Shadowing The Competition- To Get Your Brand Ahead Shadowing competitors might seem like a fulltime job. Indeed, that is exactly what it is– and it may require appointing a full-time marketer, for example, a Competitor Insight Manager.

By Mohammed Nosseir

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When taken by surprise, companies often overreact to their competitors' marketing activities by running counter-promotion campaigns that can prove to be ineffective, very costly and, often in discordance with the company strategy. However, if they are able to anticipate their competitors' future marketing moves by professionally identifying and mapping their behavior, companies can easily develop campaigns to get themselves in the driver's seat instead of merely reacting to their competitors activities.

People may be able to hide some of their personal qualities and traits, but per definition, it is almost impossible for brands to do so. Brands displayed on shelves or in showrooms are designed to exhibit specific traits so that customers single them out from countless rival brands. By closely monitoring and observing brand traits and their support infrastructures and facilities, companies can easily decode their competitors' strategies, tactics and activities.

Therefore, generating "Brand Personality Mind Mapping" for all key competitors is a fundamental marketing tool for better understanding competitor behaviors– and acting accordingly. Companies need to disclose the thinking patterns of their rival's marketing teams in order to portray their brand personalities and, on that basis, forecast their next steps.

Monitoring the competitors' market exposure needs to include a variety of fields: understanding their product formulas and packaging to reveal their brand's focal point, identifying the geographical availability of rival products to show their distributional strengths and weaknesses, executive turnover rates and compensations to provide valuable indications concerning stability and loyalty of their top management, and finally, advertising and promotional campaigns to retrieve information about their products' value proposition and how well they communicate it to their customers.

Taking this kind of monitoring tasks seriously over a number of years while bearing in mind product seasonality, market growth or recession, and the overall market dynamics, will enable companies to draw logical inferences and outline a complete brand personality. Based on these insights, companies can consequently develop a number of scenarios aimed at marginalizing competitors' marketing activities well in advance, and identify favorable business opportunities to seize along the way.

Furthermore, systematic monitoring makes it possible for a company to learn about its competitors' potential reactions to its own marketing schemes. Applications software that presents all marketing activities and possible counter-activities of relevant players could be a functional tool.

Shadowing competitors might seem like a fulltime job. Indeed, that is exactly what it is– and it may require appointing a full-time marketer, for example, a Competitor Insight Manager. A talented marketer is able to walk in a rival's shoes 24/7, while maintaining a 360-degree view of the monitoring approach– a wholly worthwhile task. Most successful companies probably do this already since a company's talent is eventually measured by its ability to predict a market picture that resembles future reality.

Since even the most talented Competitor Insight Manager sometimes gets too close to their own organization and its habits, we also always recommend our clients to perform competitive scenarios once in a while, i.e. gaming with managers from all relevant departments such as marketing, sales, finance and technology. The goal is to simulate how competitors would attack their employer. Our experience shows that employees love to step into the shoes of their competitors, and they know very well where to find the relevant weak points in the business model.

Taking all that to heart, companies are able to lead by example. By applying appropriate "do and don't" marketing tactics, they set the tone and will eventually trigger marketing maturity to the benefit of all market players. Competitors' who imitate the practices of the monitoring company will cause a chain reaction, making it easier for others to better segment their rivals' marketing activities and deal with them accordingly. A comprehensive monitoring of competitors' strategies, tactics, activities, and behavior would better equip companies to shift from the role of impulsive defenders to that of a leader in a –hopefully– mature marketing landscape.

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Mohammed Nosseir

Managing Director, Global Marketing Consultancy, Middle East Region

Mohammed Nosseir is the Managing Director of Global Marketing Consultancy, Middle East Region. He specializes in consulting to clients in the consumer goods and retail industries, primarily in the areas of growth and market entry strategies, target segmentation, value proposition and market potential assessment. He has worked and managed projects for leading international and regional companies in the Middle East and Europe. He has published several articles on marketing strategies and government reforms in a number of global and regional publications. Mohammed holds a BA from Ain Shams University in Cairo and is a Stanford (CDDRL) Fellow 2008, an Eisenhower Fellow 2009, and an Aspen Seminar Fellow 2011.

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