Why you need to research your competitors as a part of your branding process
One of the key parts of creating a brand identity is researching your competitors. This is an essential step in the process because it will help you create a brand that is distinctive in your market. When you know what your competitors’ brands look and feel like, you can intentionally design your own brand to be distinctive.
In other words, you want your customers to see your brand as different from the other brands in your marketplace. Your brand identity, i.e. your logo, colors, fonts, etc. can set your brand apart from your competitors’, but only if you take the time to thoroughly research your competitors.
List your competitors
The first step in researching your competition is creating a list of your competitors. This will include companies and businesses in direct competition with you (i.e. if you have a juice company, your list will include other juice companies) and those that are indirect competitors as well (your list will also include soda companies, water companies, etc.)
For each of your competitors, start with the basics.
- The name of the business
- A description of the business
- The URLs for the business, i.e. their main website, Facebook page, Twitter page, etc.
How are your competitors positioned in your marketplace? Knowing this will help you define how to position your own brand.
4. Who are they targeting?
A brand’s target audience is one of the key factors in how they are positioned. You should be able to tell who their target audience is based on their brand visuals and language. For larger companies, you can also search for “Who is [company name]’s target audience?” Many companies state their target audience outright on their about page or in their mission statement, as well.
5. What are their strengths?
Where does your competitor really stand apart in the marketplace? Can you identify their strengths? A good question to ask is, “Why would a customer buy from them instead of another company?”
6. What are their weaknesses?
On the flip side, what does your competitor lack? How do they fall short? Ask, “Why wouldn’t a customer want to buy from them?”
Doing a positioning analysis will help you understand why your competitors make certain visual branding choices. Once you have a handle on the thought process behind their visuals, it’s time to look at the visuals themselves to see where you can stand out from your competitors.
Make a folder of your competitors’ logos. This includes any submarks, or logos that are just a bit different that they use for different marketing materials.
Make note of your competitors’ color palettes. Do you notice any trends? Note them down, and write any ideas you have as to why these colors are commonly chosen. You may want to refer to color psychology and cultural color meanings to better understand your competitors’ color choices.
How do your competitors use imagery in their marketing? What do their images depict? What is the tone of their imagery? Do any of your competitors use imagery in a particularly interesting way? Make note of that.
What typography do your competitors seem to use? Do they lean more toward sans serif, serif, or handwritten fonts? What types of font combinations do they use? (If you aren’t sure, check out our article all about fonts or this one on choosing a font for your logo.) You can use WhatTheFont to find out the font of their logo and the WhatFont Chrome Extension will help you easily determine which fonts are on any website.
The next part of your competitor analysis is to carefully take a look at the language your competitors use on their websites and in their social media.
Write down your competitors’ taglines. You can often find the tagline in their logo or at the top of their home page.
12. Mission statement
Does your competitor have a mission statement? If they do, you’ll probably find it on the “About” page of their website. Look at it carefully to see what they are promising and to whom.
13. Brand personality
What is your competitor’s brand personality? Funny? Quirky? Elegant? Classy? This personality will be evident in both the visual language and the words on their website. If you’re not sure about the brand personality after doing a thorough look at their brand, it could be a sign that they haven’t done the work to define and position their brand. Make note of that, as well.
14. Commonly used words
Take the time to read through the copy on their website and in their social media posts. Do they favor certain words? Maybe they’ve created their own brand language. Write down some of their most commonly used words.
Analyze your findings
Once you’ve collected information on at least 5 direct and 5 indirect competitors, take time to analyze your data.
Note down trends
Do you notice any trends in your competitors’ visuals or language? Are there ways in which their brands become indistinct from each other? When it’s time to design your own brand, you’ll know what to avoid so that you can stand out.
You can also learn a lot by asking why many of your competitors have chosen similar visuals or language. Are they trying to appeal to a certain audience in a specific way? If so, perhaps you can reach the same audience in a more innovative way.
Have your competitors chosen similar colors because of the meanings behind those colors? Are those meanings important enough for you to use similar colors, or can you select a completely different color palette?
Knowing why your competitors have made certain branding decisions will allow you to be more intentional when designing your own brand — both in deciding what to stay away from and in choosing which elements to include in your brand.
Researching your competitors is one step in the exciting process of designing your logo and brand. This step of competitor research will guide you in all of your next steps toward creating a unique and memorable brand.
Your next step is to do some deep thinking about your own brand. From there, you can move on to creating a mood board designing your logo, and choosing your color palette.
Are you looking for a designer to design a logo and brand that will make your business shine? Let’s talk.