Do Brands Need to Get More Ruthless with Competitors, When Advertising?


Cola wars still on?

They say opportunity always knocks twice. Its competition however that knocks just once, and if you’re not prepared, you’re out like a light. Wars between vampires and werewolves, America and most of the Middle East, are well known concepts, but none is more prevalent in our day to day lives than the concept of product wars between competing brands. The age old dilemma of choice – Coke vs. Pepsi, or nowadays – maybe a health drink instead; lens vs. spectacles or even Sunsilk vs. Garnier vs. Dove.

A good example would be the recent McDowell’s No.1 commercial with Harbhajan and Dhoni. While liquor and cigarette companies struggle to get their name out there through surrogate ads, the UB Group managed to pull of a very clever coup. Firstly, the ad is a direct challenge to their main competitor, and the group made no apologies for it. Secondly, making it a spoof, the ad came across as only slightly acerbic, edgy and innovative. It instantly got people talking. Thirdly, the use of Dhoni and Harbhanjan added a lot of star power for an already cricket frenzied nation.  By knowing exactly what their competitor was upto, McDowell’s was able to react immediately, use a buzz-worthy tool and steal Royal Stag’s spotlight. Now every time you Google the Royal Stag ad, the first thing you see is the McDowell’s spoof.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka1Sxc1a83o

Another similar story – while P&G has been betting big on film stars like Kareena Kapoor to promote Head & Shoulders, arch rival Hindustan Unilever has relaunched its anti-dandruff shampoo brand with the tag line ‘Sar pe haath rakh ke’. Clear’s new ad campaign takes a direct dig at other shampoos that only wash dandruff away and  fail to prevent it from coming back.

However, all said and observed when it comes to product wars, there is none more popular than the Cola wars – Pepsi investing lakhs to ward off Coke, with their Youngistan campaign, only to have Sprite jump in with a very clever ‘Sprite bujhaye only pyaas, baki all bakwaas’, and spoof Pepsi.  Sparing no opportunity, beverage brands in India are real inspirations when it comes to competitive advertising. So it was quite surprising when Ranbir Kapoor’s dufus-type presence (undoubtedly paid for by Pepsi) on KBC recently, was simply overlooked by Coke, as a chance to one-up Pepsi. Some clever editing of his inability get beyond Rs.3,20,000; a catchy tune that could have played each time he used up all four lifelines within the first 10 minutes of the game; and a few witty subtitles as the only questions he answered with confidence were the one’s about the Kapoor family; and Coke could have had one of the year’s most popular web virals. Mockery that could have been all over the internet in a matter of minutes.

With the availability of brands seaming endless and the array or products always on the increase, we often find it’s the consumer base that remains more or less constant. In order to stay current (top of mind), brands need to constantly be prepared with a clever counter measure for whatever their competitor is doing. They simply need to be more ruthless.

2 thoughts on “Do Brands Need to Get More Ruthless with Competitors, When Advertising?

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