Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

9 October 2017

AOL AIM ignored the entire competitive set

The news of AOL ending its AIM service comes as a shock to no one. Now, AOL can concentrate on…um. What exactly? The Huffington Post, which it owns?

AOLActually, the end of the AOL messaging service presents a case study in considering a competitive set. Most analysts point to the rise of Facebook Messenger as the harbinger of AIM’s doom. But that’s thinking too small.

No matter your brand or industry, your competition is any alternative to what you offer. The fax machine dies not just become email rises up. The emergence of smart phones and, yes, instant messaging like AIM drove fax machines into semi-oblivion.


“You can tell AOL ignored them because it never offered anything that was different.”

AOL never considered all the ways people communicate

In the case of AOL AIM, it’s not just Facebook Messenger killing it. It’s also texting on our smart phones or even direct messaging through Twitter and Snapchat. Who needs AIM when the communication options are practically endless?

Considering your entire competitive set is crucial because, otherwise, you develop the wrong strategy. You may pinpoint a competitor to steal market share from, but that competitor may be just as doomed as you are. Pretty soon, you’re not in the considered set either.

As a brand company, we look at whatever the target audience uses that fulfills the needs of your offering. Branding a toaster, for instance, means considering all the ways target audiences prepare bread. Not just other toaster brands.

There exists a whole host of reasons why AIM fails, among them the failings of the AOL brand. But setting itself against Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp limits what needs AIM could fulfill. In the end, there’s nothing AIM offers that isn’t done by Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, texting, emailing and, yes, faxing (in an old fashioned way). You can tell AOL ignored them because it never offered anything that was different. It is only a matter of time until AOL pulls the plug. It’s been limiting AIM for years.

See more posts in the following related categories: AOL Facebook SnapChat Twitter WhatsApp


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