When should you target a competitor?

Companies must choose how their marketing will address their competitors. Some choose to ignore the competition, while others publicly target them. And some companies do both simultaneously.

Trellix et al: targeting competitors

Trellix, the company that emerged from the combination of McAfee Enterprise and FireEye, chose the to target its competitors. Trellix’s website contains two pages that target two specific competitors.

  • Trellix vs. CrowdStrike claims that Trellix delivers “earlier, better protection across all phases of the attack chain.” It follows this with a comparison chart that claims security lags.
  • Trellix vs. SentinelOne makes the same claim, but with a different comparison chart that claims a lack of expertise.

For its part, CrowdStrike offers comparisons against both SentinelOne and “McAfee,” while SentinelOne offers comparisons against both CrowdStrike and “McAfee.” Apparently these firms need to update their pages to reflect the new company name (and possibly new features) of Trellix.

Obviously the endpoint protection industry demands these types of comparisons to sway buyers to choose one product over another.

Apple: targeting industry leaders (and ignoring other competitors)

But competitor targeting is also used by upcoming firms to displace established ones. I’ve previously talked about (then) Apple Computer’s famous “Welcome, IBM. Seriously” ad “welcoming” IBM to the personal computer industry. This was part of Steve Jobs’ multi-year effort to grow Apple by targeting and displacing IBM. But while IBM was the clear target, Apple also targeted everyone else, as Bill Murphy, Jr. noted:

Added benefit: There were actually other personal computer companies that were just as successful as Apple at the time, like Commodore, Tandy, and Osborne. The Apple ad ignored them.

From https://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/37-years-ago-steve-jobs-ran-apples-most-amazing-ad-heres-story-its-almost-been-forgotten.html

By framing the circa 1981 computer industry as a battle between the Apple and IBM, Jobs captured the world’s attention. Not only by positioning Apple as David in a battle against Goliath, but by positioning Apple as one of only two companies that mattered. This marketing would reach its peak three years later, in 1984.

From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R706isyDrqI

When the targeter becomes the target

After 1984, the computer world changed dramatically (as it always does), with other companies creating what were then called “clones,” as well as the massive changes at both IBM and “Apple Computer” (now Apple).

Eventually, small spunky outfits challenged Apple itself, with Fortnite in particular targeting Apple’s requirement that Fortnite exclusively use Apple payments.

From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHLuKumkASg

So when should you target competitors?

The decision on whether or not to publicly acknowledge and target competitors varies depending upon a company’s culture and its market position.

  • As seen above, some markets such as the endpoint protection market demand competitor comparisons. Others (Apple 1981-1984, Fortnite 2020) target competitors to buttress their own positions. And don’t forget how Avis targeted Hertz in 1962, and Hertz subsequently responded.
  • Then again, sometimes it’s best to not acknowledge the competition. Again note that Apple only acknowledged one competitor in the early 1980s, refusing to acknowledge that the other competitors even existed.
  • In some cases, companies don’t acknowledge the competition because they don’t believe they measure up to the competition on benefits, features, or even price. For these companies, their challenge is to identify some advantage over the competition and promote that advantage, even if the relevant competitors are not explicitly mentioned.

(Bredemarket Premium) Getting competitive proposals WITHOUT submitting a FOIA request

One of the best ways to get competitive intelligence on a competitor is to request the competitor’s response to a government agency procurement, such as a proposal submitted in response to a Request for Proposal. This is done by submitting a request via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or equivalent.

One note: this technique primarily applies to government agency procurements, since governments are often required by law to disclose this information. Bids submitted to private entities usually remain private.

Of course, actually getting the competitor’s response isn’t easy.

  • First, you have to submit the request in the proper format.
  • Second, you have to be detailed in what you are requesting, and you need to request everything that you want: the actual proposal itself, any follow-up correspondence such as a best and final offer, the agency’s evaluation score, and everything else. If you only request the original proposal, the agency is only obligated to provide the original proposal, and nothing else.
  • Third, you have to wait for the agency to prepare a copy of the proposal. Depending upon applicable law, the bidder may be able to redact portions of the proposal, and it usually takes some time for the agency and the bidder to agree on what can legally be redacted.
  • Fourth, you may have to pay (usually on a per-page basis) to receive the materials.

This entire process may take several months, and you can’t even request the material until after the procurement has been awarded, or perhaps contracted.

But guess what? You don’t always have to submit a FOIA-like request to get a copy of a proposal submitted to a government agency.

By Neep at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3309749

And no, you don’t have to break the law; these proposals (and other valuable documents) can be obtained legally and ethically.

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(Bredemarket Premium) July update to a June post

By Chris Light at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13429378

I have an update to something that I previously wrote for my Bredemarket Premium subscribers.

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(Bredemarket Premium) Publicly available information on a major biometric firm’s plans

During my years in competitive analysis (either as a formal role or on an informal basis), I conducted the vast majority of my analysis using publicly available information. This could be obtained from a government agency via a public information request, or from a paid service that shares information to paying subscribers.

By Hoodedwarbler12 (talk) – I (Hoodedwarbler12 (talk)) created this work entirely by myself., Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26933846

And in some cases the information is freely available to anyone who knows how to use it.

However, if you want to continue reading this post, the rest of the post is NOT free. This is the first “Bredemarket Premium” post, which requires a subscription to read. For more information about Bredemarket Premium, see my recent mailing to my mailing list.

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(Past illustrations) Creating actionable information to document and expand a merged company’s combined market

(This past illustration describes something that I performed in my career, either for a Bredemarket client, for an employer, or as a volunteer. The entity for which I performed the work, or proposed to perform the work, is not listed for confidentiality reasons.)

By Lacrossewi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81149806


After a merger of two companies, the combined company needed to know which customers used solutions from the combined company, which customers used competitor solutions, and which used both.

For example, a customer may use the combined company’s solution for one product line, but a competitor solution for another product line.

As the combined company introduced new products and entered new markets, this information was also required for the new product lines and markets.


While others worked on front-end presentations of public portions of the data, I gathered the underlying data.

  • For multiple product lines, I recorded (when known/applicable) the type of customer (for example, a statewide government agency), current vendor, previous vendor, initial and extended contract value, product version, relevant statistics about the customer, and a designated reviewer for future quarterly updates.
  • The data was both stored separately for each product line and was also summarized.
  • Information was color-coded to highlight the combined company’s market position.
  • Data could be filtered as necessary (for example, only showing statewide government agencies).
  • The complete collection of highly sensitive data was tightly held.
  • Portions of the data were passed to selected subject matter experts on a quarterly basis for updating, allowing front-end presentations to be updated quarterly.
  • Additional information was gathered as new markets were entered and new products were launched.


The combined company had a better view of its positions in its various markets.

The resulting actionable information could be used to target specific customers and replace competitor products with the combined company’s products.