Enemies or Competitors? Step 4 in developing a marketing strategy

Assessing competitor strengths and weaknesses is essential and this is an activity that, by its breadth, you can use to bring your entire team into your strategic planning, allow them to ‘own’ some of your enemies, ask them to be your eyes and ears throughout the year so you can complete this step in developing your marketing strategy quickly and without having to start from scratch.

I used to work for a brand that had enemies, not competitors.  I used to play rugby and I did not have competitors, we had competition and we worked out how to beat each team we played (as well as focussing on what we were doing of course).  Enemy vs competitor.  Enemy is a bold word, and I don’t mean to imply that what marketers do is in any way similar to what ‘States’ with enemies or fighting forces face in battle.  For me, it’s a subtle change in mindset that sets you out on a winning strategic direction.

A quick recap on where we are up to : Strategy starts with thinking, and then moves into delivery.  I call the thinking stage ‘Customer Review’.  I have covered the first 3 of 7 steps already;

  1. Customer insight ✓
  2. The marketplace ✓
  3. Critique the current strategy ✓
  4. Identify and critique your enemies
  5. Critique your current/planned offer in detail: Product / Service / Channel
  6. Pricing Review
  7. Futurology

(4) Identify and critique your enemies


  • To identify the strengths and weakness of those companies your target customers see as alternatives to you (crucially this is a customer led view … not that of your Exec or Board – you have to be realistic and grounded in reality)
  • To identify areas where you can ‘beat’ those companies to the benefit of your target customers and your business
  • To identify the strategies they pursue in the same markets in which you play


  • Review the brand iceberg you have already developed to identify the strengths of your brand and use those as a rule to measure your enemies.  I am making the basic assumption you know who they are !
  • Review your MI – which brands are you losing customers too?  Where are your customers coming from?  Over indexing in either version tells a significant story about who you should be concerned about
  • Review market research to see who is growing – and then marry that to spend, advertising changes etc.  The Annual reports and accounts of companies should be reviewed – they are a mine of useful strategic information and show you areas of growth and decline by brand
  • Understand your SoV and SoM – are they correlated?  Then do the same for your identified enemies.  Finally review what differences there are in: spend, strategies, propositions, balance of ATL to BTL to digital etc
  • Use the information your media planners and creative agencies have on market changes and channel strengths/costs.  Ask them to complete the matrices below independently of you – see if they hold the same views.
  • You must also use your regular monthly competitor reviews to identify who is winning – who is weak? could you target them? If they are regional, could you over-invest in marketing in that region for example by using proximity outdoor with targeted messages  e.g. find who is at the bottom of the service scores and then use service messages in proximity to their branches / heartland
  • … But you need to try to be scientific about your assessment;

Portfolio Tool

Portfolio Analysis Tool

Portfolio Analysis Tool

Marketing/Product Strength Scoring tool

Marketing Offer strength scoresheet

Marketing Offer strength scoresheet

You have a market assessment already as regards attractiveness & you now have one for product/marketing offers. Simply start plotting the scoresheet outputs to sense check your customer strategy vs that of your enemies in the same market.

  • You must ask customers what they think about you and your identified enemies – do they see them as your competition for example.  Do this when you have the matrix views
  • Ask your suppliers for a view on what you could do better and what they think your enemies do better than you – and ask then to identify why they think that.


  • A list of, and assessment of, your top 3 to 5 enemies
  • A list of learnings about what they do differently – and how you can use this information
  • A good idea of who your customers like – as well as yourself of course !
  • A sense of what the trends in the market(ing) are
  • A detailed view of SoV, SoM and the strategies that have driven growth and decline amongst your enemies
  • A view on which enemies might be vulnerable in a manner that you can exploit

This is a crucial step in developing your strategy and as ever I hope you find my thoughts useful.  One option that I saw on a visit to a subsidiary of one of the brands I worked for was interesting – they had a strategy room and the walls were covered in the marketing material and press cuttings of their enemies.  There was none of their own work.  They used this environment to make sure they were critical of their own efforts and to see what customers saw.  I like that a lot, it’s tough though – I think they had enemies not competitors !


13 April 2013

Thanks as ever to the teams that have helped inform my views, & Messrs Fisk, Davidson, McDonald and Kotler

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