Walking in on the Kansas City Chiefs – Oakland Raiders game broadcast Sunday on FOX, the announcers were discussing the Chiefs defensive scheme. They reported the team’s defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton, told them that when planning competitive strategy, “I want to stay out of ‘never’ and ‘always.’”


What fantastic competitive strategy advice to incorporate this time of year as you implement new strategies.

While most brands want a consistent, always the same brand experience for customers, you don’t want to fall into familiar patterns with competitive strategy. When it comes to competitive strategy, you definitely want to take advantage of the power of surprise whenever and wherever possible.

Who Sees Predictable Competitive Strategy Moves?

Here's the big strategic thinking question: Who can best shed light on when your brand is defaulting to "never and always" in your competitive strategy?

Your marketing and brand managers MAY be able to point out places where THEY have gone to the same old, same old in their strategic planning and implementation. Chances are, however, they aren't going to be quick to come to the table and point out where they aren't doing everything they should to grow the brand.

Alternatively, look to these sources:

  • Your market research and data people - Do you have predictable patterns that show up in the data, whether it's in market research data or other data sources that reflect market activity? Dive in to see what you can see happening over and over.
  • Savvy, trusted customers - Every brand has customers that are brand fans with a keen appreciation of the broad marketplace and what each competitor is doing. Reach out to these customers for your brand. Ask them what they have to say about your "never and always" patterns.

Competitive Strategy – 7 Ways to Avoid "Never and Always"

Once you've got as good a handle as possible on your predictable competitor strategy moves, then it's time to introduce competitive surprises. They could include:

  1. Doing something that's opposite of what you always do
  2. Doing something you've never done before
  3. Randomly varying a pattern you always follow
  4. Doing way more or way less of things you can't stop doing, but can change the intensity
  5. Putting together two things you haven't done together before
  6. Using channel partners in new and different ways
  7. Changing aspects of the marketing mix that are on autopilot for new product launches

Start there and see what else you can do to turn back from a competitive strategy that needlessly depends on "never and always."  – Mike Brown

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