Competitive Edge Marketing Blog

As a web-based organisation, and as a consultancy, we have over many years of research and strategy development and web development, been involved in studying our competition and using other sites and magazine articles, publications, university papers etc. as benchmarks for developing our own thoughts and even extending our own thoughts so that we can assist clients and engage in continual learning within Competitive Edge.

Of course, there is a fine line between understanding concepts, undertaking designs and publishing material where there may be ideas and concepts sparked by material, designs and developments already within the marketplace and merely copying these and passing them off as your own creativity and innovation.

Media watch is an organisation on Channel 2 that has grown out of the current practise by many suburban and regional newspapers and even major newspapers of taking articles from publications here and abroad and republishing them with slight changes under the signed hand of a contributing editor. Many of the newspapers are constantly brought to ‘heel’ for this practise.

In the marketplace today, however, there are serious consequences attached to breach of copyright and passing off material as your own or even downright plagiarism.

We have had a recent example of this. We undertook a brief for a New Zealand company and travelled to New Zealand to attend a meeting and to spend time with a client and to outline how he would approach the development of a fairly sophisticated and integrated website for their organisation. They responded by giving us the business and sending a deposit cheque so that we could start on the business.

Unfortunately, over time they did not deliver the material required to get the process underway and within six months they wrote an e-mail saying that they had decided not to proceed and could we send the money back. This is a breach of contract and we’re probably within our rights in not sending the money, however we felt that we’d persist with them and give them more time to see what they needed, and how they could use our services so things were left up in the air.

During this time, unbeknown to us, in the early stages, they had taken a site that we had developed on the mainland here in Victoria and virtually copied the outline of this website and they had even used the same colours, the same navigation headings and without much disguising and, without much disguising, had taken a map that had been developed and even the graphics on the map and placed this on a website designed by ‘unknown hand’. They are now demanding their money back.

This led me to look at what is the situation with copyright, especially web-pages, because some of our clients would not like to have their sites copied completely and we also feel it’s a responsibility of ours to point out to other clients who are looking at competitive activities and benchmarking their sites in the marketplace, the dangers of copying competitive sites or being ‘too close’ to the creative hand and visual representations of their competitors.

We are not against understanding the competition or even benchmarking against the competition, but we are against people taking others concepts and creative and making them their own and passing them off as theirs.

The law in the UK that sets the precedent for which the Commonwealth law and laws in New Zealand and in other Commonwealth countries are drawn, says that if a concept or design or thought or idea is ‘confusingly similar’, then this is breach of copyright and/or plagiarism. This sounds vague, but now the law is becoming very precise and it will not entertain copyright or ‘passing off’ without awarding serious damages or penalties that can include prison, in the most dire circumstances.

Aboriginal artists are one group that have recently been part of this new move and there are now pieces of art that actually have attached to them the requirement that the original artist receive a percentage of any increase in the value of this artwork as it goes through successive owners and auctions/sale over time.

Back to the client that we were talking about. This client has engaged in serious replication of our work, and at no time has acknowledged the source of the design, the creativity or the original thought, and it could be said that they used the briefing stage to gain ideas, and possibly, always had in mind that they would not be using our company as the implementer of those ideas.

Apart from the breach of contract in terms of payment and then withdrawal after many months of the business, and then their demand for repayment of the initial deposit, they have with complete knowledge of a similar site on the mainland, published and utilised their website with borrowed designs, graphics, etc.

If you find that you have competitors copying your website, so that the design, navigations, colours, etc are ‘confusingly similar’ to yours, or directly a plagiarism of major proportions, then we would like you to tell us about them because we would assist you to prosecute and to make sure that these people cease and desist such actions.

If you are thinking about copying a site, then don’t.

If you are employing a web-designer or web-based organisation, with skills such as ours, then ensure that, when you finish the website, that you get a sign-off on the website so that you have ownership, because unless you do this, then the creative aspects and the designs aspects of the site including the total layout and look belong to the original creator or artist just in the same way as a photograph belongs to the original photographer, and you will have no intellectual copyrights in regard to that piece of work.

– David Higginbottom

This is a report on web thinking and blockages to successful web performance written recently while visiting the USA and Canada.

“At the time of writing this I am in Canada, having crossed over from the US in the last two days.

I am carrying a small Acer notebook computer, and enjoying the privilege this provides in terms of being able to plan my itinerary online, which includes searching for good hotel rates, getting buses and trains, booking online, and arranging rental cars. I have also been able to stay in touch with the office, finish some reports, and search for areas of interest online as we go.

Wifi is fairly readily available in the major cities and at hotels, but generally unsecured. You can look, but you must go to a FedEx office if you want to make secure bookings, check bank accounts etc.

Wifi should be more secure and more freely available, and if you are in the tourist industry, this is an opportunity for leadership over the competition in the future.

Overall I would say that our websites are superior to those in the USA and Canada where very simple websites persist for many businesses. For others, the websites are poorly designed and do not have the strong promotional ingredients and functionality you would expect from the “home “of Internet and business.

I have made this observation over the past three years, and this year it has been easier to claim a superior position for Australia, probably due to the fact that we are becoming more professional online, even at the trade and small business end.

We know the interest in our e-Success courses has increased dramatically, and the knowledge and creativity of our businesses participating in these programs has also risen substantially in the last two years. Yellow Pages in Canada is struggling, and is advertising on TV. Print generally is suffering, including major newspapers, which continue to search for a new competitive edge for what is a mature and declining life cycle positioning for their industry.

However, I am amazed at how much print, and investment in print advertising there is in North America. This is probably why our web and online capabilities are starting to move ahead of theirs. They are still very reliant on traditional marketing mediums and this shows.

Now to some points I would like to make regarding the frustrations that emerge when you are online dependent for a 3-week period.

The conclusion I have reached for most of the problems with online and e-Commerce solutions is that the accent is on the technology of the Internet, rather than on how the technology can be adapted to human behaviour. Human behaviour in terms of modern marketing has been developed since the 1950s, just after WW2. This is the time when marketing emerged in the US and the modern consumer economy was born. The digital age, technology and web/Internet economy we are now immersed in is only really 10-12 years old.

The result is that the culture of the consumer economy developed by marketing since the ‘60s is well entrenched in terms of consumer sentiments, emotions and habits in the way we search for information, make decisions, and perform transactions.

If the new creative geniuses of the digital age are not conversant, or not well connected with consumer behaviour, or neglect this in preference to technological enhancements, then the technology becomes the focus, and appeal and empathy with consumer behaviour is sacrificed.

You see this in the websites and online information when you are totally dependent on the new source of communication, from information search to online booking and transaction.

Here are some examples:

1. Most websites ask you to enter in booking dates and times. When you go to the pop-up calendars, they are slow. Only the top line appears on the screen and you have to continually scroll down.

If you cannot book on those dates and you return to the home page or booking page, the information you have already entered is lost and you have to begin all over again. Not very consumer friendly, frustrating, and enough to make you go to another site in desperation.

2. With some sites, you are half way through booking and making plans because you have to refer to paperwork, itineraries etc., and the website time expires. Who in their right mind thought of expiring the website without any idea of how long it takes on average to complete the transaction?

3. Some sites have small pop-up ads appearing in the middle of the transactions, which include mandatory fields such as names, emails etc. they take over the screen and force their messages on you. Hardly conducive to doing more business.

4. There seems to be a big problem with price. Most highly ranked Google ads, including those with Click campaigns and paid advertising positions, entice you with price offers. When you go online, you can’t get to the price unless you fill out 4-5 screens of mandatory data, choices of options etc. Even then the price is not firm, as you have to then go through another list of options with value added services and extra prices to get to what you think would be the “joe average” price for the service or product.

At this point you are totally frustrated, and in many cases you not only give up on the site, but you give up on the Internet and reach for a telephone because what you have eventually found is offered is not anywhere near the final solution given online, or the final product or service you want.

You hate the site, you hate the brand, and you hate the web designer for wasting your time. Isn’t the Internet supposed to be fun, time efficient, and full of good solutions that meet your individual needs with the help of the search engine optimisation, descriptors etc.?

5. The telephone. I just said that when you’re frustrated you reach for the telephone but …… the number of sites you go to where you have great difficulty finding the telephone number, or even the contact address, is amazing.

I’ve already stated that the digital age should understand established consumer behaviour since the ‘60s. Yet, just like voice activated complaint systems on the phone, good brands and good companies here are hiding telephone numbers online, either deliberately or through poor programming, or opting for 1800 numbers or call centres which drive consumers mad. A web page that drives consumers away is not the central focus for e-Success business.

6. The staleness of sites is very apparent. Many sites have obviously not been updated, and have old articles, seasonal offers etc. Dating the site by not keeping it up-to-date is a sure-fire way of turning business away.

Simple two or three page sites should be banned. There are far too many in North America of these do-it-yourself high school projects. Sites with flowery details, amateur photos (photos that do not capture what you need to see), without any details and specifics such as a map, an address, a telephone number, specifics on the product or service, price, time frames, performance ratings, and easy-to-use online payment systems. An email would help too.

7. Big business is a big offender. I went to the American Express site as I needed to make contact with them about travellers cheques. Their telephone is unattended on the weekend, and there was no way to email them, and no list of contacts for the East and West Coast, or major cities.

I needed to contact the ANZ Bank in Australia. Online was difficult, so I went to the phone. The operator wanted a whole lot of details from me so my phone bill got to $30 before I could give him the card number I wanted stopped. By the time I over-rode him, I lost signal. An email would have been very simple. Listening and getting essential details from me would have been easier.

There is a great saying at the TD Trust Bank in Canada that all businesses could listen to in terms of consumer behaviour. It says, “There are people on both sides of the counter.” Businesses today seem to be of the opinion that customers are not people, and that consumer behaviour is actually consumer compliance. They don’t listen, they don’t respect clients, and they often treat them like idiots. In the digital age, it is so easy just to make to contact, or to switch to another site. I didn’t call back the ANZ Bank, and I couldn’t email them because their site is poorly designed. Their voice activation didn’t handle my category.

I could go on and on.

When we begin to build new websites/ communication platforms online, or re-enhance old websites, we begin with a consumer brief in the hope that the client understands how their consumers behave. This brief is critical to the success of the site. If they don’t know, we ask leading questions to examine what they need to find out before we develop the site further.

The reason we have e-Commerce and online expertise at Competitive Edge hasn’t changed since we began business in 1980. It is to understand consumer behaviour through research, observation and analysis, develop strategies to create the most competitive appeal to the selected targeted consumer groups, and communicate this effectively so we maintain, gain and retain viable and profitable customers.

Understanding and appealing to consumer behaviour continues to be the key to traditional and e-Commerce marketing success. Programming skills, web development and design, and all facets of the digital communication age are tools to enable this to be achieved with greater time effectiveness, cost efficiency and customer “reach”. They are not the end in themselves, and never will be.”

David Higginbottom

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable

This article caught my attention, and I wanted to share it with you.

It is written about transforming your business, but it has wider and more significant application in regard to websites. These, unlike a business, always go through continual transformation, and they need the Purple Cow thinking to be really effective.

For both your business long term, and your success on the Internet, I hope you enjoy this article.

Getting Started

In his book, Seth Godin tells the story about when his family left the city to drive through the countryside and were (initially) excited at the sight of grazing cows. After driving for a few hours however, looking at cows got boring: the only thing that would have been worth their attention, Godin says, would have been a purple cow.

This feeling can be translated to a commercial setting. While the inventors of aspirin, or the frozen pizza, built their fortunes by selling a new product, today customers’ needs are by and large met and already provided for in an increasingly competitive, saturated market. To succeed, one must market a “Purple Cow”, an iPod or a Frappuccino. While the original marketing mix included such “P”s as Price, Product, Position, Publicity, Promotion, Packaging and Permission, the mosti important “P” in the future may prove to be the “Purple Cow”.

Why Read It?

To excel, organisations need to distinguish themselves from the competition: in this book, marketing guru Seth Godin likens the art of being recognised and of leading a market to a cow in a field in the countryside that will only be noticed by a passing driver if it is coloured purple. His book is a manual for creating the remarkable and standing out from the crowd. With customers increasingly satisfied – even spoilt – organisations have to find ways of not just meeting their needs, but exceeding them and finding entirely new ways to deliver value.


1. Death of a salesman

Godin’s first contribution is to challenge conventional marketing and public relations wisdom that ascribes success to “share of voice” in standard media streams such as newspaper and television advertising. He highlights that even Coca-Cola’s fantastically expensive adverts do little to sell more cans of soft drinks and argues that the end of what he calls the “TV-Industrial Complex” with the saturation of global communication, places more emphasis on being people’s first choice, rather than simply a close second.

2. Know your business and be passionate about it

By understanding exactly what your business or product is, you can target your marketing more exactly and prioritise tasks. Godin uses most of “Purple Cow” to explore practical examples of remarkable products and services. What they all had in common – from the maker of an internal combustion engine to a publicist for the plastic surgery industry – was a strategic focus on using their unique selling points to meet a previously unexplored market. A market for luxury iced coffees did not exist when Starbucks first marketed its Frappucino”, but by doing something different, they created a profitable product.

Knowing what makes your business and customers tick will allow you more opportunity for success than ever before.

3. Brainstorm and reinvent

Many marketers and salespeople understand the importance of being passionate about their product, but what about developing a product that compels people to make decisions with the same passion? Godin cites salt as an example. For years, it was a commodity manufactured in vast quantities with greater economies of scale but diminishing returns. Manufacturers are increasingly realising the benefits of selling handmade, luxury brands – for instance, those targeted at gourmet restaurants – that add value in new ways and for which they can charge a premium.

By developing radical, maverick products, or by re-inventing old products so that they meet new needs in creative ways, marketing is at its most effective.


The importance of being passionate about your product and of creating remarkable marketing strategies has been discussed by management guru Tom Peters (“The Pursuit of Wow”), and the way ideas travel through populations has been studied by Malcolm Gladwell in “The Tipping Point”.

Godin, self-proclaimed ‘agent of change’, argues that most marketers treat these concepts as fads and fall back on tried and tested but boring channel marketing strategies and advertising, hoping that word of mouth will do the rest.

With consumers spoilt for choice in a global market place, learning how to create a “Purple Cow” is essential. In a trouble-beset global economy, the only way to create a truly winning product is to be revolutionary. With increasingly flat, globalised communication, customers reject otherwise decent products, seeking only the most extraordinary and unique.

Source: Business Essential, A&C Black Publishers, 2009.

Further Reading: Seth Godin: Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable. London: Penguin, 2005.

Around 1985, I met a marketing professional called Vin Jenkins who had been contracted to write a series of small books for Australia Post on the emerging science of direct mail marketing.

I had met Vin when I was at Monash University in Marketing. He asked me to describe and document how I thought direct mail interacted with the other promotional and communication techniques in marketing, and how I saw the relationship of direct marketing to TV, radio, magazine and print, etc. The section I wrote formed part of a published set of books on direct marketing sponsored by Yellow Pages.

When I think back the emerging role of email campaigns is similar to the emerging role of direct mail at that time

Over the last year, we have become very active in running email campaigns for a number of progressive clients in our customer base. We have become involved in many recent campaigns and because of this all our email experience has developed rapidly through suppliers of email databases and contacts in the e-Commerce industry. There is generally not a lot of information available, just like in the early days of direct mail.

What is oblivious is that email campaigns are growing faster and having more influence on direct marketing than direct mail campaigns in the 1990’s.

In addition emails are much more acceptable and widely read than direct mail even in its most progressive marketing days. It’s acceptable to get a 10% readership (quicker and easier to read) and at least a 5% response for an email campaign which compares much more favourably than the better estimates for good direct marketing campaigns, usually around 3% readership and response.

While direct mail in my opinion, is in a mature to declining phase in its life cycle, email marketing is in its infancy and take-off phase in the life cycle and has many contributing years ahead for marketers and savvy SME’s.

For those companies that collect emails, probably in preference to telephone numbers, this technology offers tremendous opportunities at a very cost effective budget, provided it is not treated as direct mail online. It needs copy that is professionally written like good direct mail with a thorough understanding of the target market consumers, their sentiments, and consumer behaviour.

The benefits list below is a combination of my thinking and Rajiv’s thinking, so it is a mixture and fusion of traditional marketing overlaid with today’s technology, and time and cost constraints.

Here’s how we see it:

1. Email campaigns are very cost effective. If you have your own list, they are cheap, cheap, cheap to send. If you don’t, then you can purchase a list of around 16,000 clients selected (sample specific) to your profile and target market for around $2,400 a cost per reach of 15 cents per customer. Much cheaper than the stamp and envelope alone, and guaranteed to get to the reader and get read.

Note: the cost can go up if you want specifically targeted professionals, individuals or difficult to access markets.

If you are using your own email list (customer database), a bounce rate (the rate of emails bouncing back to the server) of 10% is acceptable.

For a purchased list of emails a bounce rate of less than 10% is usual, however the email campaign is costed on the basis of a click through rate of 25% (This means 4,000 customers of the 16,000 customer emails will actually click and visit your website / landing page)

The cost of the purchased emails per click through is 60 cents – still cheaper than the envelope and the stamp.

The primary role of the email campaign is to get the consumer to act on an offer within a short time period. It is not a platform for just attracting attention or building corporate loyalty etc. Its major design is to get a “here and now” (viral) offer on the table in a short and efficient timeframe using emails that have a succinct offer that can be acted on with the click of a mouse (click through) or payment by credit card etc.

Consumer behaviour dictates that when the email is received it is easy to read, short in length, the offer is apparent and concise, and the action required (if they want to take up the offer) is easy and quick to enact, and time frames for response or delivery of the service or goods are acceptable and precise.

3. Emails are not like direct mail where the offer builds and builds, often with a story line. They get straight to the point in the same way as an advertisement with a coupon for a cash back or a prize.

4. Email campaigns can open the door to continual or successive offers based on membership, loyalty, or repeat purchase. They suit all industries, just as direct mail. They can be used for legal services, e-Commerce, insurance, banking, travel, hospitality, lifestyle and wellbeing, health, automotive, real estate, etc. etc.

5. Email campaigns must have professional copy that talks to the individual with some knowledge about the way they think, act and buy. It must have immediate rapport with the reader, but it must talk to them in a personal and individual way so they will not delete it as “another person wanting to sell me something”. They will want to open the email because it has a topic and initial opening line that captures their interest and creates desire.

6. Email campaigns should be run over short time periods. The offer, acceptance and delivery should take no longer than two weeks, and preferably should be concluded within 10 days. Otherwise, why use email, which is a quick response communication tool?

7. It doesn’t matter if everybody emailed does not take up the offer. If the offer is genuine, trustworthy, without gimmicks, and strikes at the needs base of the recipient, then brand reinforcement and interest will strengthen that person’s future relationship with your organization, whether they be an established customer or an emerging/ new customer.

Emails are therefore unique. In our case study it costs 60 cents to get a click through for 4,000 customers, yet all 16,000 customers (another 12,000) get positive reinforcement of brand, product / service and organisational image and credibility.

8. In the past, direct mail response rates of 1.5% – 2% to specific offers were seen as good to excellent. Similarly, email responses of around 3% should be your target, but 5% is achievable and this is considered good to excellent. There is also a “pass on” rate where the email can be forwarded to friends and colleagues.

9. There is no reason why you can’t use a trial an email campaign using your existing customer base, and then once you are satisfied, extend the email campaign to a purchased email database for your specific customer. This way, you can see if your existing customer base can be extended and successfully replicated through email online campaigns.

10. Whatever you do, do not use email campaigns to “go fishing”. They must be Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, give a definite Response and Time result. They must be S.M.A.R.T.

David Higginbottom
Competitive Edge (Asia) Pty Ltd

Google is just over 10 years old since its commercialisation.

During that time, web developers and marketers have been trying to decipher the best approaches and methodology for optimising their position and ranking on Google and associated search engines, the second best being Yahoo in Australia.

Research, Strategy, Marketing, Performance