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193 Your Biggest Competition Is Thinking You Have Competition

Monday 15th July 2024

On this episode of Lochhead on Marketing, let’s talk about a trap that most budding Category Designers fall for, and that’s thinking about competition.

Welcome to Lochhead on Marketing. The number one charting marketing podcast for marketers, category designers, and entrepreneurs with a different mind.

Feature Battle vs Category Battle

Christopher shares a story of a company who consulted with him, regarding a rising competitor in the market. Most companies’ knee-jerk reaction would be to compete; take on the same messaging, and muscle out the competitor while it’s still early.

But in the end, they opted to do the opposite – they did not compete, at least not in the usual sense of it. Rather than doing a Feature Battle to see who has the better additions, messaging, and branding, they focused more on their product. They went the Category Battle route instead, carving out a large portion of the market with their improved category, and leaving the others battling for the remaining scraps.

Competition Derangement Syndrome

The apparent simplicity of the concept begs the question: why do most companies fail to adopt it? The answer lies in what could be termed “Competition Derangement Syndrome.” Many companies, instead of pioneering their own unique category to dominate, fall into a pattern of waiting for new categories to emerge before entering the fray.

Alternatively, larger corporations may opt to eliminate competition by acquiring the reigning Category King. However, this strategy essentially involves investing a significant sum to pave the way for the emergence of the next category, which their competitors will inevitably exploit. This cycle repeats itself, with each new category birthing fresh contenders, until the tables turn and the once-acquirer finds itself being acquired. Thus, the cycle perpetuates, underscoring the failure of many companies to break free from the pattern of reactive competition.

Competition vs Consumer

This does not mean that you avoid competing altogether. We are all driven by our will to fight, and business is not so different in that regard. But rather than going down to their level to fight on “equal” grounds, why not make it so that you are always thinking a few steps ahead, rather than slowing down just to match up to them.

And if they seem to be catching up to you at a faster rate, trying to adopt their strategies just means maintaining the status quo. It also sends the wrong message to the consumers, because you are adjusting for the competition, and not for them.

In the end, it’s better to achieve market dominance by consumer trust rather than just having the competitive edge, because there will always be someone that will try to compete. But as long as your consumers know that your product continues to improve for consumer satisfaction, then it will always remain as the Category King.


Christopher Lochhead

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