Friends, Enemies and Frenemies

Yesterday Om Malik coined a new word – Frenemy.

A frenemy is used to describe a business relationship where companies are friends of today, enemies tomorrow and friends again the day after. It’s the modern name for co-opetition the business mindset that combines competition and cooperation that was popularized in a wonderful book of the same name by Brandenburger and Nalebuff.

Essentially businesses cooperate to address common enemies and compete for common ground. It’s a strategy that should be adopted by media companies. For instance James Cridland posted about an API to make it easier to discover radio stations that match ones musical interest. Reading more into the post than he intended I thought he was suggesting a Frenemy strategy so people find radio as easy as web music. Not so. Pity because all stations benefit each time a listener chooses radio over some other audio medium.

It’s an ecology approach (sometimes narrowly called value-networks) that assumes that businesses success is determined as much by the health of the ecology it is in as its individual competitiveness. For an example of ecological analysis check out Nelson Ko’s post on the Business Intelligence Technology Partnerships. 

Some times you need to be partners with your competitors because someone else wants both your business’ – that’s when it’s good to have Frenemies.