Studio Ostendo operates in multiple creative fields including photography, design, and education.
A competitive analysis can seem like a task so daunting, you want to turn your tail and run. It sounds tedious, labor intense, and even impossible (if not boring). However, if you want to build a strong, healthy brand that competes in a Blue Ocean (that is, a market with no competition at all), a competitive brand analysis is necessary.
Fortunately, whether you’ve never conducted one before, or need to update your current competitor analysis, you’re reading the right blog post (and about to download the right resource!). I’ve created this guide and Free Competitor Analysis Template to help you complete yours quickly, painlessly, and easily. Let’s get started.
Competitive brand analysis is a way to identify your competition, learn how they position themselves, understand how they present themselves, outline their strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately strategize your brand opportunities.
Michael Jordan didn’t play without a game plan and neither should you. A competitive analysis like reading the playbook of your competitors, giving you the advantage you need to differentiate and position yourself to dominate. A strong competitive analysis helps you articulate the similarities and differences between your competition to help your plot your course to success.
The best time to do a competitive analysis is when you are launching or refreshing a brand, product, or service. Of course, if you’ve never done one before, then now is the best time.
The team you need to build depends on your brand maturity. If you’re a new startup brand, you’ll want cofounders and anyone in the company with brand or design experience (otherwise, reach out to a qualified branding agency about consulting). If you’re refreshing or rebranding, you’ll want relevant stakeholders and a brand steward, ie. someone who is in charge of overseeing the brand.
A competitive analysis can be both incredibly broad and incredibly detailed (I like to do multiple analyses depending on company size, markets, and audience factors). I’ll cover the basic competitive analysis approach which you can adapt to your situation, market, and scale.
The goal of any competitive analysis isn’t to write a novel about each competitor: it’s to identify and isolate the most pertinent information to help you understand who they are, how they communicate, and how your brand compares. After all, Apple and Microsoft both sell computers, but they’re brands are very different.
Odds are you already have your competitors in mind. If that’s the case, just do a brain dump of everyone you think is in your space, including that archnemesis and people you perceive as competitors
There are really two types of competitors to every brand and business: current competitors and aspirational ones. Divide your list into these two buckets.
Brands that are your current competitors or in a single space.
Brands you wish you could compete with (the Nike, Apple, BMW, Coca-Cola of your industry).
To save you time and help you understand everything that goes into documenting your competitors, I’ve created a handing, interactive .pdf template. Go download this free resource and fill it out with as many competitors as you need—just use multiple templates for more competitors. You can also print, email, or share the template with your team.
With your template in-hand, it’s now time to analyze your competitors by looking at every aspect of their brand. From their tagline and messaging pillars to their values, visual identity (logo, typography, colors, etic.), and brand voice. As you’ll see in the template, I’ve included things like:
Depending on your bandwidth, you can be general in your assessment, or very specific. In our design process, we like to get as specific as possible because the nuances o brand messaging often add up to the greatest impact for customers and clients. Being more detailed means you can better classify your competition and understand what makes them successful. Remember that your goal is to identify similarities and differences which ultimately leads to brand opportunities.
Even if you do a broad analysis, you’ll be able to notice trends in the ways your competitors do things, such as similar visual identities, similar messaging pillars, and similar marketing channels. These are valuable insights into the caste of your brand industry and indicators of where big market opportunities are.
Just as you did with your competitors, it’s important to document the elements for your own brand as it currently stands. If you’re a new business you might not have all the items listed and that’s just fit. This tool will help you identify what you’re missing and opportunities to grow and evolve.
Furthermore, as your brand develops naturally and intentionally, you’ll want to find a balance between:
The challenge for every brand is finding a balance, seeking out opportunities, and remaining original and authentic to who you are.
One of my favorite parts about brand analyses is developing a brand marketplace matrix. With a general idea of every brand’s positioning, grab a whiteboard and use a matrix (x and y axis) to chart the competition and yourself. This exercise will literally help you see where you lie in the marketplace.
Commit to doing a few different marketplace comparisons, such as:
By the end of a few of these matrixes you should have a comprehensive understanding of your competitors as well as your own strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. You should also be able to answer the most important question: Why should a customer choose your product/service instead of the competition?
With a completed competitive analysis, you’ll be able to refine your brand strategy (or build a new one) in order to help you effectively communicate why you do what you do, how you do it, what the world needs to know about it, and why that all matters. All that earns you a place in the market. You can start with our free Brand Strategy Toolkit, or start with these next steps:
Start by crafting personas that help you understand and connect with your target customer.
Document and articulate your Brand Core consisting of your Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Values.
Start by mapping your user journey so you can identify messaging opportunities and content gaps.
Sound like a lot? Don’t worry. If you need help at any stage, consider bringing in expert support by finding a creative agency, or just give us a call.