By Kailynn Bowling, co-founder of ChicExecs PR & Retail Strategy Firm.
2020 has been a surprising year, particularly for businesses. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that fast-food giant Burger King actually encouraged people to eat at its arch-nemesis, McDonald’s, earlier this year.
At first blush, this flies in the face of everything we know about PR and business strategy. Aren’t your competitors your worst enemies? Why would you give your competition free advertising?
As it turns out, working with the competition isn’t always a bad thing. Done right, this is a strategy that reinvigorates your marketing and navigates your brand through rough waters.
Burger King showed that now isn’t the time for a fast-food feud. It’s still bitter rivals with McDonald’s, but pandemic-related downturns in the restaurant industry led the two brands to make peace. With an advertising headline that said, “Order from McDonald’s,” Burger King not only highlighted a big issue for the industry, but it also endeared itself to shoppers.
Most industries are facing their share of struggles right now. If you’re looking for an innovative, effective way to boost your brand in a pandemic, consider extending an olive branch to your competition.
Three smart ways to work with your competitors
Competition is the heart of business. It’s easy to view the competition as someone who’s stealing all your clients, and things can get a little heated. But what if competition isn’t always the answer? From a marketing standpoint, partnering with your competitors can work in your favor, especially during hard times like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cooperation is key to marketing yourself during hard times. Not sure how to work with your competitor in a healthy way? Try these three tips:
1. Partner up on a charitable mission
This is the simplest and most low-stakes way to partner with your competitors. Odds are, there’s a big issue either in your industry or socially that you and your competitor can solve.
For example, if you sell beauty products, you could partner with the competition to start a fundraising and awareness drive to end animal testing. Or if you sell clothing, you could both donate clothes to homeless shelters.
Try to choose a charitable mission that aligns with your product or service. It also needs to be relevant enough that your competitors will actually want to join forces, so choose a charity initiative carefully!
2. Create products together
Sometimes two heads are better than one. This option isn’t for everyone, but if you and your competition both have formulas, technology or other useful information that can work together, you can join forces to make something even better.
That might mean two shoe brands partner to make the ultimate athletic shoe or two home goods brands innovate on a new coffee maker. The possibilities are endless.
Just make sure you have an ironclad contract and rules in place from the start. The partnership needs to work for everyone. If it feels too risky to put your intellectual property out there, try other ideas on the list first.
3. Buy raw materials in bulk
Fortunately, you don’t have to design a product with your competitors if you don’t want to. But chances are, you both use similar materials or raw goods to make your products.
Bulk ordering and manufacturing are key to profitability, but ordering in smaller quantities can drive up your prices. If you can’t think of another way to drive down your material costs, partner with your competitors.
Do one bulk order and split it 50/50 between yourself and the other company. This helps both of you save more on materials, taking advantage of bulk pricing.
The bottom line
Let’s be honest: Burger King and McDonald’s will probably never become friends. You don’t have to become besties with your competitors. However, 2020 was a rough year, and calling a truce on your rivalry can benefit your business during hard times.
Instead of trying to one-up the competition, try these three strategies to thoughtfully grow your brand alongside a competitor. Together, you can get through tough times, living to pick up your competition at a later date.