Trash Talk
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The Art of Putting Down the Competition

Manning vs Brady. Gore vs Bush. Seinfeld vs Newman. People love a good rivalry. Be it athletic, political or otherwise, we want to anchor ourselves to a side. Preferably the winning one.

This competitive desire is often exploited in advertising. Known as Challenger Brands, companies create or fuel rivalries between themselves and their mightier, more established opponents. Whether transparent or opaque, the pursuant battle can get downright nasty.

Paul Suggett writes in an article for The Balance, "Over the years, many great challenger brands (Avis, Pepsi, VW, Dockers, Virgin Atlantic) have taken on the big brand leaders (Hertz, Coke, Ford, Haggar, British Airways) and they have all been very, very successful with this strategy. The reason for their success is clear. Even if the challenger brand doesn't have the money or power to go head to head in an ad campaign for a long period of time, it does have the ability to start a fight. And when the big brand accepts the challenge, the strategy pays off, big time."

But this tactic should be approached with caution - badmouthing can backfire. It can seem like weakness and fear. Also, it can come off as insulting to prospective consumers by attacking prior decisions they may have made. Plus, no one likes arrogance and boasting – it’s amateurish and feels like compensation for a lack of confidence. (Especially from a new player.) As the saying goes, “Act like you’ve been there before.”

Pepsi did this beautifully in this ad. It was humorous and did not come across as arrogant.

A company can tarnish the luster off their competitor the right way. Sure, it's critical for a brand to distinguish itself. Part of that must be clearly defining what makes them different in the marketplace, and more importantly, better than ‘the other guy’. However, instead of shining a negative light on what their rival does wrong, it needs to spin the message by emphasizing what, in comparison, they are doing right.

Competition is healthy and ferments emotion. A company that positions itself as the scrappy underdog can rally both interest and support. A little salty talk builds drama and engagement. It also forces all contenders to step their game up once that gauntlet has been thrown.


Morty SilberComment
Combatting Spending Slowdown

Capitalize on Seasonal Downturns

All company leaders know, without thought or hesitation, which times of the year are more profitable for their business, and which times are a grind. Most slumps will include the post-holiday consumers spending slowdown. In logical succession, these owners reduce their marketing budgets to mirror the downturn in profit. However, they couldn’t be more wrong.

A brand should maintain a solid, year-round presence. Yes, strong, focused campaigns are needed to drive peak-season events. However, people need to be reminded of a company’s message, products, and services through frequent, repeated awareness over time.

Every business thinks it’s smart to advertise when people are spending. This makes for higher competition and increased ad traffic. By capitalizing on the quieter times, brands automatically make their message become more prominent, sink in, and grow roots with the audience.

Moreover, especially when positioned correctly, certain markets can flourish after the holidays. A year wrapping up fosters review and reflection. By taking advantage of new year’s resolutions and a spike in the desire for self-improvement, local businesses can find themselves in a target-rich environment.

Lastly, with the decrease in competition, production costs and airtime charges may be lower. Pressure, time restraints, and other hassles are also likely reduced – all leading to smoother logistics and campaigns that are sharper and more finely tuned.

Although the competition diminishes, the same number of consumers are listening. The seasonal downturn is a perfect time to stand out to a rejuvenating audience.

Remember, a brand collects momentum and is propelled by consistent, repeated, persuasive messaging. The rewards of marketing are rarely immediate. Interest is built, and it accumulates over time. Maintaining a year-round presence is vital; a brand doesn’t get to hibernate.


Morty SilberComment
Sweat Equity

Appealing to Hard Workers Everywhere

Recently, Mark’s (formerly Mark’s Work Wearhouse) launched a campaign honoring their blue-collar demographic. Their “Well Worn” advertisements cleverly pay tribute to the people for which their merchandise is designed for - the ones that will be getting plenty of elbow-grease on it.

Mark’s message in their commercial is crystal clear. Their apparel isn’t made for those who work at a desk. Like its intended wearer, it’s resilient and can withstand the hard stuff.

For over 40 years, the company has specialized in casual and industrial wear. In an article by Mario Toneguzzi for Retail Insider, PJ Czank, Mark’s president, lauded the retailer's rebranding as a return to its brawny roots. “It’s about being authentic and real...We built the company on quality and durability. So for us Well Worn is really a positioning that celebrates the Canadians like us who persevere with grit and determination.”

Around this time last year, Tangerine’s similarly angled campaign grabbed our attention. It features an excellent montage of everyday people slugging it out at their challenging jobs. Adding to the appeal, the music is a catchy, modified tune of a classic army march. The song resonated with so many people, it has since been labelled an anthem.

Regardless of what you do for a living, we can all agree, there are days that are better than others. Tangerine humanizes the tougher ones – something to which we can all relate. Finally, just as we are drawn in and inevitably reflecting on our own professional difficulties, they set the hook with, "You work hard for your money. Does your bank?"

In both examples above, the marketing is brilliant. It conjures up feelings of empathy and pride. A tribe is created where the membership requirements include being gutsy and resilient. The message is inspirational to anyone while being complementary to those that often don’t get the respect they deserve. Most people work hard for their money. We could all use a little more appreciation for it.


Morty SilberComment