The Pros & Cons of Comparative Advertising

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Hands up who thinks they are better than their competitors!  Don’t you just wish you could tell the world how much better your products are than those offered by your competitors?  Welcome to the world of comparative advertising… or ‘knocking copy’ as it is sometimes known!

To comply with the advertising standards, you must ensure that any use of a rival’s trademark (if they have one) does not mislead or create confusion.  In addition, it must not discredit or take unfair advantage of the trademmark owner’s reputation.

I bet you’re thinking… “fair enough”.  But a lot of marketers forget that these codes of conduct don’t just apply to traditional forms of marketing, they apply to social media, blogs and other forms of online marketing just as much as they apply to offline marketing.  SO, we thought it would be a good idea to post a list of things to consider before you click PUBLISH:

1 -Legality: Since the British Airways vs Ryanair court battle of 2001, you are allowed to identify your competitors by name and trademark in all forms of advertising.  The key question is… can you validate the accuracy of your claims?  This is a straightforward question to answer perhaps where price comparisons are concerned.  However, product or service comparisons are much harder to substantiate.  Seek legal advice where required beforehand if you’re unsure.

The Skegness Tourist Office recently came under fire for having a pop at Blackpool.  In doing so, Visit Skegness broke the British rule of ‘fair play’.

2 – Sour Grapes: Cheap shots will damage your brand. They can make you appear unprofessional, untrustworthy and even desperate to get ahead.  Highlighting the short-comings of others can suggest you have something to hide too.  If your consumer base values ‘fair play’, comparative advertising is a dangerous game to get involved in.

3 -Risk vs Reward: Sadly, we live in a media hungry society. The media love controversy. Consequently, don’t be lured into being controversial just to get noticed.  Just like share prices, your credibility can go up as well as down very quickly. What’s more, with social media ruling the masses, once your bold statements have been leaked, they are very difficult to control!

4 – Click Anger: Quite often, companies choose to target their competitors’ names through pay-per-click.  However, quality scores are likely to be very low because landing page content is usually not particularly relevant!  Although a common practice a few years ago, we’re amazed at how many people still ask us if this is a good idea.  In our experience, it can seriously upset your competitors and they’ll work harder to get ahead of you in any way possible.

In short, if you don’t want people to bad mouth you, don’t do it to them!

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