Kick Your Competitor’s Ass

DC United at the DC Auto Show

Yes, you did read the headline correctly. One of the most annoying flavors of kumbaya in social media circles remains the idea that we should all get along. These voices leave no room for public competition. Meanwhile most of the folks singing this tune don’t run businesses, and are bloggers and their fans. They are clueless about winning market share.

Ignore them. As a marketer, your job is to outperform your competitor.

Growing the pie bigger and helping the industry makes sense. That’s just part of being a good community member. Acknowledging when a competitor does good things makes sense, too. Facts are facts, and everyone appreciates best practices. You probably like some of your competitors. Hey, sometimes it even makes sense to team together for larger purposes.

The cause space could stand for less competition and more cooperation since nonprofits seek to resolve the world’s ills rather than compete. Still, nonprofits have different ideas and approaches towards change, and compete. Thank goodness because some approaches don’t work, like Komen’s suing other causes over the phrase “for the Cure.”

When it comes to direct one to one market competition and position, your job is to win. “Me, too” platitudes and nicety will cause your organization to fall behind more often than not.

If a competitor launches a winning service, innovate and offer customers a better offering. When the competion catches up and betters you, focus and compete on quality, price, timeliness, distribution and services. Look how Radiohead competes in all of these areas compared to traditional recording artists.

When competitors have weaknesses or hurt the market with bad practices, position against them and seize the market. See Google Android versus iPhone (open versus closed operating systems). When competitors make poor decisions that distract them from your customers, let them fall down. Who cares if they like it or cry about it? Are you in business or in a popularity contest?

Whether its your phone operating system, selling music and tickets, ideas via blog content, a better answer to social crisis, or a marketing firm, competition exists. Kick ass, and don’t look back.


  • Geoff,

    You’re right. There are times to play nice and times to go for the win. You don’t have to hate anyone (much like football players don’t necessarily hate the opposing team), but the whole kumbaya movement gets old because people begin to fear criticizing and criticism when the idea doesn’t merit linky love and tweetuffery. I prefer a bruise now and again because it makes me remember to try a little harder.

    Besides, people who continually lift their little micro-networks up tend to create bubbles. And when that happens, the only people left listening after awhile is that micro-network.

    Something to think about.


    • It’s also a means for others to maintain leadership. It’s craptastic! I laughed when I saw your most recent post on popularity and thought to myself how much business I generated writing what I wrote versus what some of the popularity contest winners won… Not sure I’d trade places. I’m not selling subscription services EVER!

      • Right on. I don’t see nearly as much leadership in social as I used too either. They are not leading any more.

        One “leader” recently advised someone that the only way to be taken seriously is to build a large network and then people will listen. That’s all they did, they said. And now look … they can say anything and it’s treated as brilliance (and some do say anything).

        Ho hum. It used to be more interesting when what was said was as important as who said it, which is why social media had some charm. Now, those who used to discount case studies are pushing for popular, because they never had the latter.

        I’m fine with that from a competitive standpoint because I already pick and choose. What kills me is that some of the ideas on the table misguide and dumb down students. Why bother learning anything if *all* you need is a bigger network of mutually beneficial like buddies?

        Rock on Geoff,

        • The misguiding is my number one issue and the source of my antagonistic point of view towards the “leaders.” I have to disavow clients and prospects of this junk regularly. That’s annoying.

  • Do you actually believe this as Principled as it pertains to Social Media? Is having a “conversation” only a lip-service description, and not a real thing, a real conversation? Do you want to have conversations where you kick the ass of others in the conversation?

    • It’s reality, dude, not bubble social media rules.

      • sometimes “kicking someone’s ass” involves incorporation. (But thanks for kicking my ass! LOL).

        • Heh, what do i know? I’m just a loud mouth, but I’m glad we can kick each other’s ass on a blog and not be afraid to do it, or take it more seriously than just a conversation. I do appreciate the context and differing view!

          • Hey, you put up a controversial title because you wanted push-back. Right? I just gave a little something for your post, legitimate, but rhetorically equal response. Honestly though I think there is something to this Social Media fluff (despite it’s annoying self-help and love excesses), and it involves a real shift in American corporate culture, with real consequences in terms of profit and practices. I actually wrote a bit about this recently:
            Your post was a bit of a throwback. Why not though, there is room for both.

          • A middle road more than likely is the best course. I mean look at Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. Not much love going around publicly or privately there. But they all use these tools to engage with the right stakeholders…

            And see, the title brought about a fantastic conversation or two! That in its own right made it worthwhile.

          • I find the broad-scale Brand image ethics fascinating, the “do no evil” of Google, “we just want people to connect to each other” of Facebook, the “peace, love, design” of Apple. There is the weird way that companies USE these feel-goods for positioning and leverage, but then again get trapped them a bit, having to live up to them (Google v China; Facebook v Privacy). The ethical position works in two ways. It gives you authenticity you can push to some degree, but then it also shapes you, changes your practices. And this is even more so the case with Social Media on the rise. Your correspondence to your image becomes a public issue. And this also is the case within Social Media communications. You cannot just abuse the “conversation” ethic without falling out of the conversation. You can try to manipulate it, but it is probably just easier to “get” it.

            Anyways, great post and conversation.Looking forward to more absurd & outrageous blog titles :).

          • Well, the ethical position plays against if you are not authentic, so I think Facebook’s positioning has nothing to do with ethics, lest they’d say we protect people. Aplle screws nonprofits regularly is considered less than rosy. Both companies fare well. Point being the “conversation” ethic is a social media myth, not a market reality.

          • completely disagree. The “family album” effect that Facebook trades on had to seriously backpedal when the values around friendship sharing was perceived to be encroached on by business interest. They still have to walk a tightrope there, and face a substantive problem in that Advertising mixes so much better with “Search” than it does with “look at my 3 year old on my tricycle!” (different values to be respected). And the conversation ethic certainly is no myth. If you are company who just broadcasts shouting about how great you are, you’ll be unfriended and unfollowed about as fast as the drunk guy who enters a nice house warming party talking loudly about his new car and 6 figure income. Its more than a “myth” the expectation of values and practices by users by medium.

          • “If you are company who just broadcasts shouting about how great you are, you’ll be unfriended and unfollowed about as fast as the drunk guy who enters a nice house warming party talking loudly about his new car and 6 figure income.” Tell that to the A-Listers. Doesn’t seem to affect their position.

          • does it affect their real world effect?

          • Doesn’t seem to…

    • Personally I like having those conversations with a room full of execs or employees. One on one is not productive usually.
      It’s still not all blood and guts, but it truly separates fluffy people from knowledgeable people.

      • Sure. Why not. But “knowledge” does not = “I want to kick your ass”. Best strategy involves a combination of tactics, “I want to kick your ass” is an attitude, not a tactic. Is there too much fluffy talk in Social Media? Sure. Does it mean that fluffy tactics which involve market growth, medium enrichment, mutual knowledge sharing have nothing to do with “winning”? Not sure about that. But maybe some people would like to brand themselves as “ass kickers” so to attract certain clients, no? Sounds like a reasonable tactic.

        • I would argue the only way to truly kick your competitor’s ass is to be better than they are, not by positioning. Positioning only works if you have the chops to back it up.

          • Agree, positioning is the mentality of the second place, or later option. However, sometimes in business you work for that 2nd place person/company and the effort is to at least catch up, not always to win, because to win requires a complete company effort. Not impossible, but not likely either, especially in a short term effort.

          • I’m not sure my strategy would ever be to catch up…in any situation, business or otherwise.

          • Marc, I agree, not a good strategy at all. However, there is a long list of companies that do this every single day, year in and year out. As long as a log is on the flames they will keep it rolling without any true change.
            Thus sometimes one has to kick the customer first.
            Yes they all want to win, but building a car that comes in a different color, but for 10,000 more is not the answer, yet many do it that stay in the pack.
            They have poor survival of the fittest skills.

          • If you can’t back it up, you’re just playing “Mad Men”

        • Maybe it comes down to one’s personality as an approach. But to attract clients, I can see many people pulling this, should do a test run to prove this one. :-)

          • Isn’t one of the biggest challenges of Social Media to “translate” social-media-talk into the roots of good ol’ fashioned ass kicking corporate Capitalism? Not to sound too namby pamby about it the “communication group hug”.

        • I think “I want to kick your ass” is more of an attitude as well. Not a stated strategy.

  • I agree, there is a time and a place to go for the competition, but it is usually not in public or via a blog. However, there are ways to show your competitor in a poor light without really nailing them to a wall.
    The side that says show the greatness also has a spot.
    Show what is so good, or talk about what is so great but when push comes to shove, and you need to truly know what you are talking about, you can lay into someone but a winner takes all attitude will never help you in the long run with clients. Of course having said that, some people I know have made a living doing just that because there is always a dark side to balance the force.

    • I’m not sure I’d agree with that. I think countering ideas has its merits on a blog. I have a distaste for the belief that because someone puts an idea on a blog or a product or a service that it should not be challenged or questioned or positioned against. But I think doing it with civility has its points, too.

      • Yes, countering has merits on a blog post, but to repeatedly do it, unless that is your role, can do more harm than good.

        • Agreed, and to repeatedly target the same competitor makes you look well, secondary and following as opposed to leading. Good point!

  • Pingback:Interesting reads for the day 16 January 2011 « Fuzzagent – The web marketing curation blog

    […] Kick Your Competitor’s Ass Yes, you did read the headline correctly. One of the most annoying flavors of kumbaya in social media circles remains the idea that we should all get along. These voices leave no room for public competition. Meanwhile most of the folks singing this tune don’t run businesses, and are bloggers and their fans. They are clueless about winning market share. Read the complete article: Geofflivingston […]

  • My first time commenting :)

    Since I agree with your point, I’ll comment on the ideas that we should all get along. Yes, I particularly distaste the fact that you can’t question someone else’s ideas because they are so called gurus and prophets. There is something insane and creepy about social media proselytism;

    Great article


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