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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).

Discovering the launch date for a new product

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

We were aware that many potential interviewees would be unwilling to talk to us, or be able to tell us anything (as they would have signed non-disclosure / confidentiality agreements), until the competitor wanted information to be made public.

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

With the launch date known, our client was able to launch their own counter-publicity campaign on the same date, thereby dampening the impact 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. The sort of information required was time-sensitive and it would not have been available online - meaning that the only sources would be people with knowledge of the launch date.

We interviewed a number of people who we felt might know the required information – for example:

  • Journalists – who may already have the launch date;
  • The competitor’s PR agency – who would undoubtedly know the date;
  • The competitor's advertising agency – who would have already worked on the product advertisement;
  • Packaging suppliers – who would know of impending changes to production runs;
  • Supermarket / Store managers – who could have been pre-warned to reserve shelf space.

Profiling a key manager

Competitor Capabilities

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?" and then “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!

Due Diligence - Finding a partner for a new product launch

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 online (OSINT) search looking for mentions of the target company on the web, in news databases, on social media, etc. we 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). Some of this information had been missed in the initial due diligence carried out by our client on the target (as they had not been aware that full finances and court judgements are publicly available in the UK and so had depended on information supplied by the target company).

We also

  • Spoke to people who would know some of the required information e.g relating to reputation: neighbours, ex-employees, etc.
  • 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 around 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.

Anticipating competitor actions & risk analysis

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 from online (OSINT) research backed up by a number of interviews.

Although we had circumstantial evidence on the strategy, we could not confirm that this was the strategy to be implemented in the UK, 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).

More details

Market Rumours - True or False?

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. Among other questions, we 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.