are redefining health and wellness segments, reimagining brand propositions and customer experiences, and their competitive canvas knows no boundaries.
- Second, the mass migration to digital – and the emergence of what’s been widely coined as the ‘new digital wellness consumer’ – has been one of the most well-documented fall-outs resulting from COVID-19.
- Third, is the shift to collective consciousness – wherein consumers have formed new expectations around brand purpose and elevated the importance of multiple issues like climate change, racial injustice and mental health.
- Fourth, the most successful companies consider their brands as operating systems for the business. Their brands live beyond the marketing department and inform everything the business does. Based on a unifying brand idea and a deep why (credit to Simon Sinek), every action these organizations take is the brand and everything is communication. From what they do inside to matching what they say and do outside.
Direct, Experiential and Perceptual Competitors
Direct competitors, who offer similar products and services as you, might help you to identify what to avoid. But they won’t help you to change your game, or the game for your customers.
You can also look at competitors through an experiential lens, as your customers might see it. Those who offer an experience that could make your product or service obsolete. While not direct competitors, they could significantly impact the industry. For example, at-home connected fitness offerings like TONAL and PELOTON make it unnecessary to have that monthly gym pass.
Then there are perceptual competitors, those competing to shape experiences that set new expectations across sectors. Case in point is a business that doesn’t exceed our expectations or fail to meet expectations, because it fulfills (and resets our expectations) in an entirely unanticipated way. Examples include wearable sensor LEVELS (that tracks user’s blood glucose in real-time to help maximize diet and exercise) and CALM (bringing mental fitness to over 40 million users worldwide, with one new user joining every second).
Parallel Thinking to Break Away
The key is to think small and to look at specific brand drivers that may find parallels from other industries to impact your own. Designers and other creatives do this regularly by rifling through books and imagining how an appealing visual approach might apply to their project at hand, irrespective of industry. That kind of parallel “design thinking” can go far beyond visual style to help inform all aspects of the business and brand.
Fill in the blanks
One way to challenge the confines of your team’s industry preconceptions is to complete a sentence—that invites exploration outside your vertical – and which can be applied to almost any area of your business.
It means filling in a sentence like this: “What would it look, feel, sound or act like if our [Industry Vertical] brand adopted the [Specific Brand Touchpoint] of the best [Industry Outside Our Own] brands?”
The blanks correspond to three columns:
- one is your current industry
- another is a list of brand touchpoints (from business ideas inside to marketing ideas outside)
- third is a list of industries (whether ad hoc, or just a list of 10–20 brands you personally admire). Connect the columns, draw parallels, and use your imagination to see where your gut tells you new ideas may be worth further exploration.
Be Different To Be Better
We’re all in pursuit of lasting differentiation, but, too many organizations are taking the wrong route. The winning formula demands commitment to continuously developing your experience at a rate commensurate with that of evolving customer expectations.
To do a better job of giving customers a better experience means using your imagination to find specific areas where you can differentiate by somehow communicating or serving customers better, and not getting stuck in over-worn industry ruts.
What we see in almost every successful brand is a willingness to look outside their direct competitive set for inspiration, to look far (or at least a little farther) afield to brands doing certain things well in markets that may at first glance seem to have little in common.
Since 1999, Trajectory has partnered with clients across the health and wellness industry to build stronger brand-led businesses. Reach out for a no-obligation consultation.