The 3C Model Applied to Marketing

Bill Marketing

We often get approached by firms asking questions about brand strategy. A good place to start is the Three Cs – CustomersCompany and Competition.

The Three Cs just makes sense –

  • If your firm isn’t considering the needs of your target customers – you’ve already made a massive mistake.
  • Your firm needs to consider the competition, and be able to respond to their moves and play the game of winning mindshare.
  • You need to consider your firm itself, how do you develop pride in the staff and admiration in public?

I came across the 3C business model from this blog post originating from a speech by Uri Baruchin. The 3C model is explained over here and was created by Kenichi Ohmae in the context of car manufacturing in Japan.

The 3C model works well when considering how a firm presents itself in public using writing, video, advertising and any form of engagement. We’ve taken the 3C model and implied six key points on the diagram as conceptual narratives for a content campaign.

Let us consider each of the noted points as three extreme positions and three midway positions and how they guide your narratives.

Point 1. Customer empathy

When writing with a customer focus, you are putting yourself in their shoes and hoping to demonstrate that you see their business in context. The result is recognition that you understand them and earn their respect for doing so. This is also a good exercise to match your perceptions of the customer with your company strategy, as a mismatch between the two is clearly dangerous.

Narrative approaches:

  • Expressing the current challenges faced by the customer
  • Forecasting future challenges they may face
  • Explaining impacts and disruptions that customers may experience
  • Narrating the history of change in their environment
  • Expressing your perceptions of their needs


  • You show in public you’ve misunderstood customers
  • Customers react on-line and are angry at what you say
  • You fail to capture what their real challenges are
  • You appear to say the same things as other companies

Point 2. Trust Us to Be Objective

Writing about the relationship between your customers (or prospects) and the competition requires care. A good example is SharpSpring who place this content prominently on their site showing a price and features comparison between their platform and their competitors which you can see here. The dangers come when you don’t research this space properly – making statements about your competition which are inaccurate will soon get you into trouble, as would misunderstanding how well liked the competition is. Even so, giving your prospects and customers useful material on the competition shows that you are aware and insightful about the space you sell into. Contrast point 2 with point 4 where you deliberately aim to differentiate your firm.

Narrative approaches:

  • Acknowledge a competitors announcement and highlight your advantages over their offering
  • Conducting a survey into customer satisfaction with the competition
  • Producing private briefing notes for your customers on the competition


  • Some people will see this as a negative strategy
  • Misunderstanding the goodwill between the competition and its own customers

Point 3. Dominate the battle & Point 4. We’re Different Because…

Both these points lead to a key place for content, that of comparing and contrasting your offerings with the competition. As SharpSpring shows above, being objective about the competition is a healthy approach to selling your services. It is also a necessity for your competitive strategy to be clear on how your business compares with the competition, and be ready to respond. If you are a new entrant of competing with a netter known brand, your prospects are able to immediately put your product or service into context. Also, if you you are perceived to be lagging behind the competition, you lose out. By not responding in public to moves by competitors, you lose by default in not having something new to say, and not appearing to be the thought leader in the space.

Narrative approaches:

  • Feature comparison tables & checklists
  • Price comparison tables – although revealing your pricing may be a mixed blessing
  • Promoting the benefits of your product/service over the competition
  • Using third party reviews to support your claims – think of Samsung pecking at perceived shortcomings of the iPhone
  • Research reports by independant consultants, commissioned by your firm


  • Not having access to accurate information about your competition
  • Making inaccurate statements in public
  • Exposing your weaknesses by comparing with the competition

Point 4. See previous section

Point 5. Burnish the Brand

Many press releases seem self-centred on the internal monologue of a firm. “We hired Joe Bloggs”, “We Announced a New Feature”, “Revenue Up By 7%”. My personal view is that these rarely resonate with an audience of prospects as they rarely tell and interesting story, more a case of releasing facts into the public domain.  Personally I want to see longer form stories about firms, illuminating their inner journey towards being the perfect fit for customer needs. What have they been considering? What ideas are they testing? Why have those chosen their direction for product development?

Narrative approaches

  • Who the leadership team are and their personal perspectives on the company
  • Why the company chose one direction over another
  • How the firm intends to develop in the near term
  • Mapping the reasons for product development versus customer needs
  • Client wins, but perhaps with some meat in the sandwich. “Company wins Client X” as a press release is a thin piece of content on its own


  • Giving your competition too many ideas for the future
  • Missing the chance to develop a personality and voice for your firm
  • Boring people

Point 6. Cultivate a relationship

At last we arrive at the most heavily trafficked point for content publication. Every firm wants to post content at the mid-point of connecting customer needs with your service and product offerings. It’s a tried and tested approach “Our customers said they needed feature X, so we responded and here it is…”. I guess Apple are a good exponent of this space, their semi-annual keynote presentations wobble between point 1 and point 6 by promoting the whizzy new iPhone features and then following this with a cool video of their phone in action demonstrating the whizzy new features.

Provided your firm has understood point 1 – their customer needs and influences, this should drive product development and lead to point 6 by announcing your response. Make the content in point 6 interesting, use video, print and social media to broaden the formats you use to engage prospects. Ensure that prospects see both the short term justifications for using your firm, and lead them towards a longer term relationship.

Narrative approaches

  • The latest release of our product / service is here and why our customers are excited
  • Our strategy is to provide solutions to specific problems, and list them
  • Our customers (using Point 1) face influences which we have responded to with new features
  • Our product / service meets your needs by doing these things, and list them
  • Fact sheets on your service offerings, linked with video and print material
  • Launch events for your latest release / new product


  • Sounding self-serving. Customer quotes combat this by adding an alternative voice, and getting input from research companies is even better
  • Not involving customers closely enough in the short and long term development of your firm
  • Letting your competitors dominate the customer dialogue: reach out and involve customers in your consultations and events

In Summary

Point 6 is the place where most firms publish content – and therefore every reason to consider points 1 to 5. Apple avoids point 3 (Taking aim at the competition) and sometimes speaks to point 2 (comparing against the competition) with charts in their keynotes kicking the Android operating system to show how slowly Android is taken up compared to iOS. If I were planning a company strategy and content campaign, I would start privately with point 1 – find out the most you can about your customers and what is influencing them, then work around in private and public.

We use the triad as part of our brand review process because it provides a useful structure for planning a successful campaign. If nothing else it gives you conscious choices about what you do and don’t cover publicly.