What to Do When a Competitor Steals Your Marketing Strategy
When too many do the same thing, it stops working — and then it’s time to change
Pablo Picasso once said, “Great artists steal”.
So it’s inevitable as we spend more time in marketing that we can see more and more close competitors copy our moves. Following like sheep.
At first, I was shocked, territorial, and angry. Now I just pity them.
Seeing other companies ruthlessly copy my creative promotions, product release campaigns, or hype-tactics is ultimately a compliment.
Let’s face it… My hands aren’t free of blood either. 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 niche intentionally copy marketing campaigns and even products. They have no shame.
Why It’s Bad — The Inevitable Race to the Bottom
If everyone is doing the same thing, people get used to it. It becomes commonplace.
Your efforts to grab attention with new products or different campaigns 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 anyone wants. It devalues businesses, products, and even entire niches.
“Most 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
Let’s imagine this example:
I sell a product for $100.
You sell a similar one for $80.
I sell my next product for $60 + FREE bonus item, to compete.
You sell your follow-up for $49.95 + bonus item + free shipping.
Each step of the way margins get 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 to accept cheaper and cheaper prices overall. Believing fallacies like “shipping should always be free.”
I’ve seen buyers abandon their online cart for something they really want and can actually afford to “game the system” for that 10% off code that lands in their inbox.
Why? Because every retailer offers one. People have come to expect it and thus, we’ve created a monster.
What Should You Do? — Others Will Steal Your Campaigns, Strategy & Products
I’ve thought many times about calling these things out, 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, your competitor is selling an identical product, for an identical price just days after you launched it. (All of these things are true stories).
Business is a dirty business…
… and it’s just not the customers' 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 customers.
The authenticity has 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.
Stay One Step Ahead
Your only option is to evolve… to zig while everyone 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.