Comparative marketing strategies, where you compare your product against competitors, can be risky but also very powerful in the right circumstances. If you have a genuine and measurable advantage over your opposition, you might have a lot to gain by considering it.
It is worth knowing when to use comparative marketing strategies and how to use them. First, be clear about what it is. Making a claim in isolation is not comparative. It is comparative when you take some specific aspect of your product or service and compare it against those of your opposition.
Direct or Indirect
There are different ways you can get comparative. If you name a competitor, you are engaging in direct comparative marketing. If you do not name them explicitly, you are being indirect. It is safer to not be explicit about who your comparison is against. You can do this by de-identifying a competitor and still use their information, but it can be more compelling to name a competitor.
Apples and Apples
Good comparative advertising compares like for like. You can open yourself up for challenges from competitors or regulators if you do not compare the same attributes or compare in the same context.
A current TV ad for Crimsafe shows a competitor screen being kicked in after three kicks. The Crimsafe screen does not kick in. The competitor’s door was installed by the competitor and the Crimsafe door was installed later in the same position. These are important or the comparison would not be fair.
Choosing the Right Comparisons
Choose the point of difference you base your comparison on with care. The key is to choose a factor that is unlikely to change over the lifetime of your comparison. If your prices are better than your competitor, keep in mind that unless you have significant cost advantages, your competitor could change their pricing and render your campaign ineffective.
Another price-related factor to avoid is ‘value’. Claiming more value than a competitor can be subjective. Instead, choose something your competitor is unlikely to be able to change. The quality of the build, the strength of the product, the geographic reach of your service, the freedom to transact in so many ways, or some other factor that should see your advantage stay intact.
What to Show
In your comparative marketing, keep your points on facts and comparisons. Do not show too much about your competitors and, as unusual as it sounds, do not show too much of your own product or service being used. The message in your comparison needs to get through. If you start blending other campaign agendas you can blur and weaken your competitive message.
Most comparative marketing is, in fact, comparative advertising. You can reach a large audience and make a big impression by demonstrating and proving the superiority of what you sell over your competitors.
It is also the riskiest form of comparative marketing because of the very same attributes that make it so powerful; it is a broadcast medium, viewed by the masses. But if you are accurate in your claims and you compare the same attribute in the same context, getting comparative in mass communications is a powerful strategy.
Sales presentations are where you can make greater comparisons, and safer comparisons. You still need to toe the line on comparing accurately, but you can more freely name names. Getting comparative in sales presentations also lets you provide more detail and tailor your comparison. If your customer is already using a competitor, you can tailor your comparison against that competitor.
Depending on what you sell, sales presentations also allow your customer to see a comparison for themselves, directly. If you can achieve this, it will make a much bigger impact.
Twitter and Facebook can be powerful ways of achieving comparative marketing by recruiting your contacts to supply the comparisons and the testimonials. You need to accept that the medium can be hijacked, and you are still required to monitor content and treat your social media like any publishing. But you can outsource the content and get greater credibility by getting customers making your claims on your behalf.
Prepare to Defend
Lastly, something to keep in mind if you decide to get comparative, especially in broadcast media, is that you might need to defend your decision against competitors or regulators. You might be right in your claims but the more effective your campaign, the more motivated your competitor is to stop you or to at least rattle the sabre. And regulators will also require you to provide at least some degree of substance to your claims. You will need to have these at hand.