Friday, January 8, 2010

Repositioning the Competition: The Art of War

Every strength can be a weakness and every weakness a strength. It’s all a matter of perspective. New companies can be perceived to be fresh and exciting, or experimental and unproven. Large companies can be perceived to be strong and stable, or staid and boring. Precision can be perceived to be rigid. Fast can seem careless. Creativity can seem undisciplined.

Opportunity is frequently found by viewing a competitor’s strength as his weakness. As Sun Tzu said, “If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve.” The stronger a competitor’s position, the more wisdom there is in attacking his flank.

Take for example the two tourist destinations discussed in previous blog entries, North Dakota and Disney. On the surface, Disney has all the advantage. Disney is well known and very good at creating a surreal and magical experience—an experience North Dakota could never believably deliver. Yet it is Disney’s strength that creates an opportunity for other destinations.

Because the Disney experience is as surreal and magical as it is, the experience can also be perceived to be benign and artificial. North Dakota could position itself as a more authentic experience by viewing a perceived weakness (cold and sparsely populated) as a strength (rugged and untamed). The more rugged and untamed the North Dakota experience came to be perceived, the more benign and artificial the Disney experience would seem by comparison.

Following the competition’s lead ensures only one thing…that you will always follow. A competitor’s strength is a strength for a reason. And direct assaults are usually futile. An indirect approach not only differentiates a company, it repositions the competition in the process. Simply promoting an alternative changes the way consumers view the competitors in a category. The more compelling the alternative, the more a company diminishes the strengths of its competition.

No comments:

Post a Comment