There are quite a few legal restrictions on comparative advertising where names are named and products/services are compared with their competitors. But there are not nearly as many on competitive advertising.

Here are some of the techniques we use to develop very competitive advertising, while still complying with legal and industry guidelines.

  1. Comparison Against a Known Standard – Known standards are usually not precise, so this is a great technique. For years food products compared themselves to “homemade” which was perceived to be a gold standard. The beauty of this that there is no such standard but in the mind of the consumer.
  2. Comparison to Yourself – Using your product as a standard can be done in two ways: a Before and after which makes the comparison by showing the difference product use makes. Simple and effective. Another way to compare to yourself is when you compare current product to your old product. Any improvement benefits from this comparison. The critical part of the demonstration is selecting the attribute/benefit that proves the product is great.  We can also imply overall superiority.  Calexis has done this with “Equal has no Equal” and with “Chubb Defines Insurance.” both suggest a product or service that is without peer.
  3. Comparison through a Torture Test – Even if your product is only a parity product, you can make it seem exceptional by putting it through what seems to consumers to be a torture test. The old Timex commercials were legendary examples of this: strapping a watch to an outdoor motor and showing afterwards that it kept on ticking. Whether this really showed the watch was sturdy or not didn’t matter – to viewers it did. Even though this situation would never happen in real life.
  4. Create a Problem on Your Brand Can Solve – One way to create a problem is to name it. This is how Listerine cured “halotosis” or Viagra cured “Erectile Dysfunction.” No one had heard of these “diseases” until the product addressed them. Even if the disease wasn’t present, the products became desirable to consumers who wanted what advertising showed or implied as the benefit of the “cure.”
  5. Implicit Comparison Through Unique Reasons Why – This is often done through naming ingredients as a proprietary reason why. Contains: Resveritrol, Retsin, Stannous Fluoride, the list goes on. If you name your active ingredient your competitor can’t own it and can’t contain it – even if they have the exact same active ingredient. Another approach is a claim that hadn’t been used, such as Cheerios claiming low sugar content when consumers started being concerned about their sugar intake.
  6. Implicit Comparisons Made Through Consumer Loyalty – There are at least three ways to create product superiority through consumer loyalty:
    a. Real people claiming preference is a strong way. Non actors look, act and sound different and provide credibility thought third party endorsement.
    b. Celebrities and well known people have a certain credibility. The more relevant the celebrity is to the product or its benefit the better. If the celebrity isn’t relevant, then forget it. People know that the celebrity is doing it for the money and all you get is awareness, not a convincing story.
    c. Experts, either real or invented, add credibility to an endorsement. Continuing invented characters can also add character to the brand over time.  Real people with a relevant occupation or relationship to the product can he great authorities.  A friend of mine once used the line “those who like it, like it a lot!”
    d. Choose a group as your authority – Starbucks is now doing with their new coffee by using silly groups, but it can be serious as well.  Or one can use statistical groups, such as “73% of dentists agree.”
  7. A Stronger Selling Idea Can Create More Competitive Advertising – We helped Subway succeed against Mr. Sub by maintaining a focus of “Freshness.” Both sandwich makers had almost identical products, but “freshness” advertising made consumers feel Subway had a better tasting and more nutritious sandwich – despite the fact a sandwich was identical to competitor Mr. Sub.
  8. Change of Positioning – Consumer attitudes change over time. Addressing such a change can benefit a brand without making a change in the brand itself. It can be done with advertising.
  9. Product Improvement – New! Improved! Better than ever before! A change gives consumers a chance to try a product even if they are lapsed users or have tried the product and rejected it. Curiosity is piqued. Permission is given.
  10. Transfer Product Excellence to a New Area – A new use or application can work for a product. Baking Soda is hardly used for baking anymore. A brand can also endorse itself by line extension. The excellence of the brand provides its own credibility to support a new use, new service or product extension. Procter & Gamble have discovered this in spades with gazillions of line extensions for Tide, Ivory, Mr. Clean, Swiffer, you name it. And virtually every evil snack product now comes in 100 calories packaging.
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