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Beating a Bigger, Badder Competitor

Beating a Bigger, Badder Competitor

Competition has always been stiff in retail. But it’s never been tougher for the little guy than in the era of the Big Box store. Today, an entire generation has grown up within walking distance of a Walmart and buying their home improvement goods from either Big Orange or Big Blue. The world their parents and grandparents remember – of the corner store where they greeted you by name – seems like a distant memory. But Mom and Pop might be poised to make a comeback.

If there’s one thing the average American consumer appreciates more than price, it’s the underdog. Because of this, consumer watchdogs are beginning to suggest that upstart or small businesses use the size of their Big Box competition against them. Actually point out the giant gorilla? Yes, exactly.

Why should you position your brand in direct competition with the big guy in town?

Here are several answers:

Being an underdog is not just about financials, is about politics and culture. The American culture is founded on the idea that the small business is best, the corner store is king, and mom and pop are where the real service can be found. It’s not difficult for even a generation brought up shopping at the big box to buy into this idea. Most of them have had a bad experience at the big box store. They hated that anonymous, slighted feeling and would love to erase that memory.

Think about the visceral reaction for the average consumer who sees a Starbucks on one corner and an independent coffee shop across the street. While they know what they are getting at Starbucks, they “feel” like they would bemore comfortable at the locally-owned shop. It’s not a question of reality. It’s a question of perception.

But what about a head-to-head comparison with the big boys? In some cases, it may be okay to admit you can’t compete on selection or price, but you can’t make that negative the centerpiece of your marketing campaign. Instead, you have to focus on what you bring to the table – specifically. In other words, just depending on “better service” is not enough. You have to sell a specific experience, a memory that can create anticipation and motivate that customer to return.

In the end, it comes down to what the customer thinks about when they compare your brands. What, specifically, is in their mind? If you can create a better mental image and anticipatory experience, you really can slay that giant.

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