To bad mouth or compliment your competition? That is the question.

Thanks to Lord Brar for this one.

Check out this photo of three airlines in India that are using billboards to slug it with each other (Read from bottom to top):

billboard-wars.png[DISCLAIMER: I removed a watermark for from the bottom billboard because I felt it was distracting and confusing. Click here to see the original image.]

Competition in business is part of business (except for monopolies, but that’s a different post). Deciding if and when to call out your competition can be very sensitive. One the one hand, the David and Goliath approach of competition bashing worked for Avis with their “We Try Harder” campaign against Hertz in the 1960’s. More recently, the Mac ads attacking PC seem to be successful (or are they?)

On the other hand, why spend your advertising budget mentioning your competition? Isn’t it really only showing that you are scared or that you’ll sink to whatever level to make a buck?

I’ve always felt that calling out your competition brings your own company down a notch on the customer trust totem pole. Whenever I hear one company bashing another I find myself looking for the ulterior motive (e.g. what do these guys want to sell me instead?) and I can’t help but feel like I am in the middle of an uncomfortable and bitter custody battle for customers.

If bad mouthing your competition lowers your trust level, then wouldn’t the opposite (complementing your competition) actually get you more trust and loyalty from your customers? Loyalty guru, Jill Griffin, seems to think so. Read about a recently experience she had:

Last week, an air conditioning tech climbed down my attic stairs after trouble-shooting a problem with an over-flow valve. “Who did your system install?” he asked. Aware that his company was not the installer, I shared that fact, bracing myself for the competitor-bashing comments and sales pitch I was sure would follow. “The company did an excellent job,” he said to my surprise. Small moment. Big impact. His six simple words instantly reframed my customer mindset away from “Can I trust him?” to “How can he help me?”

So what do you think? Is spending your hard-earned advertising dollars talking about your competition ever a good idea? Should you go so far as to compliment your competition?