Consumers usually take the side of the underdog and in the retail industry, this is very true. Big brands from big companies are viewed by the average consumer as well entrenched and have decidedly bigger resources to commandeer for their marketing and advertising efforts. Newer brands from small companies, however, are handicapped by lesser resources and are viewed by consumers as enterprising and brave souls going up against bigger, heftier rivals.
When big companies and their brands take a swipe at their smaller competitors, consumers commonly think them to be petty. Such engagements can sometimes be occasions where the average consumer may even come to perceive big companies who do this to be “bullies.” It might not come as a surprise for consumers to talk less favorably about big companies and their brands.
The underdog’s bark
However, when small companies do the same thing against their bigger counterparts, the ballgame begins to change in the minds of the consumer. They perceive this to be genuine courage and gall. Consumers are prone to see small companies who do this in a totally different light as challenge takers. In other words, small companies tend to enjoy more empathy from consumers when they take a dig at their big competitors.
This is probably the reason why more and more small companies are being emboldened to take potshots at their bigger competitors in the way they market or advertise their products/services. Sometimes, however, criticizing a bigger competitor can backfire. Especially when the claims you make aren’t substantiated by factual evidence or when you fail to take the dig along a more humorous context. This can even urge your competitor to file a lawsuit against you. Under such a premise, you realize that whatever the underdog barks at against its bigger competitor can be no worse than its bite. A big company can sue you off your pants and can make life harder for you and your business. This kind of situation has no equalizer. Stop thinking of it the same way you think any online VoIP phone service can equalize things between you and your heftier adversary.
For advertising to work positively, it must be successful in advancing the product or service’s position in the minds of the consumer. Companies must be careful in going about this kind of activity since it can put both the company and its product/service in severe jeopardy once it makes a fatal mistake.
When making lighthearted claims to “disparage” a competitor’s product, a company must be precise with its claims. You might take refuge or get some cloak of protection from issuing “matter of opinion” claims but you must make sure that consumers are not led to believe that the claims you make in your advertisements are real.
There’s a world of difference between personal opinion as utilized in an ad as opposed to a real claim and this is one thing you should be clear about when conveying the message to the consumer. The former deals with your personal view that is subjective and open to debate. The latter is expected to be factual and must adhere to the general idea of truth. The moment you deliberately incite a sense of confusion between the two, your ad may be liable to mislead and therefore attract controversy or lawsuit.
The head-on attack
If there’s one thing a company must avoid so that it doesn't get into legal entanglements with the kinds of ads it issues the public, it’s the head-on attack against its competitors. Doing so blatantly against a competitor’s brand, product or service tends to be perceived by the public as a not so creative way to advance your position in their minds. Consumer behavioral studies show that malicious attacks by companies against products or brands by other companies tend to evoke negative feelings. Consumers do not enjoy such and tend to avoid them. Combining witty creativity with a lighthearted poke at competitor products enjoys more success since they get positive reaction from the consumer.