There is another use for reputation monitoring, however, which is to gain competitive intelligence.
What are your competitors doing?
Depending on the industry you are operating in, you will care about your competitors’ movements to different degrees. In some FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) markets, the big players expend a huge amount of effort in monitoring every move made in the marketplace - who is running a discount, what promotions are on offer, where you can buy something cheapest etc.
You can see examples of this in action in your local supermarket - where you will often see signs telling you that something has been price-checked against a competitor this week, or that a particular offer is x% cheaper than the store down the road.
We saw an example of this recently when a Waitrose (quality, though pricy supermarket) opened just opposite a Sainsbury’s in our neighbourhood. The Sainsbury’s was quite established and had a reasonably loyal customer-base, but nonetheless, the arrival of Waitrose to a neighbourhood must have given them pause to consider the possibility that their highest-spending, least price-sensitive customers might desert them to the quality newcomer.
As part of their launch strategy, Waitrose sent discount vouchers to all local households (£5 off when you spend £50, that kind of thing). This seemed like a nice idea and, indeed, I stuffed the vouchers in my pocket when I next went shopping, thinking that I might at least go and have a look. When I arrived, I was confronted by a large banner outside the Sainsbury’s saying “We are accepting Waitrose vouchers”. In my case at least (and judging by the overheard conversations in the store) it was a good tactic - I scrapped my plan to go into Waitrose and instead did my shopping as usual and claimed my discount.
It’s a small example - and in the ’real world’ away from the Internet, I don’t imagine there was any sophisticated monitoring going on to alert Sainsbury’s to their competitor’s tactic, but the Internet is a big place, and you are unlikely to find out about your competitors’ movements (at least until too late) unless you actively monitor them.
A funny spoof of this can be found in some competitive advertising.
Why not consider adding your main competitors into your normal day-to-day monitoring?
Who’s talking about your competitors and what are they saying?
The other reason you might want to add your competitors and their brands to your monitoring routine is that it might benefit you to know what is being said about them online (in the same way that you want to track your own buzz).
There are two scenarios here:
- your competitor starts getting really positive buzz for something they are doing; can you benefit from it? Can you hijack the message? Can you do some clever PR that makes people think you thought of it in the first place? If it’s only just beginning to get the buzz, you might be able to associate your brand with it
- people start bad-mouthing one of your competitors for a screw-up or oversight; you certainly want to avoid falling into the same trap, and potentially might be able to exploit the situation to your advantage - if it’s serious enough and you don’t think they’ll have it fixed any time soon, it could go into your comparative advertising if you are careful.
Comparative advertising rules
As an aside, I was interested to find the rules on comparative advertising (i.e. comparing your product to a competitor’s) in the UK while researching this post. Out-law.com tells us that comparisons are allowed in adverts provided:
- They are not misleading;
- They compare goods or services meeting the same needs or intended for the same purpose;
- They objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature which may include price;
- They do not create confusion in the market place between the advertiser and the competitor or between the advertiser’s trade marks, trade names, other distinguishing marks, or his goods and services, and those of a competitor;
- They do not discredit or denigrate the trade marks, trade names, other distinguishing marks, or the goods, services, activities or circumstances of a competitor;
- They do not take unfair advantage of the reputation of a trade mark, trade name other distinguishing mark or a competitor or of the designation of competing products;
- They do not present goods or services as imitations or replicas of goods or services bearing a protected trade name or trade mark; and
- Where a comparison relates to a special offer it must indicate clearly the date on which the offer closes, or, if appropriate, that the offer is subject to availability. If the offer has not yet begun it must also indicate the commencement date of the period during which the offer is valid.