There was a great example of marketing 101 this week in the tech industry, when Michael Arrington announced the TechCrunch50 conference, coincidentally clashing with the rival DEMO conference. The news dominated Techmeme for the day and gave us all a break from the Are they? Aren’t They? mating ritual going on between Microsoft and Yahoo. It reminded me of a talk given by Virgin at Cambridge University a couple of years ago, describing their approach to PR – taking aim at rival and established incumbent British Airways:

“Picking on a very public competitor guarantees publicity. Lots of news coverage means more people get to hear about what you are doing.”

Apparently the clash in dates really is a coincidence, due to availability of conference facilities during the Fall. But imagine if TechCrunch and DEMO sat down and agreed to keep the conferences apart, one running in the Fall and one in the Spring. How many headlines would have appeared on Techmeme? I’d wager not as many as the shouting fest that took place this week.

Since setting up in business, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given was: “Pick a rival.” If you claim you are the only company doing what you do, people will wonder why it needs doing. There’s no better way to validate your idea than to show that others are doing it too, and then show why what you’re doing is better. Hat tip to Mr Arrington. It’s not very nice to say your competition should go away and die, but it is marketing 101.

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