What Happens When an 800lb. Competitor Comes to Town?
I went to Barcelona in 2013 to experience Mobile World Congress (MWC), the massive mobile industry trade show and conference.
What struck me about MWC was its scale, energy, buzz and dominance. It was “a thing.” The Barcelona event now attracts more than 100,000 attendees, and in 2014 the organizers, GSMA, rebranded their China event, calling it MWC Shanghai.
Now the interesting part.
Last year, the announcement was made that CTIA, the trade association which represents the US wireless industry, would be partnering with GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. The big news is that GSMA has partnered with CTIA to create Mobile World Congress Americas, which replaces the long-standing CTIA event known as Super Mobility Week.
So what happened? How did a dominant, successful, US-centric, 35,000+ attendee event end up partnering with another organization?
The answer is that I don’t know for sure, but here’s what may have happened and what I see happening across the landscape of industries we work with:
- The mobile ecosystem is changing fast—new technologies, new entrants, shifting regulations, and an industry that’s much more global and less US-centric than it once was. AND, consumers’ and business customers’ expectations are moving much faster.
- Mobile World Congress captured the imagination, attention and energy of the global mobile ecosystem. It didn’t hurt that it was in Barcelona, that it was a star-studded, dynamic and sexy experience, and that it became the global launchpad for what’s new and what’s next.
- CTIA saw an opportunity to combine forces with GSMA and in so doing created a stronger and competitive US-based event.
- GSMA, the event organizer, is entrepreneurial, aggressive, focused and driven. I would describe them as a global media organization. They are playing to win.
- Partnerships, alliances and, when necessary, mergers can work. A quick way to scale, accelerate momentum and get the attention of an industry is to align with a stronger competitor. No harm, no foul.
Sound familiar? Do you see similarities to your event, your organization, your industry? Are you the 800lb. gorilla? Who is? What do they want, and what will they do to win? Will they steal your audience or dilute your position in the marketplace?
Now is a good time to look around the corner and over your shoulder. If you’re the leader, what are you doing to protect your lead? If you have lost the number one position or fear you might, what is your strategy to succeed in a new environment?
The CTIA/GSMA partnership sounds like a good one. I wish them well, and we should all watch and see what happens this September. This may be a sign of more such partnerships between strong, entrepreneurial leaders and trade associations.