How to Perform a Competitive Brand Analysis
What is a Competitive Brand Analysis, why is it important, and how do you perform one?
Performing a Competitive Brand Analysis is the first crucial step in developing and executing upon a solid brand strategy. A successful brand can’t be designed within a vacuum. A Competitive Brand Analysis takes into account several dimensions of your competitors’ branding to provide the context you need to develop your own brand. Only by knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors can you develop a brand that is truly differentiated.
When performed correctly, the Competitive Brand Analysis is the one document that will outline exactly what is needed to breathe life into your brand and provide a competitive edge.
Each analysis is unique for a given industry and product category so there is no one-size-fits-all framework; rather, it’s a process of discovery. Each analysis, however, does aim to answer similar questions. At the end of your Competitive Brand Analysis, you will be able to answer the following questions with your report:
- Who are my competitors?
- What are their brand values?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses and their level of brand sophistication?
- What are their visual expression strategies?
- What are the industries’ expected brand values?
- What gaps exist in the branding landscape?
- What branding trends exist in this industry?
- How should my brand be positioned relative to my competitors?
Step 1: Discover Your Competitors
If you don’t already have a good list of 10-15 competitors in your space, there are several ways you can go about discovering who your competitors are. Your competitors are those who sell similar products and services and/or sell similar solutions to the same target audience.
The easiest way to identify your competition is to run a quick online search. What kinds of questions would a prospective buyer ask Google? If the same companies keep coming up, they’re likely direct or indirect competitors (those who aim to solve the same problem but through different means) and should be included in your audit.
Step 2: Map Out the First Impressions of Your Competitors
After you have your list of competitors, spend 15-30 minutes at minimum on each competitor and form a first impression. We want to experience—as closely as possible—how a prospective buyer would experience the brand if they just discovered it. Some key questions to ask during this step:
- What do they do? Is it clear?
- How do they do it? Is it appealing?
- How does their website make you feel?
- Do you trust them?
- Do they tell a good brand story? Why do they exist? What is their purpose?
- Are their values expressed in the way they talk about themselves and to their customers?
- Are you excited to do business with them? Why or why not?
Step 3: Determine Their Level of Brand Sophistication
Based on your first impressions, determine the brand sophistication of your direct and indirect competitors and visually lay them out. Worst brand experiences to the left and best brand experiences to the right. If you have a saturated list of direct competitors, only move the top 5-10 forward in this audit. If your list of direct competitors is smaller, include some of the top indirect competitors.
Step 4: Analyze the Tone of Top Competitors
Revisit the marketing assets of your top competitors. You’ll want to take a deep dive into these 5-10 competitors and/or indirect competitors. Your number one resource will be their website, but you can also check out their YouTube channel, follow their Twitter and Instagram, like their Facebook page, and subscribe to their newsletter.
In this stage, you’ll want to discover the competitors’ voice: how they talk about themselves, their products and services, and how they talk to customers. Be sure to check out their:
- General website copy
- Ad copy
- Article text
- Blog posts
- Brand anthem video
- White paper text
- Product descriptions
- Webinars or powerpoints
- Social media posts
- About Us page
- Our History page
Step 5: Analyze Their Visuals
Take plenty of screenshots of the top 5-10 competitors. Lay them all out in front of you, grouped by competitor. Which colors are prevalent? How is each brand visually tied together? Does there seem to be an overarching strategy to their look and feel? How do the visuals make you feel? Be sure to collect their:
- Header images
- Selected stock photos
- Color story
- Product packaging
Step 6: Analyze Their Brand Identities
Collect the information gathered from all the previous steps. Based on what you’ve learned, start asking the big questions:
- What are their value propositions?
- What are their differentiators?
- What do they think makes them special?
- What is their brand mission or statement?
- Are they doing a good job of expressing that?
Step 7: Position Your Competitors’ Brand Archetypes
Trying to reverse-engineer the brand positioning of competitor brands can prove to be a daunting task. We like to use a brand personality organizing approach called brand archetyping to help make this task easier.
At Trig, we use brand archetypes to build solid foundations of brand personality. Archetypes, a term originally coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung back in the 1920’s, is used to describe universal personality types that we encounter in stories, movies, and in real life every day. Because they are universal, everyone intuitively understands, and is familiar with, these brand personalities. Everyone knows who a Ruler is, who a Jester is, and what personality a Sage, Lover, or Outlaw should have.
You can map the personality of your competitors’ brand to these archetypes based on their brand identities: their collection of values, visuals, and tone. Less sophisticated brands will have less consistent brand personalities, but as you explore top competitor brands, you’ll begin to see that they easily fit into one or two (primary and secondary archetypes) set of personality traits.
Step 8: Identify Gaps & Opportunities
Once you have identified the brand archetypes of your competitors, you can begin to see which archetypes or identities are missing within your industry. Occupying one of these currently vacant archetype spots and effectively expressing that archetype boldly will allow you to differentiate yourself from your competitors by using a completely different voice and visual expression than what consumers have been used to thus far in the industry.
At this stage, you can also begin to analyze the groupings of the competitors. Why is there a saturation of competitors for a particular archetype? What are these competitors all doing, and what is it that they’re all not doing? Depending on the personality of the brand you’re looking to develop, you may choose to go with the flow (but do it better) or take a risk and go against the grain of industry expectations (to boldly stand out).
Step 9: Consider Industry Macrotrends
Does there seem to be a general visual or tonal direction your industry is heading toward in order to address some macrotrend, a long-term shift that affects large populations of people? To add further context to your brand development process, doing the latest research on macrotrends that may affect your industry will allow you to build a brand that is as future-proofed and as inspired as it can be. We highly recommend Wunderman Thompson’s Future 100 annual reports as a starting point for this type of research.
Step 10: Pick Your Place
Now that you have analyzed your competitors’ brand identities, considered gaps and opportunities within branding in your industry, learned about macrotrends that may affect your company or organization, and identified vacant brand archetypal positionings, it’s time to choose where to lay down the foundation for your own brand.
You will first need to do some serious introspection to answer these important questions about the ethos of your brand:
1. Why do we exist? (Purpose)
What is the purpose behind your business that inspires you and your employees to love what they do?
Examples - To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete (Nike). To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness (Coke).
2. Where do we want to go? (Vision)
What is our ultimate goal?
Examples - To provide access to the world’s information in one click (Google). To create a marketplace for everybody powered by everybody (eBay).
3. What do we do to get there? (Mission)
What specific initiatives do you employ to help you go where you want to go?
Example - We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience (Amazon). We create hilarious commercials that make us extra sticky (Geico).
4. How will we behave in order to get there? (Core Values)
What is the organizational culture of your company, and what behaviors and qualities do you value most?
Examples - Simplify and Go, Be a Sponge, Do the Right Thing, Always be on Offense (Nike). Be Your Own Customer, Good Work Takes Time, Optimize Toward Ideals (Squarespace).
5. What archetype do we lean toward? (Positioning)
Which archetype best captures your purpose, vision, mission, and values?
We recommend avoiding archetypal positonings that are saturated with competitors; instead, we recommend selecting an archetypal positioning that is currently missing from the industry. This will give you a head start for having the most differentiated brand identity when compared to that of your competitors.
No one can design an effective brand strategy within a vacuum. Performing a Competitive Brand Analysis will help you get the information you need to cultivate a brand that stands out from the crowd and effectively communicates your values. So discover your competitors, pretend you’re scoping them out for a service, form your first impressions, study their tone and visuals, reverse-engineer their brand identities, categorize them within brand archetypes, identity gaps and opportunities, and consider how macrotrends may influence your industry. You’ll be off to a great start in creating your own captivating brand strategy.