The past 2 years have seen a remarkable, if slightly alarming trend in marketing – that of direct marketing warfare.
No, by saying ‘alarming’, I don’t mean that competitors should sit back and show no aggression. Thats plain stupid. Marketers, especially ones embroiled in intense competition should definitely be aggressive. But a lot of recent campaigns have brought about an increasing tendency to take potshots at your competitors, that too in a very direct and explicit fashion – be it Nestle’s spoof on Cadbury’s pehli tareekh hai campaign, the Rin vs Tide battle, Horlicks vs Complan battle, international Blackberry vs Apple ads, and many more.
My argument is not to say that marketing warfare is bad, just that the ways of attack are tilting more towards knee-jerk or frustration-driven instead of creative, as they are expected to be. And these ads are not working.
Case in point – the Rin vs Tide battle. So, HUL pulled off a major stunt, having released the ad on a weekend so that it could not be stayed before grabbing sufficient consumer eyeballs. But then a question begs to be asked – what’s the point? Does it add to the brand value of Rin? Does it add credibility to Rin and take it away from Tide?
In my opinion, the ad does neither. In fact, here an ad paid for by Rin talks about the USPs of Tide for 20-odd seconds before blasting them in the end, labeling them as a myth. Why someone would even want to talk about a competitor’s USP is beyond my understanding.
And this case is not the only one. Marketers have been observed to relish in the game of one-upmanship. It could be seen in the popular Horlicks vs Complan case, and even the now famous ambush erected by Dove against Pantene in the OOH media.
In my opinion, comparative ads are never going to be very successful in garnering sales. Think about the underlying image we project – Brand X is good because it is better than Brand Y!! Not because it is good itself, but because it is better than Y!! What is to prevent a Brand Z to then come in and pull the same stunt on Brand X?
The answer is – nothing. Nothing protects a brand from comparative advertisements. No product is a panacea, and you will always find your product lacking something or the other compared to a competitor. That is why it is important to build a brand on its own independent USP. An independent USP is not easily imitable and hence remains unique. That is why when Volvo talks about safety, people listen, because that is what Volvo has proved itself to stand for. And then, when a Suzuki Kizashi talks about safety while putting Volvo down, it is courting trouble (Watch the ads and my analysis in this post).
So ambush marketing, comparative ads, and to some extent spoofs don’t really help build a brand. The buzz they generate might give a brand manager a high for a couple of months, of having ‘shown him who the boss is’. But in a longer run, they don’t contribute any value to a brand.
Work those gray cells, let the creative juices flow and come up with original stuff. There still are plenty of examples of successful brands using creativity and imagination, something which is especially important to grab attention in an age of media deluge.