If you’re always keeping an eye on the other guy, you might end up missing out. And feeling miserable. Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • To compare is human. We evaluate ourselves and others constantly. In fact, some studies have found that “as much as 10 percent of our thoughts involve comparisons of some kind”.
  • There’s an upside here. Comparison helps us with self-improvement. We see where we want to be and we’re motivated to get there.
  • But this upside is often outweighed by negative emotions like self-judgement, envy and disappointment.
  • The same holds true in the world of business. It’s very easy to develop the condition known as “competitive myopia“—comparing yourself to your rivals to an obsessive degree.
  • This condition comes with its own set of downsides. For example, a narrow focus on a few close competitors can easily miss emerging threats from less obvious challengers. Think Blockbuster and Netflix.
  • Competitive myopia can also take your attention away from other important things. Like your customers.
  • Jeff Bezos has taken great pains to prevent Amazon from falling into this trap: “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.”
  • For marketers, the dangers of competitor obsession are particularly acute. If you’re not careful, myopia could lead you into the dreaded sea of sameness.
  • Tom Roach describes this pitfall with chilling clarity: “Sameness is commercial suicide. Competitive advantage is intrinsically linked to difference.”
  • So what can you do to avoid the misery and pitfalls of endless comparison? Warren Buffet talks about having an “internal scorecard”—as opposed to an external one.
  • This handy notion works equally well on a personal and business level.
  • Tara-Nicholle Nelson suggests a customer-centric reframe of who (or what) your true competitors are: “Your competition is every obstacle your customers encounter along their journeys to solving the human problems your company exists to solve.”
  • Related tip for digital marketers: try to not create the obstacle yourself. 😀
  • Another tip that works equally well in a personal and business context comes from Shane Parrish: “There is one thing that you’re better at than other people: being you. This is the only game you can really win.”
  • In marketing terms, this means ditching generic or comparative measures in favour of metrics that mirror your specific strategy.
  • It also means leaning more heavily on the tool that defines what “being you” means— your brand strategy.
  • (If your brand strategy doesn’t capture what makes you unique, it’s probably time to upgrade your brand strategy.)
  • Of course, some degree of competitive awareness is necessary. If you don’t see the field you’re playing on, you’re suffering from another kind of myopia.
  • Also, bringing all the ways your competitors are leaving you in the dust to the c-suite’s attention can sometimes magically increase your marketing budget.
  • Ultimately, competitive comparisons are like rich desserts and roller coasters—good in small doses but problematic as lifestyle choices.


Issue #153
Sep 25, 2022

Further Reading