Competitive Intelligence Case Studies

AWARE has worked on numerous research projects, across a wide range of industries. The intelligence we gather helps clients’ strategic and tactical decision making. Projects include classical competitive intelligence primary and secondary research, trade show evaluation, due diligence research, and more. The following case studies give examples of the some of the work we’ve carried out. Our case studies highlight the client brief, summarise the research approach taken and show the results or lessons learned. (In order to protect client confidentiality we have disguised company identities in these case studies).

The Brief
A number of press reports had announced that our client’s competitor was about to launch a new product. Our client wanted to know the date of this launch.

The Result
With the launch date known, our client was able to launch their own counter-publicity campaign on the same date, thereby dampening the effect of the competitor’s advertising.

How we obtained the information
A rule of thumb for finding information is to try to understand why information will be available. We spoke to a number of people who we felt could know the required information – for example:

  • Journalists – who may already have the launch date
  • The competitor’s PR agency – who would undoubtedly know (but, due to confidentiality, would be unlikely to say until they wanted the information to be made public)
  • The competitors advertising agency – who had already worked on the product advertisement
  • Packaging suppliers – who would know of impending changes to production runs
  • Supermarket managers – who would have been pre-warned to reserve shelf space.

By careful interviewing of people who did not know or had not been told the sensitivity of the information involved, we were able to successfully discover the launch date.

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The Brief
Our client, a public utility, had been invited to a meeting with the industry regulator, who had appointed a new senior manager. They wished to discover as much about this person as possible in order to understand their attitudes and anticipate what issues might be raised in this high profile meeting.

The Result
Our client went into the meeting considerably more prepared than competitors – to the extent that they later heard, through the industry grapevine, that the regulator had praised them as the only company that had a full understanding of the issues being looked at.

How we obtained the information
Knowing that the new appointee had started their career outside the UK, we conducted an international news search using an online subscription service. We were also able to obtain copies of articles in specialist trade magazines not covered by the news service. By analysing this information we were able to compile a curriculum vitae (resume) for the new recruit, not only covering employment and experience but going so far as to uncover political and religious beliefs – all of  which gave clues to the the regulatory approach likely to be taken.

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The Brief
Our client was a distribution company and owner of retail goods warehouses. Knowing there was a demand for more warehouse space in one part of the UK, our client, wondered how much of this business they could hope to obtain. They knew that the area currently had one warehouse used by manufacturers to deposit and store goods for local retailers. In order estimate their competitor’s current handling capacity, our client wanted to find out the number of loading bays the competitor used.

The Result
The client was able to determine that demand far exceeded the capacity capability of the competitor. On discovering the extent of the shortfall, our client realised that they could expand their own warehousing space and profit from this extra business.

How we obtained the information
Even the most junior workers have knowledge that can be useful to a competitor, often without knowing its importance. We chose to speak to the competitor’s warehouse security guard at 11:30pm on a Sunday evening when they were likely to be bored. We asked: “When does the warehouse open for deliveries?” We were given an answer – and were not asked who we were or why we wanted to know. We followed with – “Is it better to get there first thing to beat any queue, or are there enough loading bays to cope with demand“. We then followed up with “How many are there?” By now, the security person was feeling chatty, so we continued with other questions such as – “Out of curiosity, who else delivers to the warehouse” and so on… In that one phone-call we discovered a lot more than just the number of loading bays!

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The Brief
Our client, an overseas niche software company, sought a partner to help launch their product in the UK and a number of potential private company partners had been short listed. We were asked to evaluate the main candidate for partnership, with respect to their reputation, capabilities, background, customer service and general attitude to the market.

The Result
On our recommendation, our client chose not to enter into partnership with the main candidate, almost certainly saving them from a failed venture. Following further investigation another partner was chosen and the product was successfully launched in the UK.

How we obtained the information

Following a thorough Internet / Online search of we:

  • Spoke to a number of people who would know some of the required information
  • Carried out a full financial analysis on the target company, which showed a deteriorating financial picture (supported by evidence on a failed investment and a debt judgement)
  • Investigated the company directors: this turned up an undisclosed husband/wife link and revealed various company links not declared by the target company to our client. We also exposed misleading statements that the target company had used to woo our client about the target company’s capabilities and expertise.
  • Spoke to over 50 current customers, in addition to talking to past customers of the target. These gave an overall unfavourable opinion of this company.
  • Contacted the company first hand on several occasions asking for product literature, and similar. We were made lots of promises – none of which materialised.

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The Brief
Our client, had heard rumours that a competitor would alter one of their drink products available in the UK and that test marketing was being carried out overseas. We were asked to investigate and report.

The Result
We correctly anticipated the competitor’s actions thereby allowing our client to proactively respond rather than reactively try to counter the moves.

How we obtained the information
We were able to confirm that the competitor was test marketing the new formula and was using the new name in another country. Although we had circumstantial evidence on the strategy, we could not confirm that this was the strategy to be implemented, from the information we found. This isn’t unusual – strategic plans are viewed as highly confidential and so cannot be obtained ethically. Instead in-depth analysis can give the required insights.
In this case, we used a game-theory approach, to model the risk factors for:

  • Change of name and formulation
  • Name change only
  • Formulation change only

We predicted a formulation change only, with a name change to follow after the new taste had been accepted. This is exactly what happened.

(Note: It may have been possible to confirm the UK strategy using illegal or unethical approaches but we would not take this approach – and further would warn clients against even considering such approaches to gathering information).

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The Brief
Our client had heard a rumour about an associate company dealing with a competitor thereby breaking their contract agreements. We were asked to investigate the rumour to find out whether it was true or false.

The Result
We found that the rumour was in fact false. Just as important, as it provided confidence in our findings, we also uncovered the origin for the rumour. This was important, as we could only prove the rumour was false beyond doubt by showing how the rumour arose in the first place.

How we obtained the information

As the rumour was recent and related to a private conversation heard at a meeting, we could not use secondary source information except to find potential contact names. In this case we started by interviewing the relevant companies.

  • We interviewed the marketing director in the associate company, and personnel in other related companies and, among other questions, asked about issues that would involve our client’s contract agreements.
  • On analysis of the interview transcripts we realised that the marketing director kept naming another company in examples. We then called this company to ask similar questions, and found out what the associate company was actually doing, that had led to the rumour starting.

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