We've all heard the standard MBA spiel about Porter's 5 Forces, threat of substitutes, established rivals, etc...
And the reality is that competitive models like this are helpful. That's why they're so omnipresent and continue to be taught in every Intro to Business course.
Competitive awareness is not just understanding the positioning of your competitors and their overall strategy, it's much bigger than that. It's understanding your competitor's thinking from one day to the next. It's about drilling down and knowing the moment your competitors launch a new campaign, post a new promo or get news coverage.
I see competitive analysis being used to measure activity in months, quarters or years, but I see competitive awareness being used to measure activity in days.
It's like a chess match. If you just paid attention to your competitor's overall strategy in past games but didn't pay attention to the moves they are making right in front of you, you would almost certainly lose.
When a new client joins us we figure out what the "moves" are for their industry. With a marketing team I recently started working with the focus is new campaigns, new social content, product launches, product reviews and promotions.
Every day our team combs through hundreds of web pages, social posts, news feeds, and search results. All of that data gets fed into our system and we use an internal tool to pick out the most meaningful and impactful results. This isn't a process that can be fully automated (a machine won't be taking this job), but it can be streamlined to make things as efficient as possible for an analyst.
We post those results to a Slack channel that the whole team accesses on a daily basis. Every morning they wake up and review the most important competitive alerts for the day. Their team is fully engaged with the competition and every decision is made with a solid foundation of competitive understanding.