What Is Competitive Advertising? Competitive Advertising In A Nutshell

Competitive advertising is used by businesses to differentiate their products or services from competitors. The approach puts two brands side by side to show consumers the differences between each.

DefinitionCompetitive Advertising is a marketing strategy where a company promotes its products or services by directly targeting and comparing them to those of competitors. This form of advertising aims to demonstrate the superiority, unique features, or advantages of the advertised product or service in comparison to competitors’ offerings. The goal is to persuade consumers to choose the advertised brand over competitors.
Key ConceptsProduct Comparison: The core concept involves comparing attributes, features, or benefits of the advertised product to those of competitors. – Differentiation: Focuses on what sets the advertised product apart and why it’s better. – Consumer Choice: Addresses consumer decision-making by providing information for choice. – Market Positioning: Establishes a distinct position for the brand in the competitive landscape. – Legal Compliance: Must adhere to laws and regulations regarding truthful and non-deceptive advertising.
CharacteristicsDirect Comparison: It directly compares the advertised product to competitors’ products. – Informational: Provides consumers with information to make informed choices. – Persuasive: Aims to persuade consumers that the advertised product is the superior choice. – Variable Intensity: Competitive advertising can range from subtle comparisons to explicit contrasts. – Risk of Legal Challenges: Must be executed carefully to avoid legal issues.
ImplicationsConsumer 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 competitive advertising. – 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.
AdvantagesCompetitive 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.
DrawbacksLegal Risks: Competitive 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.
ApplicationsProduct 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 competitive advertising

Competitive advertising is a well-established and ubiquitous practice in the modern media landscape. The popularity of the strategy is at least partly due to the increasing intensity of competition between businesses, with each endeavoring to earn and then maintain the attention of prospects.

Fundamentally, competitive advertising deals with differentiation. While comparative advertising focuses on product superiority to create value, competitive advertising focuses on creating value in products or services that cannot be replicated. 

It’s important to note that businesses can also communicate the value of their brand to differentiate themselves in the market. This is because a buyer is influenced by more than tangible product benefits alone when weighing up a purchasing decision. As a result, competitive advertising can cause consumers to choose the overall brand of a company and not a specific product. 

Examples of competitive advertising

Following is a look at some real-world examples of competitive advertising.

Chick-fil-A vs. Popeyes 

In competitive advertising between two restaurants, Popeyes is open seven days a week while Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. In 2019, Popeyes seized on the opportunity to highlight this fact during National Sandwich Day. 

In an industry where brand loyalty is relatively high, Popeyes made no mention of product quality or price in its advertising campaign. Instead, the company reinforced its position as a playful, relaxed, and more dependable alternative to Chick-fil-A.


Paper-towel brand Bounty once released a television commercial speaking to the quality of their product while also speaking to the principles of its consumers. 

By highlighting the ability of Bounty paper towels to absorb spills using half as much paper as other brands, Bounty communicated the unique value of its product and brand in the same advertisement. 

The brand was also implicitly associated with moments of meaningful family connection, with the ad featuring a boy and his mother playing with a rubber ball.

Sprint vs. Verizon 

During the early 2000s, Verizon aired a series of commercials promoting their wireless telecom services. The commercials featured a spokesperson named Paul, who would repeatedly utter the question “Can you hear me now?” as he moved around.

The aim here was to draw attention to Verizon’s commitment to delivering quality cell reception to ever-broadening areas. Many years later, Paul became the spokesperson for rival Sprint. In a 2016 advertisement, he explained his defection: “It’s 2016 and every network is great. In fact, Sprint’s reliability is now within 1% of Verizon – and Sprint saves you 50% on most Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile rates.” 

In this final example, we see that the 2016 ad effectively positions Sprint as an affordable yet quality alternative. While differentiation through product pricing is the main strategy here, brand differentiation is also clearly defined once Paul defects from Verizon and becomes a Sprint advocate.

Challenges in Implementing Competitive Advertising

Recognizing the challenges associated with implementing competitive advertising is essential for companies seeking to leverage this strategy effectively.

Legal and Ethical Issues:

  • Solution: Ensure that all advertising claims are accurate, substantiated, and compliant with relevant laws and industry regulations.

Competitor Response:

  • Solution: Monitor competitors’ responses and be prepared to adjust advertising strategies as needed to maintain a competitive edge.

Competitive Advertising in Action

To better understand the practical applications of competitive 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.
  • Competitive 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: Competitive advertising plays a crucial role in influencing consumers’ choices and driving market share gains.

Additional Examples and Applications

  1. Fast Food Industry:
    • Fast food chains often engage in competitive advertising to showcase their menu items’ superior taste, quality, or value compared to rival offerings.
  2. Automotive Sector:
    • Car manufacturers employ competitive advertising to emphasize safety features, fuel efficiency, or advanced technology in their vehicles.
  3. 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

  1. Soft Drinks: Beverage companies frequently run competitive advertising campaigns comparing taste preferences and market share.
  2. Pharmaceuticals: Pharmaceutical companies use comparative advertising to illustrate the effectiveness and benefits of their medications versus alternatives.
  3. Tech Gadgets: Manufacturers of tech gadgets, such as smartphones and laptops, engage in competitive advertising to promote unique features and capabilities.

Key takeaways:

  • Competitive advertising is used by businesses to differentiate their products or services from competitors. The approach puts two brands side by side to show consumers the differences between each.
  • While comparative advertising focuses on product superiority to create value, competitive advertising has more of a focus on creating value in products or services that cannot be replicated. This is often achieved by brand promotion over the promotion of a specific product or service.
  • Restaurant chain Popeyes used competitive advertising to promote itself as a fun and dependable brand that was open seven days a week. Paper towel brand Bounty differentiated itself in the market by highlighting the absorbent quality of its product and the brand’s association with treasured family moments. 

Key Highlights

  • Competitive Advertising Definition: Competitive advertising is a strategy used by businesses to differentiate their products or services from competitors. This approach involves placing two brands side by side to showcase the differences between them.
  • Differentiation through Value Creation: Competitive advertising focuses on creating value in products or services that cannot be easily replicated. This can go beyond tangible product benefits and extend to overall brand value.
  • Brand Differentiation: Competitive advertising can lead consumers to choose an entire brand over a specific product. Brand value and unique characteristics play a significant role in this type of advertising.
  • Examples of Competitive Advertising:
    • Chick-fil-A vs. Popeyes: Popeyes highlighted its seven-day-a-week availability compared to Chick-fil-A’s closed-on-Sundays policy to position itself as a playful and dependable alternative.
    • Bounty Paper Towels: Bounty differentiated itself by emphasizing its paper towels’ quality and absorbent capabilities, while also associating the brand with meaningful family moments.
    • Sprint vs. Verizon: Verizon used the “Can you hear me now?” campaign to showcase its quality cell reception, and years later, the same spokesperson promoted Sprint as an affordable yet quality alternative.

Visual Marketing Glossary

Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy where the marketing and sales departments come together to create personalized buying experiences for high-value accounts. Account-based marketing is a business-to-business (B2B) approach in which marketing and sales teams work together to target high-value accounts and turn them into customers.


Ad Ops – also known as Digital Ad Operations – refers to systems and processes that support digital advertisements’ delivery and management. The concept describes any process that helps a marketing team manage, run, or optimize ad campaigns, making them an integrating part of the business operations.

AARRR Funnel

Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

Affinity Marketing

Affinity marketing involves a partnership between two or more businesses to sell more products. Note that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement where one brand can extend its reach and enhance its credibility in association with the other.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Bullseye Framework

The bullseye framework is a simple method that enables you to prioritize the marketing channels that will make your company gain traction. The main logic of the bullseye framework is to find the marketing channels that work and prioritize them.

Brand Building

Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Dilution

According to inbound marketing platform HubSpot, brand dilution occurs “when a company’s brand equity diminishes due to an unsuccessful brand extension, which is a new product the company develops in an industry that they don’t have any market share in.” Brand dilution, therefore, occurs when a brand decreases in value after the company releases a product that does not align with its vision, mission, or skillset. 

Brand Essence Wheel

The brand essence wheel is a templated approach businesses can use to better understand their brand. The brand essence wheel has obvious implications for external brand strategy. However, it is equally important in simplifying brand strategy for employees without a strong marketing background. Although many variations of the brand essence wheel exist, a comprehensive wheel incorporates information from five categories: attributes, benefits, values, personality, brand essence.

Brand Equity

The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.

Customer Lifetime Value

One of the first mentions of customer lifetime value was in the 1988 book Database Marketing: Strategy and Implementation written by Robert Shaw and Merlin Stone. Customer lifetime value (CLV) represents the value of a customer to a company over a period of time. It represents a critical business metric, especially for SaaS or recurring revenue-based businesses.

Customer Segmentation

Customer segmentation is a marketing method that divides the customers in sub-groups, that share similar characteristics. Thus, product, marketing and engineering teams can center the strategy from go-to-market to product development and communication around each sub-group. Customer segments can be broken down is several ways, such as demographics, geography, psychographics and more.

Developer Marketing

Developer marketing encompasses tactics designed to grow awareness and adopt software tools, solutions, and SaaS platforms. Developer marketing has become the standard among software companies with a platform component, where developers can build applications on top of the core software or open software. Therefore, engaging developer communities has become a key element of marketing for many digital businesses.

Digital Marketing Channels

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Field Marketing

Field marketing is a general term that encompasses face-to-face marketing activities carried out in the field. These activities may include street promotions, conferences, sales, and various forms of experiential marketing. Field marketing, therefore, refers to any marketing activity that is performed in the field.

Funnel Marketing

interaction with a brand until they become a paid customer and beyond. Funnel marketing is modeled after the marketing funnel, a concept that tells the company how it should market to consumers based on their position in the funnel itself. The notion of a customer embarking on a journey when interacting with a brand was first proposed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Funnel marketing typically considers three stages of a non-linear marketing funnel. These are top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU), and bottom of the funnel (BOFU). Particular marketing strategies at each stage are adapted to the level of familiarity the consumer has with a brand.

Go-To-Market Strategy

A go-to-market strategy represents how companies market their new products to reach target customers in a scalable and repeatable way. It starts with how new products/services get developed to how these organizations target potential customers (via sales and marketing models) to enable their value proposition to be delivered to create a competitive advantage.


The term “greenwashing” was first coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986 at a time when most consumers received their news from television, radio, and print media. Some companies took advantage of limited public access to information by portraying themselves as environmental stewards – even when their actions proved otherwise. Greenwashing is a deceptive marketing practice where a company makes unsubstantiated claims about an environmentally-friendly product or service.

Grassroots Marketing

Grassroots marketing involves a brand creating highly targeted content for a particular niche or audience. When an organization engages in grassroots marketing, it focuses on a small group of people with the hope that its marketing message is shared with a progressively larger audience.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Hunger Marketing

Hunger marketing is a marketing strategy focused on manipulating consumer emotions. By bringing products to market with an attractive price point and restricted supply, consumers have a stronger desire to make a purchase.

Integrated Communication

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is an approach used by businesses to coordinate and brand their communication strategies. Integrated marketing communication takes separate marketing functions and combines them into one, interconnected approach with a core brand message that is consistent across various channels. These encompass owned, earned, and paid media. Integrated marketing communication has been used to great effect by companies such as Snapchat, Snickers, and Domino’s.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Myopia

Marketing myopia is the nearsighted focus on selling goods and services at the expense of consumer needs. Marketing myopia was coined by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt in 1960. Originally, Levitt described the concept in the context of organizations in high-growth industries that become complacent in their belief that such industries never fail.

Marketing Personas

Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Meme Marketing

Meme marketing is any marketing strategy that uses memes to promote a brand. The term “meme” itself was popularized by author Richard Dawkins over 50 years later in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In the book, Dawkins described how ideas evolved and were shared across different cultures. The internet has enabled this exchange to occur at an exponential rate, with the first modern memes emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Microtargeting is a marketing strategy that utilizes consumer demographic data to identify the interests of a very specific group of individuals. Like most marketing strategies, the goal of microtargeting is to positively influence consumer behavior.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of the ability of a product or service to attract word-of-mouth advertising. NPS is a crucial part of any marketing strategy since attracting and then retaining customers means they are more likely to recommend a business to others.


Neuromarketing information is collected by measuring brain activity related to specific brain functions using sophisticated and expensive technology such as MRI machines. Some businesses also choose to make inferences of neurological responses by analyzing biometric and heart-rate data. Neuromarketing is the domain of large companies with similarly large budgets or subsidies. These include Frito-Lay, Google, and The Weather Channel.


Newsjacking as a marketing strategy was popularised by David Meerman Scott in his book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Newsjacking describes the practice of aligning a brand with a current event to generate media attention and increase brand exposure.

Niche Marketing

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Push vs. Pull Marketing

We can define pull and push marketing from the perspective of the target audience or customers. In push marketing, as the name suggests, you’re promoting a product so that consumers can see it. In a pull strategy, consumers might look for your product or service drawn by its brand.

Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing is as exactly as it sounds. It involves in-the-moment marketing to customers across any channel based on how that customer is interacting with the brand.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Reverse Marketing

Reverse marketing describes any marketing strategy that encourages consumers to seek out a product or company on their own. This approach differs from a traditional marketing strategy where marketers seek out the consumer.


Remarketing involves the creation of personalized and targeted ads for consumers who have already visited a company’s website. The process works in this way: as users visit a brand’s website, they are tagged with cookies that follow the users, and as they land on advertising platforms where retargeting is an option (like social media platforms) they get served ads based on their navigation.

Sensory Marketing

Sensory marketing describes any marketing campaign designed to appeal to the five human senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling marketers to design fun, interactive, and immersive sensory marketing brand experiences. Long term, businesses must develop sensory marketing campaigns that are relevant and effective in eCommerce.

Services Marketing

Services marketing originated as a separate field of study during the 1980s. Researchers realized that the unique characteristics of services required different marketing strategies to those used in the promotion of physical goods. Services marketing is a specialized branch of marketing that promotes the intangible benefits delivered by a company to create customer value.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing is a marketing strategy skewed toward offering a great experience to existing customers and incentivizing them to share it with other potential customers. That is one of the most effective forms of marketing as it enables a company to gain traction based on existing customers’ referrals. When repeat customers become a key enabler for the brand this is one of the best organic and sustainable growth marketing strategies.

360 Marketing

360 marketing is a marketing campaign that utilizes all available mediums, channels, and consumer touchpoints. 360 marketing requires the business to maintain a consistent presence across multiple online and offline channels. This ensures it does not miss potentially lucrative customer segments. By its very nature, 360 marketing describes any number of different marketing strategies. However, a broad and holistic marketing strategy should incorporate a website, SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media, public relations, in-store relations, and traditional forms of advertising such as television.

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