You have a concept, a vision, a product, an audience. So why do you need to the understanding your competition and know what anyone else in your market is doing? You need to know what your competitions is using for marketing messages in order to make a splash.

It might seem like a sidetrack to your success, but every entrepreneur should know who their competitors are. In fact, they should know more than just who they are. Having a good understanding your competition and their Brand Idea, color scheme, primary marketing messages, and key differentiators will help your brand to stand out.

We call this a competitive review, and it’s the process of putting together a dossier of your competition. This exercise is valuable in helping you to differentiate yourself from your competition. Sometimes brand messages are so ingrained with their product, it’s difficult to think of a similar product on its own terms.

But you can’t rely on the same marketing messages that are already out there, and in order to know what

Who are they?

Take a bit of time and write down every brand you’d consider a competitor to yours. Try to make the list exhaustive. Think of brands that aren’t necessarily a 1:1 comparison. For instance, are you a smaller coffee shop chain? Don’t limit yourself to just other coffee chains of the same size in your geographic area. Try to think of other value your clients might get from you. Why are they choosing you over grabbing a Red Bull? What do you offer that a home-brewed cup of coffee in a travel mug doesn’t? Try to come up with at least 10 brands you’re competing with for attention, and in your list, provide their logo for reference.

Brand Idea.

A Brand Idea is the brand’s essence, it’s central focus and drive distilled into a brief phrase. Volvo might use “Safety First” as their idea. Campell’s might be “comforts of home”. This information might not be readily available to the public. If not, you can put it together with some thought.

Visual themes.

Once you’ve made a list, you can easily see visual patterns emerge. Is your corner of the market overwhelmed with pink? Are all the fonts bold and sans-serif? Fantastic. If you want to stand out, this is invaluable information. Seeing it aggregated together allows you to easily see what colors, fonts, patterns, and other visual elements will truly stand out in the marketplace.

Primary marketing messages.

Your primary marketing message is the thing that makes your core audience need to know more. It speaks directly to them as if your brand knows them personally. By taking some time to identify your competitor’s marketing messages, you can identify subtleties in both how they define their market, and in how they speak to them. To go back to the coffee example, if you know your competition is speaking to the market’s need for caffeine, you can differentiate yourself by speaking to the need to slowly enjoy your coffee.

Key differentiators.

These are self-explanatory. What makes you different? Are you faster, cheaper, chicer, more niche, less frilly? To really know what makes you different, you have to have the understanding what the competition is doing to differentiate. If you discover you’re very similar to a competitor, you can decide to change your point of differentiation, or focus on a particular aspect of your differentiation.

Avoiding duplicating the standard brand message is essential. After all, if you’re blending in? You’re not standing out.

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