How to Make a Me-Too Strategy Work for Your Business
Businesses tend to fall under two categories when it comes to strategy. There’s the me-too strategy, which consists in following in the footsteps of other established brands, and there’s the positioning strategy, in which businesses strive to become the established brand.
The vast majority of businesses employ a me-too strategy (not everyone can be Apple or Nike), and many are quite successful. In fact, there’s a lot of money to be made in the copycat industry. The difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t, however, is intent. While me-too is a real, elaborate strategy, many businesses simply default to copying other brands without a plan.
Entrepreneurs must make a deliberate choice when it comes to their strategy. So how do you know which direction to take? It starts by having a clear understanding of your own business objectives. But before you can do so, it’s important to know the difference between a me-too marketing strategy and a positioning strategy.
What is a Me-Too Strategy?
Me-too marketing is a strategy in which a product offered by a company is very similar to a popular product that’s already on the market. Basically, you see a company that’s doing well with its product or marketing message, so you put out your own and start screaming, “Me too! I also sell that!” to try and get in on the action.
This strategy has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it allows you to claim part of the market share without having to create something new or convince the public that they need what you’re offering. That work has been done for you. On the other hand, when there are many copycats, your product risks getting lost in a sea of clones. And because the goal isn’t to try to stand out, rather than investing in innovation, me-too companies have to rely on lower prices to compete.
Take facial tissues. Sure, we all call them Kleenex (but, FYI, Kleenex would rather you didn’t), but since the creation of the facial tissue in 1924 (by—you guessed it— Kleenex), dozens of facial tissue brands have entered the market. Here’s a pop quiz: can you tell me, without looking, which brand of tissues is sitting on your desk or your nightstand right now? Probably not. If you’re like me, you probably just buy whatever’s on sale.
With this type of strategy, the main element that drives purchase is price, and the winner is the one with the lowest price. It becomes a margins game.
A me-too market is also a copycat market. Any innovation or creativity you see from a company—whether it’s new product features or a fresh marketing message—can be copied (in 1987, Puffs, Kleenex’s closest competitor, launched tissues with lotion; it wasn’t long before this became the norm for all brands). Even behind-the-scenes action, such as using certain tactics to score better deals from suppliers in order to cut prices can, and will, be copied. And every time a company finds a little chink in the armour where they can penetrate a market, well, you can bet that the competition will be right behind them.
Another good example of successful me-too marketing is the famous Birkenstock sandal dupe. When Birkenstocks started popping up on fashion runways around 2013, their popularity exploded. No longer just for hippies and people with foot pain, it was the fashion item du jour. Needless to say, hundreds of me-too companies leapt into action.
While diehard Birkenstock fans were willing to continue to shell out for the quality and comfort the brand is known for, fast-fashion consumers, as they’re wont to do, wanted the look without the lofty prices. Boy, did they get their wish. Today, knockoffs of the sandal are so ubiquitous, “fake Birks” is practically a household name.
In a nutshell, me-too marketing boils down to everyone copying everyone else, but without brand visibility because that’s simply not where they’re investing. They’re investing in getting their product out onto the shelves at a lower price, and the bulk of the work is being done on the supply-chain level so that they can compete and still turn a profit. But there’s a pretty glaring problem here: there’s a finite amount of money that can be saved on the production side. This means that eventually, prices plateau and you’ve lost that competitive edge. A good strategy is one that plans for this eventuality.
What is a Positioning Strategy?
In the opposite corner of the ring is the positioning strategy, in which companies vie for the top spot in the hearts and minds of consumers. This strategy relies heavily on marketing. Don’t get me wrong, me-too strategies involve marketing as well (it is, after all, a marketing strategy); the difference here is that positioning strategy-driven companies want to stake a claim to a certain idea or identity in the market. What does this mean? Here are some examples to illustrate.
Despite being synonymous with facial tissues (and perhaps because of it), the brand’s market share began to shrink as a result of the slew of copycat products on the shelves. This meant that Kleenex had to find a way to set themselves apart to defend their position. In 2006, Kleenex launched the ‘Let It Out’ campaign, which shifted the conversation from colds and allergies to feelings. In other words, they staked a claim to the emotional side of using facial tissues. The campaign was largely successful and Kleenex saw a significant bump in sales for the first time since 2001.
In fact, this isn’t the first time Kleenex has pivoted its strategy to reach a new market segment. The Kleenex brand was forever altered thanks to a certain pandemic. No, not that one. The 1918 flu pandemic changed the public’s understanding of germs and personal hygiene, and when Kimberly-Clark launched Kleenex as a cosmetic product for applying a removing makeup, consumers quickly saw a different use for the facial tissues. The company leaned into this unexpected brand purpose and sales quickly doubled.
Companies who employ a positioning strategy want to move toward a certain position in the market that they’ve targeted. There are many ways to do this. They can focus on price, quality, innovation, key features that consumers perceive to be valuable. And, yes, me-too strategies share some of these goals. The difference is that position-marketing companies do this while also planting a flag and essentially saying, this is mine. This is called positioning or, again, staking a claim. They climb a mountain and plant a flag on top, and if they work hard enough to defend their place, their flag will continue to fly, unobstructed, in full view of the villagers (consumers) below.
A great example of this is Tesla. The company planted its flag as not only the first high-performing, luxury electric car, but as the pioneer of a movement to move away from fossil fuels toward more sustainable energy sources. It also quashed fears that electric cars would be boring and uncool. In short, the Tesla brand was more than just a car; it was the future.
Virtually all other car manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon with their own electric vehicles (me too!). And while the company’s brand has taken a hit recently (much to the delight of competitors, surely), Tesla still has the advantage of only having to defend their position, while its competitors face the uphill battle of trying to usurp the top spot.
Cirque du Soleil
Another example is Cirque du Soleil. What started out as a small troupe of stilt walkers, jugglers,fire breathers, dancers and musicians performing for small crowds in Baie-Saint-Paul turned into a global sensation that essentially reinvented the circus. They took something nostalgic, did away with the more unsavory and unethical aspects, such as human and animal exploitation, and, by adding elements of music, dance, and art and theater, created a whole new market space in the entertainment sector. While remaining friendly and entertaining to children, Cirque du Soleil also appealed to a new audience of adults and corporate clients that were willing to pay high prices for an upscale entertainment experience.
The point is that with a positioning strategy, you’re looking for something bigger than just making a sale. You’re looking to create a positive association between your brand and an idea, movement, or memory, so that when consumers are looking for a product in your market, your brand is the first—or only—brand that pops up in their mind.
Achieving this position in your market gives you the benefit of durability, or staying power. (Forty years later, Cirque du Soleil remains the world’s best-known Circus brand. In fact, you’d probably be hard-pressed to think of another.) And having staying power has its own benefits. It could simply mean that your business will be better able to withstand adversity in the market. Or this durability could afford you more time and resources to branch out into new markets. It could also enable you to be quicker on the draw when it comes to innovation and exploring new ideas, which will save you both money and headaches in the long run.
Benefits and disadvantages
The disadvantage of a market positioning strategy is that it requires much more investment, in time, resources, and capital. Not only do you have to innovate constantly, you have to be on the alert at all times for other companies planning a sneak attack to take your place. (Yes, it’s a bit Game of Thrones-y. In fact, during the show’s peak, there were hundreds of articles drawing business lessons from the show, for good reason.)
So, while the dream is to be the next Apple or Coca-Cola, the reality is that the vast majority of companies are me-too companies. And those that succeed are the ones with the best strategy.
Whether you choose a me-too strategy or a positioning strategy for your company, Marketpedia’s Strategic Positioning Audit can help you achieve your goals. Let’s take a look at how.
Develop a Better Business Strategy With the Help of Marketpedia’s Partners
Business strategy is incredibly complicated, and we know the average entrepreneur doesn’t have a business or marketing degree. And without the proper skills and knowledge base, the tools and software used to perform complex data collection and analysis will be of little value. It would be a bit like needing an operation and instead of going to the hospital you just buy all the surgical tools and hope for the best.
Marketpedia’s goal is to help businesses succeed through superior strategies developed in collaboration with qualified partners. In other words, we provide a more efficient, integrated tool to strategy professionals so that they can help you build a more effective strategy in less time. Say you relented and went to the hospital for your surgery. In this scenario, our job would be to provide the surgeon with a set of tools that makes the surgery quicker and more effective. Not only does it benefit the surgeon, it’s also a heck of a win for you.
Marketpedia’s Strategic Positioning Audit allows our partners (that is, your strategy professionals) to conduct surveys on a number of stakeholders in your company and market, as well as perform a rigorous analysis of the data obtained in these surveys, two to three times faster than with traditional tools and methods.
Marketpedia’s questionnaires are designed specifically to assess your company’s position in the market according to basically everyone who has had some level of interaction with it. Not only are they tailored to the various groups surveyed—they run the gamut from senior executives to lowest-level employees, to customers and even suppliers—they also use automation to ensure that each respondent is being asked the most relevant questions in order to extract richer, more accurate data.
The data is then automatically integrated into the Strategic Positioning Audit software, where it can be analyzed from all angles using a number of industry-approved matrixes. Your partner can also easily plug in external data, that is, any information they think might enrich the survey data. This all-in-one platform—the first of its kind—means your strategy partner can get right to analyzing rather than wasting valuable time importing survey data into various analysis software (and sorting out the inevitable bugs). Why does this matter to you, the client? This means they spend less time on the drudgery of strategic management and more time coming up with an action plan to take your business to where it needs to be.
Read more about how Marketpedia can help you grow your business.
How Can the Strategic Positioning Audit Help You With Your Me-Too Marketing Strategy?
While the Game of Thrones analogy certainly applies to market positioning strategies, that doesn’t mean that me-too strategies are without action. There’s still a lot of slashing, cutting and chopping. And we’re not just referring to prices.
You generally don’t need help making cuts on the operational side of things. However, as we’ve touched on, whether you’re optimizing the supply chain or restructuring at the HR level, at a certain point, everyone’s got the same tricks, and the playing field is leveled. So you need to learn how to wield your sword in marketing. And by this, we don’t mean slashing your marketing budget.
One of the Strategic Positioning Audit’s many points of analysis is what’s known as SWOT, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. By this point your partner has gathered a wealth of information on your business, the market and your competition. A SWOT analysis can offer valuable strategic insight for your business, such as which market trends play to your strengths, what threats you need to steel yourself against, and whether your competition has certain weaknesses you can exploit.
For example, you might discover that your company’s reputation as an employer is better than that of your biggest competitor. Employer branding has become a hot-button issue over the past few years, and not just among employees and job-seekers. Consumers are increasingly factoring workplace culture into their purchasing habits.
So here we’ve both uncovered a market trend, pinpointed one of your strengths and found a chink in your competitor’s armor. This presents a good opportunity for you to promote your company’s good employee brand and perhaps even improve it further. Not only could this open the door to greater customer loyalty and higher sales, it could also save you money: companies with a bad employer reputation typically have to shell out 10% more in wages to compensate for poor working conditions. Not to mention, of course, the immeasurable value of attracting the best talent.
From Me Too to Me First
The me-too strategy concept tends to get a lot of flack and, well, we think that’s a little unfair. Not only do me-too products drive innovation from the big players (they’ve got to defend their position), they also make up the bulk of all businesses in just about every market. If the only way to succeed as an entrepreneur was to make it to the top, there’d be a lot of crushed dreams—not to mention way fewer choices for consumers.
The me-too market is thriving, and our role is to help you thrive in it. And once you learn to apply me-too marketing to the market itself, rather than just relying on the same old supply-chain cuts as everyone else, you’re already winning. And who knows? Maybe one of your peers will look at what you’re offering and say, “me, too!”