Everyone Is Competing Against Everyone, Just Like Everyone Else

The only thing surprising about the comments made by Netflix in its shareholder report about how it’s competing against Fortnite more than it is HBO is how surprised so many people were.

That level of surprise and bewilderment seems indicative of how companies are viewed almost solely within the silos of their industries, assumed to be competing only against others who are also in that category. So Sears is only seen as competing against J.C. Penney, Whole Foods against Kroger and so on.

If you’re in marketing and have been for any length of time you should know that such a narrow view of the world is problematic and can keep you from not only seizing opportunities but anticipating problems. It’s essential to take a more holistic view of the world if you’re going to successfully help your clients or employer succeed.

The reality is that of course Netflix is competing against Fortnite. It’s also competing against Fallout, Avengers: Endgame, the new Stephen King novel, YouTube, Starbucks, iMessage, Superman comics and everything else.

Marketing means you are asking the audience for two things:

  1. Their time
  2. Their money

It’s that simple.

The problem is everyone else is making the same requests. They all want the same time and money, but people only have so much of both. If they are spending $12 on a Netflix subscription that’s $12 less they have to spend on food or other goods. If they spend two hours seeing Aquaman in theaters, that’s two hours less they have to read a book or magazine.

Marketing’s goal is to make the product being sold appear to be more attractive and worthwhile than *everything* else that’s out there, not just the other options within a specific category.

Now there is some level of direct competition that happens. Target wants to make its stores more attractive to shoppers than Walmart and will work to send that message as frequently and effectively as possible. Similarly, each individual movie that’s released is hoping to get the $X someone has that’s dedicated to entertainment.

That’s why so much of marketing conveys a strong sense of urgency. The people sending that message wants to make the audience feel like they *need* to see a movie on opening weekend, or buy a product as soon as it’s available. When you are able to create or latch on to those moments where the product you’re responsible for crosses over to become a conversational touchpoint, you’ve done something special. And you have to seize those moments because they are fleeting and there are always scores of other things out there waiting to get people’s attention. Your product can be knocked off its perch – or kept from ever reaching the top – by any of them.

Part of the problem is that so much of marketing industry as well as the economics industry is siloed, which limits perspective. If you’re a “retail marketing expert” or “retail industry analyst” you’re more likely to view everything that happens to a member of that industry through the very specific filter of their experience. So the demise of Toys ‘R’ Us is chalked up solely to changes in the retail industry, not to the role Netflix and other streaming media might play in taking up more of kids’ time and parents’ money, or the rising cost of equipment necessary to pay for kids to be in traveling soccer leagues or any of a number of other factors.

Successful marketers, I’ve found, need to see the whole board, not just the section their client says they want to own or dominate. Only then are they fully able to advise those they’re working for about what’s coming, what’s hot and what they need to know about in order to successfully sell their products or services.

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