Marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is the height of folly to try and market something without studying the environment into which you are trying to market.
Your competition is a big part of that environment.
There is always competition. I don’t care how unique your product is, you are at least competing for the potential consumers dollars and for their interest and attention.
Before you can get your message across, you have to get noticed.
Part of getting noticed is standing out from the crowd. If your ad, mail piece, website or other marketing item looks like everyone else’s in your industry, chances are no one will even notice it. It becomes just one more ho-hum.
When we design a website, we look at what others in the same industry are doing. Often there is a fad in designs which isn’t necessarily a bright idea. So at the same time we can do something better and which is distinctive.
When we design a magazine ad, we always try and see what other ads in the same publication look like. The same rule applies.
Sometimes it really opens the door. All of the competition use the same color scheme, or none of them have a person in the main image.
It isn’t just imagery either. Your slogan, tag line, headline or call to action can be the same as everyone else or you can go for something that does not bore everyone to death. Entire businesses have been built on a unique guarantee.
It isn’t always about what you say or how it looks. It can also be when or where you say it. Over time, marketing channels (such as radio, newspaper ads, Google search ads) can get glutted. It is hard to get noticed amongst the noise of all the competitors. Consumers tune out EVERYONE and you get no chance to communicate.
Marketers are continually working to invent new marketing channels. I’d love to have been the guy who came up with the idea of putting ads on supermarket floors. It doesn’t have to be a new channel. Sometimes you can find a channel that is underused by your particular industry, so it is cheaper to advertise and easier to get noticed.
It isn’t always about the channel. Sometimes a particular channel is less glutted at certain times of the day or days of the week. Again, it is easier and less expensive to get your message across – and it can really pay off – IF there’s no sufficient good reason for the neglect. Mobile ads have been in that category. Many advertisers were slow to realize the value of showing their ads on smartphones, making it cheaper to reach people that way.
Sometimes a competitor is doing something intelligent.. Look at your competition not only for what NOT to do, but for what is so accepted that you’d better imitate it, or you’ll look weird. You’ll also see bright ideas you can copy or where you can do something similar.
It is also common to do a complete imitation of a successful marketing campaign, not just to borrow on what they are doing right, but to try and capitalize on the brand awareness they’ve built. They see your ad and think, oh yeah, I’ve been seeing those ads, think I’ll call them.
One hazard of that is instead, you may just end up reinforcing the competition branding and the prospects end up calling them not you. They never even notice it was you, not X-Y-Z company, running the ads.
You have to put yourself in the shoes of your prospective customer. How will they see your advertising in comparison to your competitors?
Does it stand out or is it boring? Is it so unique as to seem weird?
Are your appeals appealing? Are you BELIEVABLE? You have to look credible or you’ll never get to square one.