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.

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.

Bounty 

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.

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. 

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Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"