What is it?

Analysing the nature of the competition (direct and indirect) for the time and attention of the audience and where the competition is coming from.

Direct competition includes behaviours, benefits and motivations which are closely identifiable with the focal behaviours of the social marketing intervention. It also includes personal (for example, peer group) and wider (competing organisations) influences on both positive and negative behaviours. Indirect competition arises from the many other competing pressures for the target audience’s time and attention. These include the many social marketing messages which the target audience is exposed to, and the demands of everyday life.

Why do this?

Thinking about the competition helps to focus attention on the target audience and the many reasons why they may find it difficult to adopt or sustain positive behaviours and reject negative behaviours.

It will identify potential challenges and help develop effective social marketing strategies for dealing with the competition. It also helps us to set realistic objectives.

How might you do this?

Competitor analysis requires that all actual and potential competitors are identified, the nature of the competition is assessed and strategies are developed for dealing with each type of competition. This may involve a brain-storming session with your team and other stakeholders as well as a search of secondary sources and the collection of primary data. It is useful to approach this in a three-staged way:

Stage 1: Competitor Analysis – identify the actual and potential competition. List all of the competing forces that may stop your target audience from adopting the behaviour(s) that you desire.

Alcohol Consumption: initial competition analysis

Direct Competition

Competing behaviour
Excessive alcohol consumption (this should be related to the specific target market, for example by age/gender/income/user levels)

Competing benefits and motivation
These may include social inclusion, relief of boredom, pleasant feelings, relaxation, and escapism

Personal Influences
Social group norms and peer pressure to drink excessive amounts of alcohol

Wider Influences
Retailers offer low priced alcohol, which is widely advertised

Indirect Competition

Social marketing messages
The particular target audience may be receiving a whole range of messages about desired behavioural change, for example, eat less, stop smoking, take up exercise. This may distract them from your programme or build resistance to constant requests to stop behaving as they do.

Everyday life
Drinking is an acceptable part of every day life for many people. In addition to social consumption, alcohol is perceived as a solution to stress. Changing established norms and values is difficult.

Wider environmental forces
Drinking at home is an increasing social trend. The recession is increasing stress and adding pressures to people through reduced income and uncertainty about the future.

The nature of competition will differ according to the specific intervention aim. For example, an anti-smoking intervention will have to compete with the considerable power of the tobacco companies.

Stage 2: Analyse how they compete for the target audience’s time and attention and how they influence behaviour. For each of the competing factors identified, assess how they compete

Stage 3: Develop a strategy for how you will deal with each type of competition. At this stage it will be helpful to identify the ways in which each of the competitive factors could be addressed. This will input into development.

When deciding on the broad direction of the social marketing intervention, (whether it will include communication, support, design and/or control and the nature of the marketing mix), this should take into account the various elements of competition and strategies for dealing with them. Communication, for example, will include the information to counteract perceived benefits. A ‘control’ strategy may hope to increase the minimum price.


  • It will help to look at past trends as well as current competition and the impact on the target audience.
  • Remember that the commercial world constantly monitors competitor activity.
  • It is worthwhile to think about how competitors can help and to form alliances.

For example, developing non-alcoholic products and responsible drinking campaigns.


Competitor analysis and competitive strategy.

Intended Outcome

  • A better understanding of the reasons for the target audience’s behaviour.
  • Awareness of the nature and role of competition and potential impact on your objectives.
  • Specific strategies for dealing with competitors of all types.