Taking Inspiration From Competitors

If it’s a good idea, someone else will probably have it too. This is one of the concepts discussed in a podcast I listened to. Here the narrators discuss the fears that keep people from looking into products similar to their own; they don’t want to steal an idea, or they don’t want to lose the motivation to finish their product because something similar has already been done. But people who do this are trying to innovate or create blindly. 

In Design Thinking we learned to importance of competitor analysis. In order to understand how your company can operate within a market you have to understand who else is operating in that same market and how. By analyzing competitors you can better identify your product’s or service’s unique selling points and how to promote those. You can also take inspiration from how competitors have done something well and try to emulate that. Or you can see what mistakes they’ve made and therefore have a better chance of not making those same mistakes.

After the first trade fair we came away with the feedback that we needed to redesign our selling stand and our book. So our next step was to do some competitor analysis and also some field observations. Our team took a trip into central London to look at book stands in bookstores and to check out The School of Life store, whose books are one of our main competitors. 

My favorite bookstore that we visited was Waterstones. They had many book stands that were arranged differently but you could immediately see the purpose of each one. Some stands had many different books that focused on a single topic, such as humor or self-improvement. Other stands were promoting a new book so they either only had that book on the stand or they combined it with supplementary material related to that book, such as mugs with quotes from the book or notecards. One similarity between all the book stands is that they were always kept full. 

I also really liked the School of Life store, though it was designed completely differently than Waterstones. Their displays were not full and even only had a single color family, such as blue tones. The store was organized exclusively by topic, such as romance or spirituality. We took a lot of  inspiration from this store. First, we were not producing large quantities of our book so we couldn’t have a full stand and therefore decided to have a minimal stand design as well. We also changed our product design (particularly the book cover, business cards, and poster) to share a single color of green.

However, we learned that though it can be helpful to take inspiration from competitors it can also hinder your company if you do not consider how that inspiration will fit with your existing product. For example, we designed our book cover to be similar to The School of Life books, so it had a green background and a title. Then during a Dragons Den we got the feedback that the cover was too much like a textbook and very bland. This relates back to one of our books unique selling points—that it was not too analytical like other self help books. We had designed a book cover that did not match our USP or our book’s content, simply because we liked the way it looked on a competitor’s book. 

So in the future I will have to be careful that when taking inspiration from competitors I still remain true to my company’s value proposition, branding, and USPs. I think it would be helpful to come up with a list of questions before implementing something from another company into my own. What benefits did that company get from doing this? Do I want those same benefits? If so, will doing this the same way actually get me the same benefits or not?

Bibliography:

Jones, A. (2019). Mindfulness For Leaders With Dr. Audrey Tang. The Extraordinary Business Bookclub. [Podcast]. [Accessed 20 April, 2019]. Available at :https://extraordinarybusinessbooks.com/episode-161-mindfulness-for-leaders-with-dr-audrey-tang/

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