Should You Talk About Competitors in Your Advertising?

By: First Union


Should You Talk About Competitors in Your Advertising?

We've all seen those Twitter wars in which big-name companies target one another directly in their ad campaigns. Sometimes this strategy works, other times…well, it could potentially backfire. What about smaller businesses? Does naming names and calling out competitors work? And if so, is this a strategy that your company should try to employ in its advertising?

First off, let's look at the downside of directly pointing to competitors in your marketing. Let's say you spend a decent amount of money to run an ad. This ad refers to a competitor's product and/or service. Audiences see this ad and are intrigued; they then begin looking deeper into that product or service being offered by the competition. So now in essence, what you've done is to fuel new interest in your competition. Ad money that would have probably been better spent elsewhere.

There's also the "punch back" question. If you go after the competition directly, what's now to stop them from going after you. And can your business sustain a public hit from a competitor? Ad wars have been ignited in just this way and very often someone does come out the worse for it.

Not to mention, should such an ad war escalate too far, there are legal ramifications that you could be facing. More than one company has had to contend with lawsuits as a result of pushing a competitor too far on the advertising front. If you do utilize such a strategy you want to avoid making any sort of claim against a competing company that could be construed as in any way false.

Yet another risk: having things escalate to the point where both you and the competition are revealing things about each other that the public probably shouldn't know about. It's been said more than once that businesses can create messy situations by engaging in a marketing battle.

Also, it bears stating that we live in a world in which consumers want to see civility; they believe in fair play. Going on the attack could backfire in that you will, in essence, turn off potential customers.

If You Do Decide to Name a Competitor

If you want to incorporate the competition into your ad campaign you need to strategize and make sure that you're doing it in the right way—so that it maximizes the ad's effectiveness. What exactly do you want to say? What is the overall point of the comparison you're trying to make in your advertising? These are questions you need answers to before just jumping in and running with such a marketing tactic.

Very often, this type of advertising will take a David vs. Goliath approach. As in, you're the newcomer or the "little guy" and you are thus positioning yourself against either a bigger or more established company. As you're not necessarily attacking the competition, this strategy could work well in a competition based ad. Do remember, however, in taking this particular approach, you're establishing them as the one to beat; you're already coming from a position that's seemingly somewhat weaker. So think through carefully how you want to present this.

In your comparative ad again, make sure that all claims you make are 100% valid. Any false claims or even one that has partial truth can be subject to a lawsuit. You need only look at the history of businesses who have sued over ads that were overblown, flat out lies or even unfair comparisons. Having a lawyer look over any such marketing strategy is not a bad idea before you go ahead and launch. Experts recommend keeping your claims somewhat vague. This way it is more difficult to measure said claim and thus harder to take legal action against it.

Another good idea in terms of utilizing comparative ads is to keep it light. If you keep the language and tone of the ad upbeat and more humorous than not, odds are it won't degenerate into name-calling; meaning, it won't get ugly and subject to legal action. Many larger companies have had great success with comparison marketing by taking this specific lighthearted approach.

Always when going after a competitor in an ad be sure to do your research. The more homework you do, the more facts you accrue, the more ammunition you have. The key is to be able to back up everything and anything you say in your ad campaign.

At First Union Lending, we've worked with many small businesses across the country helping them to launch a new ad campaign to generate a buzz around their brand. Do you need additional capital to get your new marketing strategy off the ground? We offer short term loansbusiness lines of credit and merchant cash advances among other such business loan products. Our programs are fast and flexible. Call today!

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