In comparative advertising, there is a direct challenge by the advertiser to a competitor’s product or service. In general, it’s used to present a product or service as being superior to a comparable product or service as a competitor. Value is communicated through price, range, volume, size, or quality.
|Definition||Comparative Advertising is a marketing strategy that involves comparing a product or service to a competitor’s offering. This form of advertising highlights the advantages, features, or price differences between the advertised product and one or more competing products. The goal is to persuade consumers that the advertised product is superior or offers better value than the alternatives.|
|Key Concepts||– Product Comparison: The core concept is comparing attributes of the advertised product to those of competitors. – Differentiation: Emphasizes what makes the advertised product unique or better. – Consumer Choice: Addresses consumer decision-making by providing information for choice. – Competitive Edge: Aims to establish a competitive advantage for the advertised product. – Legal Considerations: Must comply with regulations regarding truthful and non-deceptive advertising.|
|Characteristics||– Product Comparison: The central characteristic is the side-by-side comparison with competitor products. – Informational: Provides consumers with information to make informed choices. – Persuasive: Aims to persuade consumers that the advertised product is the better option. – Variability: Comparative advertising can range from subtle comparisons to more direct contrasts. – Risk of Backlash: May lead to legal challenges or damage to the brand’s reputation if not executed carefully.|
|Implications||– Consumer Decision-Making: Influences consumers’ choices by highlighting product advantages. – Competitive Dynamics: Can intensify competition among brands in the same market. – Legal Compliance: Must adhere to laws and regulations governing comparative advertising to avoid legal issues. – Brand Image: Can impact the image of both the advertiser and the competitors mentioned. – Consumer Perception: May influence how consumers perceive the quality and value of the advertised product.|
|Advantages||– Competitive Edge: Can create a competitive advantage by showcasing superior product attributes. – Consumer Information: Informs consumers about product features and benefits. – Brand Recall: Makes the advertised product memorable when compared to competitors. – Market Positioning: Helps establish a distinct market position. – Innovation Promotion: Encourages product innovation to outperform competitors.|
|Drawbacks||– Legal Risks: Comparative advertising must comply with laws and can lead to legal challenges. – Negative Impact: May harm the image of competitors or lead to backlash from rivals. – Consumer Confusion: Misleading comparisons can confuse consumers. – Ethical Concerns: Can raise ethical questions about fairness and transparency. – Overemphasis on Competition: Can shift focus away from highlighting the product’s own merits.|
|Applications||– Product Launches: Often used when introducing a new product to demonstrate its superiority. – Price Comparison: Common in industries where pricing is a key factor, such as electronics or retail. – Feature Highlights: Effective for products with unique or standout features. – Rebranding: Used during rebranding efforts to shift market perception. – Market Share Growth: Employed to gain market share from competitors.|
Understanding comparative advertising
Instances of comparative advertising were rare prior to the 1970s because of the perceived risks in running such a campaign. Indeed, comparative advertising could invite legal complications and result in public sympathy for the competitor whose products or services were being negatively portrayed.
In 1972, however, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had a change of heart. The agency encouraged advertisers to make direct comparisons with their competitors, ostensibly to increase public welfare through more informative advertising and foster healthy competition between companies. Today, the FTC defines comparative advertising as “advertisement that compares alternative brands on objectively measurable attributes or price, and identifies the alternative brand by name, illustration, or other distinctive information.”
Generally speaking, comparative advertising is used to present a product or service as being superior to a comparable product or service from a competitor. The main goal of the business running the ad is to communicate the value of their brand relative to the attributes of one or more other brands. Here, value may take the form of product size, range, quality, volume, or price.
While comparative advertising is most frequently seen in product or service promotion, it has also formed part of political advertisements. In this case, a candidate standing for election may describe how they’ll avoid making the same mistakes as the incumbent.
Comparative advertising examples
To help you get a better sense of comparative advertising, we have included some real-world examples below:
Mac vs. PC
Apple once promoted their Mac computers by running commercials that personified each option in comical ways. In one campaign, the Mac was relaxed and charismatic while the person serving as the PC was dorky and overwhelmed. In another, the PC is unwell having contracted a virus. The Mac, of course, is immune and remains cool, calm, and collected.
Wendy’s vs. McDonald’s
To advertise that they still used fresh beef in their fast-food products, a viral tweet from Wendy’s showed a Big Mac turning into dust with the caption “[That feeling when] your beef’s still frozen.”
Samsung vs. Apple
To promote the new Galaxy S II, Samsung used comparative advertising to portray the typical iPhone fan as someone who waits in line for hours during a new model release and obsesses over online reviews. When a Samsung user walks past a queue of Apple fans on the street, they are impressed with the large screen and 4G capability. The advertisement ends with the slogan “The next big thing is already here.”
BMW vs. Mercedes
In another example of comparative advertising on Twitter, BMW poked fun at rival Mercedes when they tweeted a picture of a Mercedes sports car wearing a BMW costume. The implication here was that the BMW was a superhero to the Mercedes sedan. In other words, every Mercedes wants to be a BMW in the same way every child wants to be Superman.
Comparative Advertising in Action
To better understand the practical applications of comparative advertising, let’s explore how it is utilized by businesses in various industries, its impact on consumer decision-making, and its role in shaping market dynamics.
Case Study: Smartphone Wars
- Scenario: The smartphone industry is highly competitive, with multiple brands vying for market dominance.
- Comparative Advertising in Action:
- Comparison: Smartphone manufacturers frequently launch advertising campaigns comparing their products’ features, camera capabilities, and performance to those of their competitors.
- Differentiation: Companies highlight unique features, such as camera innovations or processing power, to set their products apart.
- Market Share: Comparative advertising plays a crucial role in influencing consumers’ choices and driving market share gains.
Additional Examples and Applications:
- Fast Food Industry:
- Fast food chains often engage in comparative advertising to showcase their menu items’ superior taste, quality, or value compared to rival offerings.
- Automotive Sector:
- Car manufacturers employ comparative advertising to emphasize safety features, fuel efficiency, or advanced technology in their vehicles.
- Consumer Electronics:
- Companies in the electronics industry highlight factors such as screen quality, battery life, or compatibility to sway consumer preferences.
Additional Examples and Use Cases:
- Soft Drinks: Beverage companies frequently run comparative advertising campaigns comparing taste preferences and market share.
- Pharmaceuticals: Pharmaceutical companies use comparative advertising to illustrate the effectiveness and benefits of their medications versus alternatives.
- Tech Gadgets: Manufacturers of tech gadgets, such as smartphones and laptops, engage in comparative advertising to promote unique features and capabilities.
- Comparative advertising is used to present a product or service as being superior to a comparable product or service as a competitor. Value is communicated through price, range, volume, size, or quality.
- Comparative advertising is most frequently seen in product or service promotion. However, it has also formed part of political advertisements during election campaigns.
- Comparative advertising can be seen in countless real-world scenarios. Apple used the strategy to favorably compare its Mac computers with PC alternatives, while Wendy’s took to Twitter to highlight that it used fresher products than rival McDonald’s.
- Definition and Purpose: Comparative advertising involves a direct challenge by an advertiser to a competitor’s product or service, aiming to present their own offering as superior. This is often done by highlighting objectively measurable attributes, prices, or other distinctive information.
- Historical Context: Comparative advertising was rare before the 1970s due to perceived legal risks and potential negative impacts. However, the FTC’s stance changed in 1972, encouraging informative advertising and healthy competition between companies through direct comparisons.
- Goal: The primary objective of comparative advertising is to communicate the value of the advertiser’s brand in comparison to one or more competitor brands. Value can be expressed through factors such as product size, quality, range, volume, or price.
- Variety of Use: While most commonly used in promoting products or services, comparative advertising has also been used in political advertisements, where candidates contrast their approach with that of incumbents.
- Mac vs. PC: Apple used humorous commercials personifying Mac and PC, highlighting Mac’s strengths while portraying PC’s weaknesses.
- Wendy’s vs. McDonald’s: Wendy’s tweeted about using fresh beef by showing a Big Mac turning to dust, implying their superior quality.
- Samsung vs. Apple: Samsung’s ad compared its Galaxy S II to the iPhone, portraying iPhone fans as obsessed and highlighting Galaxy’s features.
- BMW vs. Mercedes: BMW playfully depicted a Mercedes sports car wearing a BMW costume, implying BMW’s superiority.
- Key Takeaways:
- Comparative advertising communicates product/service superiority through various aspects like price, quality, size, and more.
- It’s widely used in product promotion and can also be seen in political campaigns.
- Real-world examples illustrate how companies use comparative advertising creatively to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Visual Marketing Glossary