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What Philadelphia’s Most Notorious Food Rivalry Taught Us About Digital Marketing

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If you ask just about any tourist, foodie, or, really just about anyone who travels to the City of Brotherly Love — regardless if they come from near or far — one of the most quintessential Philadelphia food experiences is to procure one of our city’s most well-known delicacies — the inimitable, one-of-a-kind, and possibly most sought-after dish in all of Philly. I speak, of course, about the venerable Philly cheesesteak.  

Wait — you’ve never heard of a Philly cheesesteak?? Of course you have! But just in case….this meat and cheese culinary commodity elevated the humble and lowly sandwich (which itself was invented during a card game by England’s The Earl of Sandwich in the mid 1700s — you can’t make this sh*t up!) into something even more magnificent. Not only does the Philly cheesesteak warrant the adoration, reverence, and devotion of foodies across the globe, but it has also inspired its own language, lingo, and jargon to properly order the sandwich. 

“Whiz wit,” anyone?? 

I’m sure by this time you’re probably wondering, “Chris, what the f*@k does a Philly cheesesteak have to do with digital marketing?” 

Well, a lot, actually. 

But before we get into all that, we first will need to start at the beginning. So break out your favorite napkin, grab a “Whiz wit,” and strap in for a gustatory ride into the lessons that Philadelphia’s most notorious food rivalry taught us about digital marketing. 

In the Beginning….

As I mentioned — like some kind of gastronomic superhero — the Philly cheesesteak was conceived from humble origins. The year was 1930…or sometime in the 1930s (just like any legit superhero story, the facts are subject to interpretation). As the story goes, a hot dog vendor named Pat Oliveri grilled some leftover beef from the butcher, threw it on an Italian roll, and BOOM — the steak sandwich was invented. Due to an influx of interest by both local cab drivers as well as South Philadelphia neighbors, Pat opened up “Pat’s King of Steaks” right there on the corner of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue. Little did he know the steak struggle was just beginning. 

The Rivalry

A few decades later, there came another contender to dispute the cheesesteak monarchy held by Mr. Oliveri. His name? Joey Vento. In 1966, Mr. Vento opened his own cheesesteak shop — literally right across the street from Pat’s King of Steaks’ shop — and named it “Geno’s” (Joe’s Steak Place had already been in business). It’s actually believed that Geno’s was the first to innovate adding cheese to the original steak sandwich that Pat Oliveri had invented. Either way, what followed was nothing short of a good, ol’ fashioned Philadelphia rivalry. 

In fact, for over five decades, this rivalry became heated, with each owner focusing his efforts on one-upping the other. However, while Mr. Oliveri and Mr. Vento were solely concentrating on each other, new contenders entered the (onion) ring. Enter Jim’s, Tony Luke’s, Dalessandro’s, Larry’s, and more — the list goes on and on. Soon, a bevy of cheesesteak shops was opened and the market share for Pat’s and Geno’s was reduced to a mere slice of the pie, instead of dominating the entire cheesesteak landscape as they once did.

“So what?” you’re probably saying. “Sure, I prefer (insert your favorite cheesesteak brand here), but what the hell does it have to do with my digital marketing campaign?” Well, let me respond with two simple, yet crucial words: Competitor Analysis. 

Enter Competitor Analysis

One of the most essential parts of any marketing campaign — especially digital campaigns — is understanding who your competition is. Yes, you may think you know who the major players are in your industry, sector, or vertical, but do you really know? And how can you be so sure? It’s too easy to become myopic and get tunnel vision when you’re only focusing on one or two competitors in your space. However, the reality is that there are likely many, many more contenders in your industry that you’re not considering, or simply not aware of.

What a competitor analysis provides is not only who the major players are in your industry  — whether you’re aware of them or not — but also gives you valuable insight into their marketing strategies. In turn, this allows you to investigate precisely how these competitors do business, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how you can beat them at their own game. In short, a competitor analysis gives you the necessary information to outrank, outperform, and outmatch your competition. Or in shorter, it allows you to take a page out of their book (menu) and make it work for you!

Lessons Learned

Nowadays, foodies looking for that one-of-a-kind Philly cheesesteak experience have no shortage of options to choose from. In fact, many self-respecting native Philadelphians would never opt for a Pat’s or Geno’s cheesesteak, with many proclaiming that they’re nothing more than a “tourist trap.” However, the fact remains that Philadelphia’s most notorious food rivalry actually laid the groundwork for other, lesser-known steak shops to open, thrive, and be considered among the “best of the best.” 

The bottom line is, you may think you know who your competition is, but do you really know? How can you be certain? While you may only be focusing on the Geno’s to your Pat’s, there may be other sharks lurking in the water, waiting to take a bite out of your market share.

This week, all our blogs will be covering various aspects of competitor analysis and what it can do for your business. So, whether you’re in home services, eCommerce, professional services, or anything in between, there will be something for you to learn. 

For more information on our digital marketing services, contact us today. What are you waiting for? Contact us right now!

About the Author: 

Chris Shirlow is 1SEO’s Director of Content, and a self-proclaimed “Content Assassin.” He’s written international award-winning content and has a penchant for shooting fellow employees with Nerf guns. His favorite dish is porcelain.

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