• The Editor

Look outside your sector

How competitor research outside - not inside - your industry can give your creative thinking an edge.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash


When you're solving a business problem, it's very common to do competitor research.


Makes sense, because it's pretty obvious you need to know what your competitors are doing in the same market: what they're getting right, where they're dropping the ball, what their products are (kind of a big one that), how they talk about themselves, which channels of communication they use to sell their stuff, what their audience demographic looks like. And so on.


But you shouldn't just be checking out your direct competitors. There's a bunch of contemporaries and peers you may be overlooking as you seek inspiration.


What's often more interesting is to look outside your area of interest to see how other industries, sectors and groups behave and communicate. It's fertile territory for tips and tricks.


Not only can you learn how they do what they do, but you might find a way to do it better. Or just be inspired to bring some new thinking into your own creative process.


For example, you're working on an idea for a sports brand that appeals (or ought to) to teenagers. The traditional approach to competitor research would be to look at other sports brands that appeal to teenagers and see how they're doing it. Important, yes. But also a big old yawn.


A more interesting angle employed by some of the smarter teams I've worked with is to look at a successful drinks brand let's say, and see how they talk to their teenage audience.


What products do they sell? Don't say "drinks" - yeah yeah - I'm talking types of drink. What kind of ingredients are they made from? What product benefits do they talk about? What kind of language, design and fonts do they use? Do they go big on video marketing? How and where do they talk to their customers? Social, digital, events?


You can also think about different sectors. Outside of corporates and private businesses you've got charities, community groups and even government organisations. All these have their own ways of doing things that persuade their audience. Any or all of them might get your mind thinking in a different way.


This technique applies beyond business to all kinds of creative thinking. If you're a writer or designer, you can look at how other writers and designers produce their work. But what about how a games writer produces their work? What processes does a textiles designer use?


It can really shift your thinking from the conventional to something more innovative. Especially if there's a very 'set' way of doing things in your sector. Otherwise, it all gets a bit samey.


So next time you're looking at your own sector, look at someone else's. By being more like them, you could become a better you.

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