Let’s say you make a widget. It’s a great widget; the best one on the market. There’s another widget out there that’s not as good as yours, but it has better recognition and market share.
What do you do?
Well, this could be the perfect time to use comparative advertising. If you really do have a product or service that leaves the competition in the dust, you should seriously consider doing some side-by-side comparison advertising.
What Is Comparative Advertising?
In laymen’s terms, it’s simply the process of directly comparing your product or service to that of a major competitor. Whether it’s Coke vs Pepsi, Nike vs Adidas, or Republican vs Democrat, the formula is usually the same. Point out the ways your brand is stronger than the other, and pay particular attention to the weaknesses of the other brand. Perhaps the greatest example of this was the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” campaign. Apple won that battle in a landslide.
If the competitor has had a recent PR disaster, that can also work to your advantage. One prime example of this was the London Eye ride, which was sponsored by British Airways. The wheel was having trouble being raised. Virgin Atlantic floated a blimp above the wheel saying “BA Can’t Get It Up!!,” making Virgin Atlantic seem like the cool guy and one that can get things done. It’s considered one of the greatest “brand vs brand” stunts ever devised.
Is Comparative Advertising Legal?
Yes, totally legal. BUT, there are guidelines that have to be followed. Every country has slightly different laws around it, with some (the U.K.) being more strict than the USA or Australia. You cannot make untrue statements about the competition, or blatantly misleading claims. If you tell.
The Pros of Comparative Advertising
There are many if you have claims that can hold water. For a start, if you are a challenger brand (i.e. much smaller than the leading brand), you can ride their coattails with a campaign daring them to fight back. It’s a winning situation whatever happens. If they do, you’ve engaged them and you’ll get free press. If not, people assume you’ve won because the other brand is staying quiet.
Comparative advertising is also a good way to compare your product or service instantly with one that people already know. Remember when Dyson first came onto the market? It was new, it was unheard of, and boy, was it expensive. But when Dyson went up against brand-name vacuums that people knew, and trusted, and blew them out of the water…Dyson became the champion.
Comparative advertising is also an excellent way to quickly and easily list product or service benefits to the consumer. A side-by-side list, showing how your brand beats the competition in every category. It can be that your washing powder cleans twice as white with half the amount (OxyClean made that claim, and it made the brand a household name).
Yes. Make no mistake, if you are going to step into the ring with another brand, you are going to trade blows. Take one of the most famous pieces of comparative advertising ever done—Avis vs Hertz.
The year was 1962. Avis was looking for a new ad campaign to boost sales and went to the smartest new kid on the block—Doyle Dane Bernbach. Bill Bernbach got to the heart of the matter immediately. He wanted to know the strengths of Avis, and hit upon the tagline “We Try Harder.”
Ads like “When You’re Only No. 2, You Try Harder. Or Else,” were a massive hit. It was clear Avis was taking potshots at Hertz. And of course, Hertz fired back. Long copy ads like “For years, Avis has been telling you Hertz is No. 1. Now we’re going to tell you why” put Hertz back in the power position. And for decades, they were fighting it out, calling out weaknesses about the other’s company.
It's also worth noting that some of the bigger, meaner brands will have no hesitation in taking a smaller brand to court if there's a hint of something misleading. Do you want that to happen?
Remember—Only Start a Fight You Can Win
Are you sure of your claims? Can you back them up? Do you know, with 100 percent accuracy, that the other brand or service is inferior to yours? If you’re nodding yes to every question, then that sounds like a battle worth taking on.
However, if you have any doubts about the claims, or if the brand you’re going up against can outspend you $100 to $1, think twice. Not every David can knock down a Goliath.