Mapping Competitors: A Visual Approach

Written by Nick van der Velde, BoP Marketing & Distribution Expert.

When developing a marketing or business strategy, having a clear overview of your competitors is a must. Whether you’re developing a new brand of yoghurts in Eastern Uganda or launching a chain of vegetable shops in central Ethiopia. In this post we discuss the value of conducting a quick and snappy competitor research, and how to distill valuable insights that can be relevant for developing a marketing strategy.

More often than not, competitor analysis becomes part of a more extensive market research already conducted. These research assignments often result in lengthy PDF documents that can be hard to grasp. Whenever I review such a market research, I first scroll through the document and search for the images. However, most often I simply don’t find them. It seems the researchers have forgotten (or maybe they don’t know) the importance of having a visual overview of competitive products. Why is a basic photo featuring competitive brands so important? First of all, it helps to show the diversity in packaging designs. From the actual name of the brands, the logo design, the artwork, colors and type of packaging used. Second, it is the perfect way to categorize your competitors according to price and value. Simply arrange the brands according to price. Lastly, it can help you in your own (pricing) strategy and development of the differentiating factors of your unique offering.

In addition, take the perspective of your future customers: How do they perceive competitors? All the strategy work comes down to the price, packaging design and perceived quality. That’s what communicates and what the consumer perceives. And most likely, your future customer is not ‘waiting’ for your new product offer. They already have a product from your category and he/she already has a ‘brand-preference’. Making this customer ‘switch’ brand and capturing him or her is a challenging task!

If you have the opportunity to work closely together with an organisation, you can even take it a step further: Bring the competitive products to a workshop. Simply distribute them on the table and show the participants their competition. What’s even more interesting, is to let them organise the products according to the price and value. After doing so, ask the organisation to position their own brand. Where will it be placed? If they don’t compete on price (but on value), are they certain they can beat their more cost-effective competitors?

Preparing this exercise takes one evening. Simply visit three to five local kiosk and supermarkets and purchase all the products available in that category. Not only do you have a good overview of the range of competitors and their designs, you also have the pricing per product on your receipt. In two hours and $20 you will have the most detailed competitor analysis you need! Lastly, you are able to compare the data written on each packaging which can be helpful if you need to design your own.

During one of our workshops, a cooperative showed us their concepts design for the packaging. We immediately could see the packaging was rather traditional and not very distinctive. Instead of starting an argument, we asked them to print the design. The next day we brought all the competitive products that we could find and it became clear: all of them used the same colors (green and blue), fonts, images (displaying images of food) and packaging. When launching a new brand, it could be smart not to design the exact same packaging right? Together we are now considering redesigning their packaging design and capture a more distinct position in the market.

As reference, this post features three photos that show a competitor overview. The first one shows dairy products in the Mbarara region (Uganda), the second from oil products in Kasese (Uganda) and the last one porridge products in Nairobi (Kenya). These photos have supported various organisations to define their strategy and develop a competitive brand and product in the market.


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