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  • Writer's pictureScott Murray

How a Humanized Content Competitor Analysis Influences Modern Content Strategy

Infusing Warmth into a Content Strategy

You can't develop a modern humanized content strategy without considering the competition. However, you must re-think how a competitor analysis fits into your content strategy.

In a modern marketing context, Your competition can help you achieve new levels of content marketing. 😲

It may sound crazy, but I can explain.

I often talk about how one of the most common ways marketers self-sabotage their marketing success is habituation. These mental automatons lock us into a process, strategy, or mindset that limits our ability to improve outcomes, even when we say we want better results.

My colleague and behavioral science expert Nancy Harhut explains it this way:

Science has shown that humans have evolved to conserve mental energy and, as a result, rely on hardwired decision defaults, often giving the matter at hand little to no thought. While this predisposition to operate on autopilot can keep us safe, it can also prevent us from seizing new opportunities.

You could argue that a business's mindset about the competition can create opportunity-blocking habituations. One such habituation could be the continuous mindset of fighting, battling, and beating the competition.

Here's the problem:

Consumers generally don't care about those battles, and winning consumers is a bigger victory than "successfully" one-upping another business.

However, you can involve your competition in your marketing strategy in ways that connect with consumers. 

Here are three examples:

A Humanized Content Competitor Analysis is Not About War

Between my wife and I, I am the shopper in the family.

When I walk into a store, I hate being approached by an employee asking me if I'm looking for anything today. 😩

They might even say something in a nice tone, like, "Is there something I can help you find today?"

The problem is, even with the nice tone, my brain thinks this is more about their interests (making a sale) than mine (helping me find something).

That may not be fair, but it also isn't irrational.

Consumers judge a brand's motivations, including when they scroll, scan and engage with content. They want proof that you have their best interests at heart.

Or they want proof that you have a heart and genuinely care about them.

One way to do that is to ensure your content doesn't always seem to communicate in a salesy way. 

Another way is to compliment your competition.

We saw this work out great for Xbox and Playstation when they complimented Nintendo on the launch of the Switch. 🎮

Lingrui Zhou, Assistant Professor of Marketing at The University of Hong Kong, says brand warmth toward a competitor is an unexpected trait that gets attention.

It's unexpected because the consumer realizes the brand is willing to do it while knowing there's nothing in it for them.

👉🏻 Or is there? 

The Journal of Marketing saw eye-opening results when studying two popular candy bar brands. 🍫

One Kit Kat tweet encouraged consumers to kick off their day with their treat. A different tweet praised competitor Twix for its 56 years in the business and admitted to thinking their product was delicious.


Researchers pointed out, "Individuals who viewed the tweet where Kit Kat praised Twix exhibited a 34% higher frequency in purchasing Kit Kat compared to those who encountered the tweet focusing on Kit Kat's own product."

Meanwhile, Twix sales did not get a boost even after Kit Kat acknowledged that their candy bar was delicious.

It should be obvious why this would be appealing to a consumer. By communicating warmth to a competitor:

  • It shows they're not always thinking about fighting and beating the competition.

  • It shows the humanity behind the brand.

  • It shows that not every message or communication has to be selfish. 

  • It's unexpected!

Dr. Matt Johnson, a consumer neuroscientist, says that the perception of brand warmth is a critical trait that drives brand loyalty and boosts the likelihood that a consumer might refer the brand to a friend. 

So, show the warmth - just remember to do this because you have a heart. 💓

If it's a disingenuous attempt to "sound warm" because it might benefit the company, consumers might see right through that.

You Can Link to Your Competitor in Your Content

In my first content marketing job, I quickly learned about an "indirect message" in content that sent a wrong signal to the consumer:

❌ The tactic: Linking to yourself too many times (or linking to yourself too early)

❌ The message to the consumer: This is about benefiting us more than you

This was all too common in the early days of blogging. However, you'll still see it in content today, and it shapes consumer cynicism.

A habituated marketing mind might think linking to the competition would lead to the consumer buying from the competitor.

Really? Right at that moment? 

Why would they do that? Especially if you answer a question and the link opens in a new tab? 

It's likely that the consumer has already researched you and your competitors.

Also, it's not a given that the consumer is ready to purchase anyway.

Here's what it does:

It shows that you are so focused on giving them value that you'll even link to a competitor if they provide something relevant.

If your competitors don't do this - you'll also be doing something unexpected

And we know that the consumer feels the "unexpected" is a good thing.

You Can Write About Your Competition 

Okay, outdated, habituated thinking will officially think I've crossed a line.

However, this is not a new concept. In fact, I heard Marcus Sheridan talk about this at my first Social Media Marketing World Conference several years ago.

He told a story about creating an awards recognition blog post highlighting similar businesses in the area.

What happened when he published the content featuring this competition?

💥 They shared it! 🤯

All these years later, his company continues to explain the benefits of writing about competitors on your blog.

The habituated mind may only focus on perceived "threats of competitor benefits.

However, as Ramona Sukhraj points out, knowing how to incorporate them into your content provides YOU with benefits like:

  • Building trust

  • Expanding reach

  • Controlling the conversation/narrative

Breaking out of old habituated ideas about the competition can lead you to elevated content marketing success that differentiates you by providing your audience with unexpected value and humanity. 

📩 If I can help you infuse humanity or create the unexpected in your content, you can contact me here or at 


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