Comparing Competition

Don't Destroy, Differentiate from the Competition

Comparing Competition

Comparing Competition in Politics to Business 

There was a morning news show where a round-table of political analysts heads were discussing the extreme toxicity and competition in America’s current political climate. One of the hosts recalled a conversation he had with a political strategist comparing and contrasting the politics to business. In this conversation, the political strategist recalled the time he asked a marketing expert, “Why hasn’t Burger King ever directly attacked McDonald’s to gain an advantage?” The marketing expert replied, “The #1 rule in business competition is to never destroy the field.” What exactly does that mean?

David and Goliath 

McDonald’s is presently the #1 fast food burger chain in the world with Burger King at an out of sight distant second. Conventional wisdom would lead one to believe that if Burger King took on McDonald’s as David took on Goliath, Burger King would at least make a dent into McDonald’s market share. As the marketing expert noted, though this tactic sounds good in theory, there’s the real risk that Burger King would damage both companies by negatively branding the fast food burger industry. This is exactly what has unfolded in political competition over the last 30 years as the Democratic and Republican parties have destroyed the field of government in their polarizing attacks of one another. I’ll leave it to the political historians to discuss and debate which party started it. But with Congress’ approval rating at an all-time low, and social unrest spreading across the nation, the question of the outcome of such tactics may have already been answered.

Create Value, Innovate, Differentiate, Revitalize

In business, the goal is to outperform your competition and not attack them. The companies who consistently develop products that create value for consumers that can be sold for profit wins. You want to constantly innovate your product so it’s better, cheaper, faster or cooler to make your competitors weaknesses your strengths. Then you want to develop a creative marketing campaign to highlight the new product and get the attention of your competitors’ customers to make them your customers. One of Burger King’s first major attempts to differentiate itself years ago was to allow customers to make their burgers to order in their “Have It Your Way” campaign. Burger King immediately saw a spike in sales that forced the entire fast food industry to follow suit. The next time Burger King challenged McDonald’s supremacy it triggered the “Dollar Menu War” where both companies started putting premium items on their 99 cent menu. This discount battle lasted for less than a year as it depressed the profits of both companies, but Burger King attracted enough old and new customers to their stores to try new items during this time that it revitalized their brand. In both cases, no matter which company won or lost, the customers won – except around the belt line.

Prove Yourself 

The two major political parties are the exact opposite of Burger King and McDonald’s. They’ve calculated that the best way for their candidates to win is to simply tear down the other. Where a company like Burger King wants to prove that it can be better than its big brother McDonald’s, most political candidates only want to prove their opponent is worse. Burger King would never accuse McDonald’s of hiring illegal immigrants to gain an advantage. McDonald’s would never accuse Burger King of using cheap contaminated food to gain an advantage. You’ll never hear this line in a political debate: My opponent has a good plan, but here is why I have the best plan for the people. The political climate is so bad that any politician who dared be that candid would lose his or her own supporters. Why? Because years and years of the two parties destroying each other has destroyed civil politics which has disrupted the process of good governing.

Attack and Risk a War 

Surprisingly, two well-known companies actually did directly attack one another back in 2008. SABMiller launched a “Vote Miller” advertising campaign as a play on the Presidential election year which pitted a person named Miller against a horse representing their competitor – Budweiser. Budweiser initially ignored Miller’s campaign until it started gaining a lot of traction. Budweiser is world-renown for their creative advertising so it had to sting a bit that their #1 competitor was making gains on their turf. Eventually Budweiser started responding directly to Miller which only emboldened Miller to take things farther. This included buying a giant billboard displaying Miller Lite products next to Budweiser’s headquarters in St. Louis and filming an attack commercial at Budweiser’s gates. Budweiser took off the gloves by specifically stating, “How can Miller run for President when they’re not American owned?” This was a factual statement as Miller had merged with South African Breweries (SAB) a few years prior. All the same it seemed like a low blow to many. Eventually both companies started suing one another after they even started launching attacks on the convenience store level.  At this point both companies started to back off once they realized how far and fast things escalated. Their behavior was starting to upset many of their respective customers which was creating an opportunity for independent microbreweries to take advantage. If these companies had of continued at it, they would’ve risked destroying the field of mass-produced light beer which account for a majority of their respective sales.

State Features and Benefits 

And this brings us back to the current state of politics. Why would citizens have a favorable opinion of any politician when many of them state that government is inherently bad – even as they fight to keep their job in government? “Vote for us because we’re not our opponent!” is not a slogan that will make anyone take a favorable view of politics. Where are their statements of features to the voters? Where are their statements of benefits to the voters? Where are their statements of value to the voters? Why would any citizen believe politics can be better when both major political parties are racing to the bottom to win elections at the expense of those they are supposed to serve? Most of the American people are disgusted with our current government because politicians have tirelessly worked to destroy their field as a scorched earth strategy to beat their opponents.

Prioritize Value 

Burger King may never catch up to McDonald’s and become #1 in the fast food industry. But by not attacking McDonald’s as a last second Hail Mary, Burger King can at least find comfort in that they’re not sinking an industry that has faired pretty well during the best and worst of times. Businesses who prioritize creating value for their customers stay in business much longer than those who prioritize knocking off their competitors. Firing cannons to sink your opponent is a terrible tactic when you’re both on the same ship. Burger King and McDonald’s understand this to be true. Pepsi and Coca-Cola understand this to be true. BP and Exxon understand this to be true. FedEx and UPS understand this to be true. SABMiller and Budweiser learned this truth the hard way. The world will just have to wait and wonder if Democrats and Republicans will ever understand this truth.