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Part 2 – Field Guide

The Do’s and Don’ts of

Comparative Advertising


NOTE:  These same rules apply when selling to individual consumers.

  1. Do check your ego at the door. Often, we are so enthusiastic about the product or business we have built that we are blinded to the positives offered by our competitors.   Don’t offend potential future customers by suggesting they made a bad choice when they chose your competition.  
  2. Do make sure your claim is not libelous. Trademark laws prohibit the use of a competitor’s name or mark which is likely to depreciate the value of the goodwill attached to that name.   Don’t make a competitive superiority claim based upon opinion.  Make sure you've done your research and can clearly validate your claim.    
  3. Do be prepared for a counterattack from your competitor. Make sure you are not vulnerable in any way.   Don’t go on the offensive unless you are prepared to compete against everything a competitor might throw at you. Do not open that hornet’s nest. 
  4. Do position your competitive strengths in a positive, believable way, much like the Avis; “We’re number two, we try harder” campaign.   Don’t get involved in negative advertising. Research and countless case studies have proven consumers think poorly of campaigns that slam the competition.
  5. Do focus on your unique selling proposition if, in fact, it is truly unique and unable to be duplicated.   Don’t let price become your competitive difference unless you are prepared for a competitive price war. 
  6. Do mention your benefits only when it is obvious to the consumer that your competitor does not offer those same benefits.   Don’t mention your competitor by name unless you absolutely have to. Consumers who hear your message while they are working or talking can get confused as to whether the commercial is for you or your competitor.
  7. Do always mention your name more often than the competitors'.   Don’t blur the lines between yourself and your competitor. Be very clear about your competitive difference and focus more on your positives than their negatives.
  8. Do consider a more positive way to make your selling proposition.   Don’t enter into a negative or comparative advertising campaign lightly.  Know all of the legal pros and cons, and be prepared for the fallout.
  9. Do consider using real customer testimonials which position you against the competitor, rather than you or a paid announcer making the claim.   Don’t enter into defensive advertising if a competitor attacks your claim.
  10. Do test market your comparative advertising to understand how your prospects might perceive it or react to it.   Don’t make claims you can’t back up with research and facts.
  11. Do understand your goals and objectives in comparative advertising. Is it to win prospects who are considering the competition or to convert customers who already patronize the competition?   Don’t let emotions rule your reasoning or strategic marketing thinking.
  12. Do be fair and factual in any comparisons you make. Make certain you have evidence available to back your claim.  Don’t forget to train your salespeople and staff to handle any inquiries about the comparisons made in your advertising.  

SoundADvice is a co-production of this station and ENS Media USA to help local businesses increase their sales and their return on investment in advertising. Your SoundADvice marketing tips are emailed to you on our behalf from ENS Media USA.

ENS Media USA's address is: 6523 S. Killarney Ct., Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57108

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