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When Brands Attack


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A POV on Competitive/Comparative Advertising.

"Do attack ads work"? That's a question I've been hearing a lot lately from my clients. Here's my POV on the topic.

Published in: Marketing, Business, Technology
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When Brands Attack

  1. 1. WHEN BRANDS ATTACK An FAQ & POV on Comparative Advertising
  2. 2. CONTENTS 1.  Why the increase in comparative advertising? 2.  Do attack ads work? 3.  Why do attack ads work? 4.  Are attack ads suited for all types brands? 5.  Are attack ads more or less effective than regular ads ? 6.  What are the hallmarks of a great attack ad? 7.  Attack ads: Short-term tactic or strategic platform? 8.  What are some attack ad best-practices? 9.  What are issues to look out for? 10.  What are some reference resources? 2
  3. 3. WHY THE INCREASE IN COMPARATIVE ADVERTISING? 3 “Advertising disputes jumped 40 percent in 2008, [and we] saw another sharp increase last year. Comparative advertising is the No. 1 ad strategy in marketing right now” – Bruce Hopewell, NAD’s Review Board Director* * National Advertising Division – which reviews ads for truthfulness and accuracy)
  4. 4. IT’S A ZERO-SUM WORLD RIGHT NOW The perfect storm: low consumer confidence, slowing growth and market saturation. In this climate, brand growth comes not from getting your fair share of an expanding market but taking more than your fair share from competitors. 4 Pew Research Center June 2010 Business Week April 2010 CNET 2009 US News 2010
  6. 6. COMPARATIVE ADVERTISING SUCCESS STORIES 6 vs. vs. vs. “GET A MAC” CAMPAIGN Results: •  Mac sales up 39% in first year of campaign •  Apple market share goes from 5% - 7% •  Microsoft’s CoreBrand power ranking falls from 11 to 59 “THE TRUTH IS OUT” (DUNKIN #1 IN TASTE) Results: •  Dunkin Brand recognition jumps 10% •  Dunkin Brand commitment grows by 25% •  Taste Claim spot gets 95% product recall •  Starbucks quality rating drops from 59% to 52% “THERE’S A MAP FOR THAT” CAMPAIGN Results: •  Verizon’s BrandIndex “Buzz” score jumps from 8 to 24. AT&T’s drops from 1.4 to -2.4. •  Willingness to recommend Verizon climbs from 9 to 25; AT&T’s drops from 9 to -8. vs. “LAPTOP HUNTER” CAMPAIGN Results: •  Mac share gain slows (8%) •  Microsoft BrandIndex “Value” score jumps from 10 to 44. •  Apple BrandIndex “Value” score drops from 56 to 12.4
  7. 7. WHY DO ATTACK ADS WORK? 7 “Our judgments when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile.” – Aristotle
  8. 8. BECAUSE THEY’RE LESS POLARIZING (SURPRISE!) 8 Generally a good choice for category leaders looking to secure and activate the installed base Generally a good choice for category challenger looking to up-end the status quo Source: Campaigning for Hearts and Minds, The University Chicago Press, Ted Brader 2006 Positive/Enthusiasm Messages: A stabilizing force • Greater capacity to create interest among existing supporters and motivate them to become engaged. • Reinforce existing beliefs and increase confidence about prior decisions – among both supporters and detractors. • Polarizing – they result in both supporters and detractors being more entrenched in their positions. Negative/Fear Messages: A destabilizing force • Greater capacity to persuade unbelievers (competitive supporters) • Lead consumers to put less emphasis on prior convictions and more on current evaluations. • Create uncertainty about prior choices and increase likelihood of preference change. • Lead to active information seeking behavior.
  10. 10. 10 Conventional Wisdom: “Comparative advertising is almost always an underdog’s game. The risks tend to be too big for industry leaders. Even when they win, they pay to build awareness of their competitor.” – Julie Hennessy Marketing Professor Northwestern University
  11. 11. A LOOK AT RECENT ATTACK-ADS PAYS THAT OFF… 11 “Decision Engine” “Good call” “Get a Mac” “Taste Test” “Truth in Engineering” “Little Movers” “Dyson Ball” vs. vs. vs. vs. vs. vs. vs. “New Energy” vs.
  12. 12. BUT: EVEN CATEGORY LEADERS ARE JOINING IN… …in order to curb the gathering momentum of successful challengers, especially in cases where the competitive fight is approaching a neck-to-neck race. 12 vs. Verizon was traditionally the category leader (31% vs. ATT 25%). But iPhone drove huge change in switching intention: •  Intent to switch from ATT to Verizon dropped from 28% to 19%. •  Intent to switch from Verizon to ATT jumped from 14% to 31% Verizon leveraged public frustration over AT&T’s overloaded network to launch “There’s a Map for that” campaign that showcased Verizon’s traditional advantage and halted ATT momentum. vs. Campbell was the traditional category leader. But Progresso was making headway with a new line of soups, growing faster than the category and taking share. Campbell tapped into increasing public awareness about “healthy eating” and launched its “Made with love vs. Made with MSG” campaign, to which Progresso responded in kind. Prompting concerns among financial analysts that the “soup war” could actually depress demand for the entire category as consumers come to see soups as a less healthy choice overall.
  14. 14. THE SWEET SPOT FOR ATTACK ADS • The impact of attack ads depends both on the level of consumer engagement and level of perceived differentiation in the category. • The sweet spot for comparative advertising is categories with high consumer engagement and low perceived level of differentiation. 14 ConsumerEngagement Perceived Differentiation Low •  High impact of comparative ads •  Likely out-perform non- comparative ads High Low High •  Moderate impact of comparative ads •  Comparative ads are a viable strategy •  So are non-comparative ads •  Impact is likely similar across both strategies •  Low impact of comparative ads •  Non-comparative ad strategy likely a better choice Source: The Effect of Comparative Advertising on Consumer Perceptions, European Journal of Business & Psychology, 2009
  16. 16. 3 KEY ELEMENTS FOR A TRULY GREAT ATTACK AD 16 & & RATIONAL EMOTIONAL CULTURAL • Preferably quantifiable claim • Reflective of the brand’s strength • Us vs. Them • Grounded in a mind-set or attitudinal insight Leverages a simmering consumer frustration Taps a Consumer Sentiment Reinforces Tribal Affinity Offers a Credible Claim
  17. 17. A LOOK AT WHO IS DOING WHAT… Credible Claim Tribal Affinity Consumer Sentiment Quiznos: More meat X Huggies: Little Movers X Miller Lite: Good Call X Verizon: Map for that X X Campbell: TLC vs. MSG X X Dunkin’: Fritalian X X Microsoft: Life w/out Walls X X Audi: Truth in Engineering X X X Apple: Get a Mac X X X Microsoft: Laptop Hunter X X X 17 DriveConsideration&Transaction DeepenBrandAffinity
  18. 18. ATTACK ADS: SHORT-TERM TACTIC OR STRATEGIC PLATFORM? 18 “It’s very tactical, it's very short-term, but today marketers are thinking short-term,” – David Melançon CEO, Ito Partnership NYC Brand Identity Consultancy THE GENERAL SENTIMENT GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS:
  19. 19. TURNING ATTACK ADS INTO A STRATEGIC PLATFORM 19 •  Campaign that lives at the intersection of all three elements. •  Example: Apple “Get a Mac” •  Supplementing brand-building efforts with claim-based attack executions. •  Example: Dunkin “America Runs On Dunkin” and “The Truth Is Out” Fusion StrategyPortfolio StrategyUnilateral Strategy •  Pure attack ad executions – without brand-building air cover •  Example: Campbell “TLC vs. MSG” RATIONAL (Credible Claim) EMOTIONAL (Tribal Affinity) BRAND PLATFORM = CONSUMER SENTIMENT RATIONAL (Credible Claim) EMOTIONAL (Tribal Affinity) BRAND PLATFORM & CONSUMER SENTIMENT RATIONAL (Credible Claim) CONSUMER SENTIMENT Tactical Strategic
  21. 21. MESSAGING BEST PRACTICES Stay positive if possible: Positive superiority claims (more leg room) tend to have higher claim acceptance by consumers than negative claims (Progresso = MSG). “Positive versus negative comparative advertising”, Journal of Marketing Letters, 1993 Practice moderation: Hyper-aggressive ads are seen as self-serving and manipulative, while moderately aggressive claims are seen as helpful and informative. “Effects of comparative advertising in high-and low-cognitive elaboration conditions”, Journal of Advertising, 2006 Being indirect can be good: Indirect comparative ads (not referencing competitors by name) are more successful in helping to position the sponsor’s brand against the entire category. If you know your target, don’t beat around the bush: Directly comparative ads are more effective in positioning a brand directly against the specific competitive target. - “A Further Assessment of Indirect Comparative Advertising Claims of Superiority”, Journal of Advertising, 2006 Know your audience 1: Comparative advertising encourages greater levels of brand- evaluation among men (and leads to more favorable ad and brand impressions) than women. Know your audience 2: Women are more likely to consider the ad’s manipulative intent, which can more easily lead to negative ad and brand impressions. “The Relative Effectiveness of Comparative and Non-comparative Advertising: Evidence for Gender Differences, Journal of Advertising, 2007 21
  23. 23. RULES TO LIVE BY - Don’t kill the category: Make sure your claims don’t undermine the category as a whole (Example: Campbell/Progresso Soup Wars) - Know thyself: Consumers give challenger brands more lee-way (everyone loves an underdog) while expecting a higher level of conduct from category leaders. - Know your enemy: Be calculated in understanding if your adversary is trusted and loved or vulnerable. - Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight: Make sure you have the resources to sustain and win what you started. Chances are the competition will retaliate. - Think twice if you’re the leader: Comparative ads tend to suffer from weaker brand linkage and mis-attribution. Don’t invite consumers to consider the competition unless you have a very good reason for it. - Don’t be the pot that calls the kettle black: If you open up a front of attack, make sure you yourself aren’t vulnerable there. - Know the caution zone: Be appropriately aggressive. Negative attack ads say as much about the sponsor as they do about the target. So stay classy and know the boundaries. 23
  25. 25. A SAMPLE OF REFERENCES WE CONSULTED 25 “Just like politicians, consumer brands are using attack ads” New York Times, April 2008 “Mm-Mm-Militant: Campbell goes after Progresso” Brandweek, Sept 2008 “Brand vs. Brand: Attack Ads on the rise” AdAge, October 2008 “In Mac vs. PC battle, Microsoft winning in value perceptions” AdAge, May 2009 “The gloves are off: More marketers opting for attack ads”” AdAge, May 2009 “When brands attack: the rise of comparative advertising””, October 2008 “Microsoft’s Laptop Hunter ads are hurting Apple” CNET, May 2009 “Attack ads aren’t just for politicians” QSR Magazine, March 2010 “Experts question effectiveness of attack ads” Brandweek, October 2008 “Ready, Aim, Fire – Why negative ads are good for voters” Newsweek, October 2008 “Attitudinal effects of comparative and non-comparative advertising” Journal of Advertising, 1994 “Effects of comparative advertising in high-and low-cognitive elaboration conditions” Journal of Advertising, 2006 “A Further Assessment of Indirect Comparative Advertising Claims of Superiority Over all Competitors” Journal of Advertising, 2006 “The Relative Effectiveness of Comparative and Non-comparative Advertising: Evidence for Gender Differences in Information-Processing Strategies” Journal of Advertising, 2007 “Modeling Consumer Response to Differing Levels of Comparative Advertising” European Journal of Marketing, 2003 “The Effect of Comparative Advertising on Consumer Perceptions: Similarity or Differentiation?” European Journal of Business & Psychology, 2009 “Positive versus negative comparative advertising” Journal of Marketing Letters, 1993 ARTICLES/BLOG-POSTS JOURNALS “War Economy: When should you attack your competition?”, 2004 “Audi’s competitive advertising jabs BMW, stings Toyota”, February 2010