Our summer intern, Josh Stein, evaluates Dell’s recent campaign and the merits or drawbacks of a competitive advertising strategy.
Apple is by all accounts, one of the world’s best marketers. Starting with their historic 1984 ad during the Superbowl, and ending with their hugely successful “Mac vs. PC” campaign, Apple has achieved global success by attacking the market leader. It seems, though, that the market leader has had enough of simply taking it. A recent Dell ad campaign has taken a page straight from Apple’s book, openly attacking and mocking the iPad.
This marketing tactic known as depositioning has been a topic of huge disagreement among the marketing community for well over three decades.
Some argue that attacking your competition is foolish. They hold that when trying to promote yourself, you should never mention your competition. Take this Dell campaign for example. By showing the iPad in the ads, they are essentially paying to showcase their competitors, even if in a negative light. In addition, attacking your competition can come off as petty mud-slinging and possibly alienate consumers trying to choose between your brand and another (it will certainly alienate the people who love the brand you’re attacking).
Those who endorse competitive advertising, particularly Jack Trout the author of Marketing Warfare, couldn’t disagree more. In the book, Trout outlines how military tactics can be applied to marketing strategies in an effort to “defend your own turf from would-be attackers at all times”. He, and others in this school of thought argue that marketing is a zero-sum game; every consumer you can’t convince to buy your product is a customer for your competition.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer. In fact, the answer may be that there is no clear yes or no. What works for some brands simply doesn’t for others. Apple’s 1984 ad is the epitome of competitive advertising and it has gone down as one of the greatest ads in the history of marketing. On the other end of the spectrum, Samsung’s “Next Big Thing is Here” campaign has yet to produce any measurable return.
What do you think? Should brands sling mud or take the high road?
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