It is a conversation we invariably have with clients. Even if we think we know the answer, when in the early stages of a programme we ask how they feel about mentioning their competitors.
The answer is invariably: Don’t.
The subject in part came up at an event I was at last week, run by StrategyEye (OK, in part because I raised it). I asked StrategyEye’s Jeremy Phillips what advice he has on the subject.
To paraphrase, one of the common sense things he said was that sometimes it is just odd if you ignore your competitors – most certainly including good things they’ve done.
We’re not talking about lavishing praise on rivals for no reason but there is a huge element here of not treating an audience like fools. Ignoring another company doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Call this part of being authentic – an ongoing content marketing buzzword – if you like.
This subject also comes up when you embrace ex-journalists. Last year we spent some time tracking Nissan and its online newsroom operations. With its weekly video news digest, the Dashboard – high-quality stuff, produced by ex-journos – it took the view that it would report on its industry and that meant reporting on competitors, whether that meant favourable or critical comments.
For example, that meant reporting on Toyota recalls or competitive hybrid models, an altogether different approach to Nissan’s all-electric green cars.
Does this approach help? As someone looking to buy a new car, I certainly rate a company like that more than one that pretends the rest of the market doesn’t exist. As a content marketer, I haven’t seen any definitive data for or against it. (Nissan’s view is that it will “analyse where audience is and make content that elevates brand and overall opinion for that audience”.)
Make no mistake, this subject comes up on a daily basis in brands and agencies the world over. In our recent B2B Content Marketing 2014 report we mention the rise of brands employing ex-journalists. With that trend, expect the question to be raised even more. We also just like to think that enlightened brands will lead the way – and increasingly that’s what we’re seeing with our clients.
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