🐚 The Salty Shell: How to use a Competitive Analysis to Create Unique Content

Published 20 days ago • 6 min read

I just spent 50 hours on an audit of a CPG brand’s social media and community management strategy and execution which included strategic approach recommendations. Typically, I spend 20-25 hours on an audit, but after digging into consumer and category data, there was a lot more to uncover and educate the brand on – AKA their ‘goals’ didn’t align with any results the industry would yield.

🧂 Salty Insights: Imitation isn't flattery - it's dumb

In an audit, I always do the competitive analysis last because it’s to inform, not dictate the strategy. More on that here.

At the end of an audit, I include an overview of content theme recommendations and some of them come from taking a look at competitors, but not in the way you think. I will never recommend copying a competitor (for a lot of reasons).

The point of a competitive analysis is to understand where you stand in the market, and identify gaps, opportunities, and threats. It’s never to emulate what they’re doing because there’s no data to support the same thing will work for your audience, copying isn’t cool and they’re already 10 steps ahead of you – what you’re seeing now, they’ve been planning for months – they’re already on to the next thing.

Ultimately your engaged audience and consumers guide the way – what do they like, what do they want and what do they resonate with? A big red flag I had to raise to the CPG client I mentioned is that only 1% of their followers are seeing their content. They’re putting so much effort into beautifully designed graphics and it doesn’t even matter – so before you get content crazy, you really need an audit of your audience and content and a plan to reach them. (This is what I’m for).

⚓️ Anchor Your Success: You're a strategist now!

When you’re going into the competitive analysis, there are very specific things you need to keep in mind at all times:

• How do your audiences differ? Think about pain points and interests.

• What are they talking about that we aren’t? Should we be?

• Look for patterns in the topics they cover and the quality of engagement they get.

IDENTIFY CONTENT GAPS

Look for topics, themes, and content types (stories, carousel, video style) that your competitors haven’t overused or used at all. Are there areas they’re overlooking or neglecting valuable opportunities – is there something you expected to see, but haven’t?

Brainstorm how you can fill those gaps with your own content that offers unique value and addresses your audiences’ needs and interests. Find opportunities for differentiation.

UNDERSTAND WHAT WORKS

Don’t copy. If you do, your followers are going to call you out on it. Every brand has a different audience, and that’s fine, so what works for one may not work for another. However, as you explore competitors, take note of themes, styles, or topics that perform well. How can you add your own insights, and expertise, and twist on those without it being obvious? This is my least favorite content inspo, but it’s an easy way to make the content relevant for your audience.

DIFFERENTIATE

While Graza might be the most popular olive oil for Millennials and Gen Z, Boomers might buy Bertoli (I have no idea, I’m making this up) so what Graza is doing isn’t something Bertoli should try to emulate as it won’t resonate whatsoever.

Focus on your brand’s unique strengths and perspectives while always showcasing its personality – if I read 4 different captions from 4 different olive oil companies, they should all sound like 4 different brands wrote them. In fact, let’s do that. I’m going to look up 4 recent olive oil posts on Instagram:

Well, that’s interesting – no one really talks about the flavor of their olive oil, what differentiates it and why I should buy it. With that said (OO people, you have some work to do) I picked ice cream posts from all 4 brands because olive oil on ice cream is damn delicious.

1: A combination guaranteed to make you melt. Grab your finest olive oil (😉), your favorite gelato pint, and some flakey salt for a sweet treat you’ll want to add to your roster.

Yes, we know it’s a weird combination.
Yes, it’s delish.
Yes, you should run to the store, grab a bowl, and make it right now.

2: Olive oil on ice cream - YES or NO?! 🍦🫒

Elevate your dessert with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. We used our lemon-infused olive oil! 🍋

Don’t even get me STARTED on captions that start with ‘elevate.’

3: Who’s with us?! 🙌

4: Looking for a great dessert to accompany any spring lunch or dinner? This Meyer Lemon Budino is an Italian custard that's both sweet and tart and uses our classic Olive Oil 🍋 Link in bio for the full recipe!

Well, there’s an entirely different lesson to be taught here in copy, but we shall save that for another issue. Can you tell which brands wrote these? Can you tell if one brand or 4 brands wrote these? Not really, but they have different tones and range from playful and curious to enthusiastic to informative.

Why should I put olive oil on my ice cream? Which olive oil should I choose? Why should I put YOUR olive oil on my ice cream?

What sets you apart from your competitors? That should be what you really focus on – what’s your UVP? I asked ChatGPT to look at these brands’ websites and tell me the similarities, differences and unique value props. (hot tip: use ChatGPT to reduce your research time)

Similarities:

• focus on quality and origin

• clean, modern design

• benefits of olive oil

• recipes

• brand story/heritage

Differences

• brand positioning: modern and playful, premium and lifestyle focused, traditional and classic, heritage and Italian roots

• target audience

Unique Value Props:

• Accessibility and ease of use

• Health, art and lifestyle

• Tradition and trust

• Wide range

Then I asked it for opportunities for each brand and there are plenty, but not worth taking up space here – THAT’S how you use ChatGPT. Not for copywriting. The opportunities it gave would help create content themes and inform the strategy moving forward.

AVOID REDUNDANCY

What do you keep seeing over and over? Most of the time, all the feeds look the same to me, especially in food and beverage. How can you stand out while staying true to your brand guidelines, and audience’s needs and create fresh and engaging content?

You may see recurring themes and patterns that consistently perform well, so how can you put your own twist on that?

Speaking of redundant, my lord, look how BORING the top FOUR coffee shops' feeds are!

LOOK AT UGC

What content are you tagged in? What are people posting about your brand on TikTok? That’s what they love, that’s what they want! Looking at what your competitors are tagged in might give you some inspiration, but don’t live or die by that.

I looked at the tagged content of those 4 olive oil brands and they’re all very different:

1: pizza, pasta, salads, baking

2: light, fresh meals like pasta salad, salads, veggies

3: almost all of it is chicken

4: primarily pasta and pizza

So if #4 tried to copy #2, that content isn’t going to land – that’s not what their audience wants.

🌊 Use Your Brain Waves: What do you know?

Before you start creating new content themes and approaches, make sure these categories are clear in your audit and strategy:

AUDIENCE

• Who is your engaged audience?

• Who is your target audience?

• What do they care about?

• Who is actually seeing your content right now?

• What do you need to do to get your content seen by the right audience? Hint: it’s not creating new content

GOALS

• What are your goals for social media? Drive purchases, increase engagement, drive traffic, enhance brand awareness, more UGC?

• How will you measure those?

BRAND TONE & VOICE

• Who is your brand – what does it sound like? How does it talk? How does it engage?

• What do people expect from it?

RESOURCES

• What is your team’s ability to create content?

• Do you have a budget to support content creation?

• Does your team have time to create more content?

If you're intrigued, inspired, and lacking the time and resources to do this for your brand, reply to this email, and let's talk about how we can work together. Audits and strategies are my absolute favorite things to do!

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