My Competitor is stealing my marketing strategy. What to do?
Pablo Picasso once said, “Great artists steal”.
So it is understandable and almost inevitable that as we spend more time in marketing that we can see more and more competitors copy our moves. Following like a herd of sheep.
At first, I used to be shocked, territorial and honestly kinda angry. Now, I just pity them.
Seeing other companies blatantly copying my company’s creative promotions, product release campaigns, or hype-tactics is ultimately a compliment.
I mean let’s face it…. My hands aren’t free of blood either. My last article was literally discussing the leaked email marketing strategy of Amazon. We all see ideas or tactics employed by our favorite brands and look to see how they can be applied within our own niche.
You’ve done it. I’ve done it.
Great ideas are infectious. However, it starts to get dirty when brands within the same sector or niche intentionally copy or try to one-up marketing campaigns and even products. They have no shame.
The Inevitable Rat Race to the Bottom
If everyone starts to do the same thing, people get used to it. It becomes trivial.
Your efforts to grab attention with new products, different campaigns or branding elements become less and less effective, the more customers are exposed to it.
Trying to copy someone’s strategy creates a ‘race to the bottom’ — not something you want. Your smaller competitors with short-term focus wouldn’t mind it. But it essentially devalues businesses, products, and even entire sectors.
“More often, the result is that you will confuse the marketplace about who you are and what you stand for and dilute the power of your own brand. Eventually you’ll erode everybody’s market share.” — Susan Waldman, Washington Post
Imagine this example:
- I sell a product for INR 400
- You sell a similar one for INR 380
- I give my seller a giveaway for every 5 products sold
- You give the seller 2 giveaways for every 3 products sold
- I sell my next product for INR 380 + free consultation
- You sell your follow-up for INR 375 + free consultation + free delivery
Each step of the way margins gets thinner, and profits are diminished.
As the market evolves, it sheds its old skin, revealing the new norm each time.
Unfortunately, actions like these train customers and sellers to accept cheaper and cheaper prices overall. Believing in fallacies like, “shipping should always be free”.
I’ve seen buyers abandon their online cart on Myntra and other shopping websites for something they really want and can actually afford to “game the system” for that 10% off code that lands in their notifications or SMS.
Why? Because every retailer offers one. People have come to expect it now and thus; we’ve created a monster. Really, look at every fashion retail out there and you will see a board with some discount or even worse, see shopping websites.
What should you do?
I have thought a lot about calling these things out before, sometimes in an article, but consumers, for the most part, can’t help.
Customers don’t care that your current promotion was ripped off by your competitors and now they’re offering tier prizes with each purchase too.
They don’t care that after your huge success for your company, your competitors start doing a two-person comedy skit video as well.
Or that after visible success on social media or retail counters, your competitor is selling an identical product, for an identical price just days after you launched it. (All of these are true stories).
Business is always Dirty
…………………………And it is not just the customer’s battle to win.
However, there is hope. Copying other brand’s marketing techniques isn’t copying their recipe for success, especially within the same target demographic.
By creating a carbon copy of their strategy, you simply assume their brand identity as your own and it starts to feel false to its customers.
The authenticity has now been lost and even though people can’t pinpoint it exactly, or put it into words, they can feel it.
With nothing unique to offer, a brand is only as good as the product it’s currently selling… and if your competitor wasn’t first to sell that product, they won’t achieve nearly as many sales as you did, because you’ve hopefully already sold yours to that same target demographic.
Do people need it twice? Probably not.
Always One Step Ahead
Your only option is the evolve…. To zig while everyone else is zagging.
Don’t just stick with something that works — find something else that works better.
The market leader always informs the strategy of its competitors.
The lesson is that potentially, it’s less important to cry wolf and instead leave the rest of the wolf-pack to the scraps while you go after bigger and better sheep.
A constant change will not only re-invigorate customers and keep people entertained, but it will keep your competitors guessing too.
“ Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.” — Conor McGregor
Remember, we don’t own strategy…. But we can create it.