As busy marketers, we often quickly define our competitive set as the products or services that fall in our product's class. If you have been reading our Positioning Tips you already know to look outside of the products that are explicitly in the class to determine those that are part of the consideration set for your customers.

Generally, there are two approaches to identifying the competitive frame; 1) the set of competitors your customers “naturally” consider when contemplating a purchase. The natural competitive set is identified by knowing your customers, how they consider the product, what influences their decision making, etc; or 2) the set of competitors you would like your customers to consider when they contemplate a purchase, known as the defined competitive set. The defined competitive set attempts to have our customer weigh the benefits of our product against a set of competitors that fills a different but related need, but where our product is superior.

Consider the recent Dos Equis® positioning. In the current “Most interesting man in the world” campaign you see a strong example of how the Dos Equis brand team and agency partner used what they know about their target customers’ natural competitive set and beverage decision making to craft a positioning that cuts through the competitive noise to define a unique space for the brand.

Dos Equis® defines itself as a high quality alcoholic beverage, with a desire to be compared to scotches, wines, and even cognacs. They believe that their target customer is a person who prefers “drinks of quality” as personified by “the most interesting man in the world” – not traditional beer drinkers. Through a rich understanding of the customer they are targeting, the brand team understands that their customer’s drink choice is not limited to a number of beer brands, but that the competitive consideration stretches across drink categories and is centered on the quality of the drink. This understanding, the positioning, and the execution raised concerns initially in the corporate office, but the success of the brand, the impact of the positioning and campaign have made the phrase “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis” famous.

This competitive philosophy is not the right one for every product in every situation, but its utility and potential competitive advantage is likely more useful than you may have considered before. As we look into the various markets that we work in, one thing is abundantly clear, competitive differentiation is becoming increasingly more difficult. By purposefully considering and defining the competitive frame you wish to compete against, you open up new avenues and new possibilities for your brand that did not exist before.

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