Opinion: Beware! Your competition may not be who you think it is

Opinion: Beware! Your competition may not be who you think it is

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A world famous motorcycle firm considering swimming pools to be its main competition is a lesson for us all, says Brighter Group's Steve Dunne

Here’s a thought for you – most chief executives, managing directors and sales and marketing managers of travel companies don’t know who their competition is.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying they don’t know who does the same thing as them.

Sit opposite any marketing director from a cruise line and they will no doubt reel off a whole host of other cruise brands when asked that question, as would a tour operator’s head of sales or a hotel’s marketing chief.

Indeed, it is the same for most people in travel. We all know who the obvious competition is – it would be crazy not to.

My point is that in most cases, your competition is not always who you think it is. The competition is often more subtle and more dangerous to your business if you ignore it.

Pools for thought

Let me explain. In a previous life, I did the PR for a world-famous motorbike brand. One day, on a visit to the US to meet the vice-president of global sales and marketing, I asked him, by way of an ice breaker:

“Who’s your competition?”

His answer caught me on the hop. This world-famous motorcycle brand saw as its principal competition not another motorbike brand or even a car brand. It’s competition, as they saw it, were swimming pools.

This was how it was explained to me. A young boy will watch TV at home, seeing all his superheroes riding around on this famous motorcycle brand.

On his way to school, he sees the brand on billboards.

When old enough, he buys a motor scooter, then a motorbike and then a larger one – but never the brand in question, as that is too expensive.

Then he meets a girl and buys a car, gets married, buys a bigger car, and then has children, so buys a minivan.    

All the time, he is climbing the corporate life and his salary is increasing.

When he gets to 45, with all the children having left the nest and still enjoying his health and vitality, he decides to indulge himself and buy this motorbike brand he has wanted since childhood. But his wife has a view.

She states that the children will soon be returning with grandchildren, that there will be BBQs in the backyard and that every other house on the street has a swimming pool – and that’s how the money should be spent.

So this world-famous motorcycle brand invests in campaigns that give the man an argument against swimming pools.

Simple lesson

The lesson is clear. Your competition does not do the same thing as you: it is after the same thing as you. So if you are a cruise line, your competition for a cruise might not be Royal Caribbean, Carnival or P&O.

It might well be a conservatory, a kitchen appliance or a new car. The Amazons and Googles might not do the same thing as you, but they are after the same thing you are, so keep vigilant.

Remember, your competition comes in many forms – and it’s not always the obvious ones.


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