Comparing Your Product to the Competition

You see comparison ads all the time. One product from the advertiser compared to another product from a competitor. Is that smart? When should you do it?

You only want to run comparison ads when the people seeing the ad are very familiar with the competitor’s product. I don’t mean that the public is mostly aware of the name, I mean that they all have knowledge of the features and benefits of the competitive offer. This is almost never the case.

You have to understand that you think about what you sell all day. You plan your business around selling your product. You see it every day. You touch it, demonstrate it, and probably find it fascinating. You know about the products that are in you product category. You probably bought them to run tests. You can talk about your product for hours without repeating yourself. Am I correct in this? The problem is, you customers barely know the basics of what you sell, and this is after they buy it. The only expert in the room, on your product, is you.

You may even think of your competitor as your enemy. So it’s natural to like ads that attack your competitor rather than sell you product. But this isn’t selling.

For example; I sell vacuum cleaners. There is a well advertised vacuum cleaner that is lightweight. So another manufacturer, who also has a lightweight vacuum cleaner, decides to run ads with both vacuums featured, and then compared to one another. This is a very popular ad, with the dealers. It’s very popular with the manufacturer as well. But comparison ads seem to have a “So There!” attitude about them.

Do they work? Sure. They are effective on people who are very familiar with the other product, and haven’t bought yet. But that section of the market is really pretty small.

By producing these comparison ads, you also are notifying the market that the other product exists! To a savvy consumer, it also looks like you are comparing to this other product because you feel that it’s better than what you have. Why else would you bother comparing at all?

These ads sometimes have one product illustrated next to the other product. Then there are a list of features. Of course, the features listed will favor whatever product the advertiser sells.

Sometimes these ads just mention the other product, and then list why ours is better.

The worst example I’ve seen so far is knocking the competition with an inside joke that only the manufacturers would even understand. This ad was very popular at conventions. The advertiser’s CEO loved it, I’m sure. The dealers loved it too.

But there is a huge gaping flaw to this type of ad. The consumer doesn’t get the references. They don’t have the intimate knowledge of the comparable features. Almost the entire ad is lost on them.

I’ve actually been guilty of running these ads in the past.

The best test I’ve seen, to determine if they are effective or not, is to show the ad to a kid. Eight or nine years old is fine for this sort of test. Ask them what they think of the ad. If they don’t instantly understand what you are saying in the ad, it’s too complicated. The references will be lost.

Why split the consumer’s attention between your product, and your competitor’s?

I’m a slow study. You don’t have to be.

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