Business News | May 2009
|Imitation as Competition|
Daniel Gomez - PVNN
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery then Puerto Vallarta businesses must be blushing, the market's full of imitators. While copying to jump on a bandwagon of success may be tempting, it's not very honest and will unlikely pay dividends in the end.
Why? Because, aside from the overall idea of what a competitor does, very little is tangible and easy to copy looking from the outside in. The essence of what makes up a brand, the strategy, the concept, the vision behind an organisation, is difficult to reproduce and much more so to implement successfully if they are not well understood or believed in by those copying.
That's why brands are important - they give organisations the vision and motivation they need to communicate their point of difference to the world, helping consumers tell them apart.
When markets are growing, imitation is rife. A new concept is delivered and within months we'll see a dozen me-toos enter the fray. While increased competition is desirable, the only thing imitation does is dampen innovation and choice, hurting the consumer.
A casual walk down any Vallarta street reveals a succession of copy cats struggling to stay alive. Last year there were over 10 Vans sneaker shops in el Centro, now there are none. On the Isla Cuale, the number of shops that sell 'tourist art' continues to multiply while their profits undoubtedly tumble and Olas Altas has become a haven for Jewellery shops and real estate offices. The city now offers more ATV, Canopy and whale watching tours than is probably viable with very little in their service or communication offer to set them apart from their peers.
Giving credit where it's due, I'm impressed by the ingenuity of the Time Share trade. They rebranded their much-criticized street operations and turned them into seemingly viable businesses in their own right. What's more, rather than simply imitate the leader's success, the late arrivals turned the OPC-retail concept on its head. We now have Tequila shop-fronted OPCS, opal mine boutiques, and even Huichol art acting as covers for the trade.
Mijo has been working with Los Veranos Canopy to redevelop their brand. It was Vallarta's first zip-line tour operator. And like all brands with first mover advantage and a coherent strategy, it retains an impressive lead over many of its competitors.
The strategy portion of the project required analysing the competition at home and abroad. Unsurprisingly we found very little originality or differentiation in the sector. All canopies offer adventure as the number one reason to visit and a quasi-believable eco-focus positioning
That's fine is customers are plentiful, but not in a downturn may explain why a newly launched canopy tour has come into the market guns a-blazing charging half of what its more established competitors do. Rather than develop a unique canopy concept to attract visitors they repackaged much of what's already in the market and presumably hoped customers are concerned more about price than quality or safety.
An alternative tact would have been to develop a strategy that reflects the natural physical environment at the canopy site, offer a unique set of services or facilities and an approach to customer service that stood out from the crowd.
Does every business need a brand? Of course I'm biased, but consumers have an abundance of choice in how they spend their money and increasingly choose brands that reflect their lifestyle, values or political and social orientation. Steve Jobs at Apple managed to turn a simple computer and subsequent mp3 players into must have fashion accessories not only because of award winning design but because of the notions of hipness they effortlessly bestow on their customers.
Not all brands can change the world. But they can certainly play a part in creating a more honest dialogue between organisations and their customers. A little design is always appreciated, a little truth is forever valued.
Daniel Gomez is a brand strategist and partner at Mijo. Based in Puerto Vallarta, Mijo is a strategic brand design agency servicing clients across North America and Europe to create breakthrough brand communicatiuon solutions. To learn more about Mijo Brand Strategy Design, call (322) 223-2837 or visit mijo.com.mx.
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