More on competitive analysis

This time it’s for a consumer product brand platform

If you’re preparing a brand platform for a consumer product, you will find competitive analysis is vital to the positioning of your product within your product category.

Brand platform - competitive analysis

Often, you’ll only have three to five major competitors within your market arena. They may be global brands. They may be just one of many brands from a giant conglomerate. They may be niche brands with a small but passionate customer base.

Whatever their origin and heritage, if they account for over, say, five-percent of the total market you serve (or are going to serve), they should be profiled in your brand platform.

Check out corporate branding first

First, look to the organizations marketing competitive brands. If they’re public, check their annual reports and financial press for info on their strengths, their assets, their corporate culture, goals and vision, their operating maxims. The corporate branding efforts of the companies will tell you a lot about how they’ll brand their products as well. Try to determine how important the competitive product line is to the success of the parent company.

Look to the brand architecture of each company. By that I mean how they organize the product lines they market. Are there families of brands? Is their a master brand under which each product or product line resides? Are they organized into autonomous groups by product line? Do they report earnings and other performance data by product line?

Try to discern how they manage their branding structure. Is the brand management function part of marketing? Is it autonomous? Do they emphasize internal brand training? Do they co-brand and cross-brand within their product groups?

Direct brand information acquisition

Now for each direct competitive brand, ascertain their individual positions within the product category. Here you want to study their advertising, packaging, distribution channels, sales practices, pricing, and other factors and attributes that contribute to a brand’s position. Again, trade press is a major source outside the direct, hands-on experience with competitive brand signals and messages.

Determine which significant attributes consumers value most. Use them as the axis of grids upon which to lay out the positions each competitor occupies. It is hopeful that this information is available through published market research available to all competitors on subscription. But if it is not, primary research may have to be carried out to obtain the opinions of major market segments.

Other competitive sources

It is often valuable to interview trade press editors, association executives, key distributors and retailers concerning competitors. And don’t forget to interview employees who used to work for competitors, no matter what their function within your company may be. And on today’s Internet, check forums and blogs for consumer opinions and reactions to competitive brands, as well as your own.

As a matter of fact, when analyzing competitors for positioning purposes, you should include information on your own company. Profile it just as you would a competitor. That way, when you layout your positioning grid, your brand will be represented as if it were “one of the gang”.

As I’ve blogged about B2B and retail competitive analysis, I recommend not getting too involved with their financials, although it’s good to know if a competitor has the resources and is willing to expend them to maintain or increase market share. But for the positioning process, their messages and signals – and the perceptions of their market targets – are where I believe you should focus.

There’s a lot of work involved here, but its certainly worth it if in the process you find a great unfulfilled position within your product category that your product can occupy with credibility and stamina.

Martin Jelsema

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