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?


10 Responses

  1. Hey! Thanks for the thanks and the link. 😉

    About badmouthing your competition — I don’t think that the example you have given is perfect.

    When people think of PC, they don’t think of one specific company but rather think of a generic computer which runs of Windows / Linux. Had Mac gone after MS, Dell, HP etc. then it would have sure backfired. But not in here. =)

    See you around at

  2. Lord,

    Thanks for stopping by! So you feel that bashing an industry segment (rather than a specific company) is okay. How does everyone else feel?

    Many of the Mac/PC ads attack Windows directly. “Choose a Vista” is a parody about the six confusing different versions of Windows Vista. In “Party is Over”, PC unhappily throws a party celebrating the release of Vista. He complains to Mac that he had to upgrade his hardware, and now can’t use some of his old software and peripherals. “Security” criticizes Windows Vista’s security features. So Mac is definitely bashing a specific company, though Windows is run on many different computer brands.

    With this said, do you think that bashing under certain circumstances is okay? If so, under what circumstances and what would be the best approach? Did Avis succeed in calling out Hertz because they took the underdog approach instead of “we are superior to you approach” or was it some other reason? Thanks for joining the conversation.

  3. Mentioning your competition has got to be a big waste of a companies advertising budget. I cant see this working. There must be a better way. A lot of people would be very put off by seeing a company bashing its competition, I know I would be.

  4. A lot of people are put off by advertising that bashes their competitors I kown I would be. This has got to be a big waste of advertising money. Especially as you would be mentioning your competition 🙂

  5. Karen and Bakelite Gal,

    Thanks for weighing in. Why do you think we see not only the mention but the bashing of competition in politics these days?

  6. Politics is different than selling. I think going negative works in politics – it’s like people in the Roman Coliseum during the gladiator days. Didn’t they cheer and rant for the kill? But in selling I think negative may not work. People to people, or business to business is more personal. We’re not in a coliseum cheering for the kill. I like your custody battle for customers analogy. If we’re the kids, we want our parents to speak nicely about each other don’t we?

    Patricia Weber
    Sales Accelerator Coach
    For Introverts, Shy and Reluctant

  7. Hey! I wrote about competition on my blog yesterday and it made quite a controversy. I showed two press releases from a certain company as an example, and it looks like they didn’t take it too well. Have a look at the comments if you are intereted and feel free to contribute. I would like to know how you feel about that particular situation.

  8. Superb blog. You have made a brand-new devotee. Please keep up the great work and I look forward to more of your interesting writings.

  9. […] To bad mouth or com­pli­ment your com­pe­ti­tion? That is the question. […]

  10. Thank you for this interesting article.
    While I was doing research, I found a very great tool to manage compensation.

    Here is the link :

    Helen S.

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