You’re competing with more than just your peers.
It won’t surprise people to know that I was quite full of myself at school. When I was about 13, and thrilled about a particularly strong set of results, a teacher took me to one side to bring me back down to earth. He congratulated me on my marks and proceeded to tell me that although they placed me ahead of my friends, I probably wasn’t the top 25% in the country.
That slapped me down like nothing else. I remember it vividly because it was so painful. He’d told me that I wasn’t doing that well. I was winning in the lower leagues but hadn’t realised the big leagues existed. If I wanted to do really well I had to compete against every other 13 year old in the country. I wasn’t only competing against my peers. I worked much harder after that conversation.
Starbucks vs. The Independent
Let’s fast-forward to the day after the owners of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday announced they would cease printing.
“We have always found it terribly depressing that people will happily pay £3.70 for an appalling coffee from a takeout place and yet they won’t pay £1.60 or £2.20 on a Sunday for what is in effect a novel’s worth of terrific writing,” said Lisa Markwell, editor of the Independent on Sunday, on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
The exasperation is evident. So is the hefty load of judgment about the way people choose to spend (or not spend) their money. There’s also a very astute point amongst the angst: Markwell understands that her paper is fighting Starbucks as much as it’s fighting the Observer.
They’re competing for not just the money in our pockets, though. They’re competing for our free time too. For many, Sundays are a day to relax. Some people might grab a coffee on their way to see friends, others might find a quiet corner and sift through the papers.
Marketing and communications has gone through huge changes in recent years. There are various narratives for these changes but we can encapsulate them all with the term: integration.
It means different things to different people, but in practical terms it means there are more companies offering the same services. For example, a fictional MegaCorp’s advisers, from its brand consultancy to its ad agency to its PR firm will be able to provide it with a new website. But how many websites does a company need?
From this perspective, it’s easy to reach the conclusion that integration means the market is more competitive than before. But it’s the wrong conclusion.
As my teacher knew and as Markwell knows, we’ve always been competing with more than just our peers. Brand consultancies, ad agencies, PR firms, we’re all chasing the promotional pound. We’ve always been competing against one another. Integration has just made the competition more obvious.