As PR counsel, we spend a fair amount of time not only offering our thoughts on how a company or organization can refine its communications practices and spread the word about what's great, but we also pay attention to the competitive landscape and help identify ways that products or services can be uniquely differentiated from competitors. Of course, that's critical to all messaging and positioning--not just what makes a company or product great, but what makes it different or better than an alternative.
Twice this morning I noticed other voices commenting on the topic of how aggressive one should get, in terms of competitor-focused messaging and competitive-oriented initiatives in general. eWeek's Renee Boucher-Ferguson commented specifically on the well-documented rivalry between Oracle and SAP, two software companies who constantly position themselves based on their relationship with each other. It was certainly interesting to see that in some cases, too aggressive a competitive stance can have a negative effect on a company's profitability. Makes sense, I guess--noone wants to hear too much negativity or immature "I'm better than him!" all the time.
Equally thought-provoking, though, was what Tom Foremski had to say about the subject. Tom wasn't making the same point--but was merely pointing out the mistake some CEO's and spokespeople make when they spend too much time talking about competitors in interviews, and not enough time promoting themselves and how they fit into the marketplace. It's a mistake I've witnessed a few times already, and one that is well worth pointing out to a client after the fact, to avoid it happening in the future.
I discussed my thoughts very briefly with Jesse and he pointed out that there's a clear line between calling out competitors where it's appropriate and "aligning an entire product/corporate strategy around a particular competitor, rather than focusing on your own company and what it’s good at."
I have to say, I agree--do you?