Where there’s chaos, there’s opportunity. There’s no better real-world example of this than the “pandemic boom” that sparked an influx of competition in many major industries: real estate, financial services, and construction, to name a few. At the height of the pandemic, all you needed to do was hang a shingle and you were in business! Competition didn’t matter because business was booming.
Now, things are changing. There are fewer customers with fewer dollars, who are more discerning about how they conduct business—and with whom. The pendulum has swung from supply-side abundance to demand-side scarcity, and it’s turning many markets into battlegrounds.
Welcome to the new Darwinian Economy of Recession, where it’s not just the fittest who survive, but those capable of taking up their own space in overcrowded arenas.
Survival of the smartest
Charles Darwin is the granddaddy of evolutionary science and the man responsible for correlating survival with adaptability. Without a doubt, we all know the phrase “survival of the fittest” and its meaning: those capable of acclimating are those capable of persisting. And while Darwin was mostly talking about marine invertebrates, his observations are well-applied to another type of invertebrate: your competitors.
For brands, to survive is to outcompete. It’s not just about having a better product or offering a better service; it’s about delivering a better message and doing it more effectively. To do that means to adapt to changing market forces, pandemic or otherwise. It means leaning into your competitive advantage and evolving around it.
Your service quality might be better. You might have proprietary technology. Your prices may be the lowest in town. Whatever it is, it’s your evolutionary advantage: the thing that will keep you at the top of the food chain in an environment that’s suddenly teeming with competitors. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to find one—or risk becoming a victim of Darwinian-style warfare.
The Art of War
Speaking of warfare, too many brands approach their crowded marketplace ready for battle. The marketing budget becomes a war chest, and every ad is a strategic attack. But almost no brand has the means to fight a war of attrition against a mass of competitors. It’s certainly not the approach JXM advocates for. Instead, we recommend brushing up on your Sun Tzu: “balk the enemy’s power; force him to reveal himself.”
Advertising your brand is enough of a battle in and of itself. If you’re in a marketplace that’s overcrowded and full of overeager competitors, don’t waste time attacking them all. Let your competitors fight each other while you focus on fortifying your competitive advantage. While they deplete time, money, and the patience of your audience, your brand can win with better targeting, better data, and better messaging—delivered through better frameworks.
Bringing focus back to your brand’s advantage puts the onus on your competitors to match you; rather than you matching them. You force competitors to rise to your echelon—a playing field most aren’t capable of contending on. Find a battleground they can’t possibly win on and make them bring the fight to you. With better frameworks for highlighting your competitive advantage, you won’t need to fight at all.
Put more virtuously: “balk the enemy’s power; force him to reveal himself.” Don’t attack the competition; outcompete them. Darwin will take over from there.
Don’t just survive; thrive
Here’s the thing about evolution: you don’t get to choose how you evolve. If you could, we’d all definitely still have tails (how cool would that be?!). Rather, evolution is a product of necessity. Humans stopped climbing trees and learned to walk upright and use tools. As a result, we lost the tail and gained opposable thumbs. Fair trade.
When it comes to evolving in an overcrowded market, your brand’s evolution needs to come from its ability to tailor its competitive advantage to changing consumer needs.
In extremely competitive markets—especially those that boomed post-pandemic—it’s easy to feel like you’re constantly on the defensive. It can feel like your competitors are everywhere, all the time, and it’s easy to get goaded into fighting a multifront war. The problem is, for every volley you fire, you’ll need to defend against 10 more.
War isn’t the way to win market share. Take it from the man himself, Darwin: “Intelligence is based on how efficient a species became at doing the things they need to survive.” Don’t fight to survive; evolve to thrive.
Far from cranking Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping, JXM brings an energy to competitive markets that goes beyond simply having resilience. Stop getting knocked down just to get back up again. Reach out and let’s talk about how you can evolve beyond your competition, so you can spend less time fighting and more time winning.