Complaining is not competing



In the classic marketing book “Positioning” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, the authors tell a story about how the Michelin Guide I talked about last time almost sparked a diplomatic incident between Belgium and the Netherlands.


What most people don’t realize is that the guide rates cities as well as restaurants. In this particular year, coveted three star status had been awarded to five Belgian cities and only one Dutch city – Amsterdam. Looking to differentiate itself, the Belgian tourism ministry ran an ad campaign with the headline, “In Beautiful Belgium, there are five Amsterdams.”


Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing


While Ries and Trout focus on the success of the campaign as an example of great positioning, I found the most interesting part of the story to be the reaction of the Dutch Minister for Tourism. Upon seeing the ad, he called his counterpart to furiously demand that the ad be withdrawn and to castigate its creators.


This is a classic example of how losers in a competitive situation assume a negative and passive mindset that results in a complaint which achieves nothing, rather than a positive response that regains the initiative.


Pointless protest


We see this all the time - witness the taxi drivers who block the streets in protest at the arrival of Uber (inconveniencing their own customers and costing them hundreds of euros each in lost fares), rather than focusing on improving and differentiating their own service to compete more effectively.


Every business needs to use competition to its advantage by using it to drive innovation, action and improvement, rather than resorting to pointless protests or lazy copycatting.


If you want some ideas about how to respond to strong competition, click here to book a free 30-minute consultation.


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Copyright Hamish Mackenzie 2019

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