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Openly Calling Out Your Competition Can Be Risky

Taking pot-shots at an adversary is a tactic that many find difficult to pass up. In business, it has been a longstanding edict that attempting to use a competitor’s brand against them often results in an unanticipated response. More often than not, talking bad about the competition results in consumers wondering why you don’t have anything good to say about yourself. Pretending to know how a consumer may respond to a negative tactic is risky, particularly in this age of ultra-savvy consumers. Even a veiled reference about a rival’s perceived negatives can quickly be turned-back on the perpetrator. Despite the risk, a considerable amount of ad space is filling up with deliberate, overt shots against competitors.

Comparative or competitive advertising, polite terms for the tactic, are not new. Usually performed with a degree of anonymity, the tactic can successfully differentiate one brand from another, particularly when the positive benefit is the focus of the message. To be effective the differentiator must be understood by the target consumer. Last year’s frontal attack by Budweiser on Miller Lite and Coors Light may have been a good example of firing blanks, as many loyal drinkers of Miller and Coors responded, “so what, what’s wrong with brewing beer with corn syrup?” Bud spent little time explaining why the absence of corn syrup made Bud Light beer better. In the end, how many loyal Miller and Coors drinkers were really swayed to change their habits and switch to Bud?

Formula restaurants, those fast food chains that are in a perpetual war against one another, rarely miss an opportunity to make comparisons on each menu item. Comparative advertising can be very effective when differences relating to the products’ features are underlined and supported by testimonials. Popeye’s claimed significant battle wins in the “2019 Chicken Wars” by comparing taste and texture benefits of its new chicken sandwich to Chick-fil-a’s successful offering. Calling out the competitor by name can be successful when the declared benefit can be backed up by credible experience and corroborated by authentic data.

In large degree batteries are a commodity, but recently the iconic, pink Energizer Bunny, stood aside while his understudy, the Lithium Energizer Bot, took on all competitive challengers in a “dance-off”. Rather than identifying a single competitor, the Lithium Energizer Bot outlasted all comers and demonstrated a small but very powerful comparative bit of advertising: “Energizer lasts longer!” An effective competitive campaign can knock down even the strongest competitor for one round, but at the end of the match, all the bold and artful prose must be supported by performance.

For more information on whether a competitive or comparative campaign could be successful for your business, call Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) today at 678-686-1125.