5 Examples Of Comparative Advertising + Marketing Lessons

Some like to create ads. Whereas some like to create a sensation. And today we are going to talk about the second category of advertisers. Because why create something simple when you can create a buzz, right? 

Where are we heading with this discussion? As you already guessed from the title – comparative advertising. 

Comparative advertising – sounds like a simple term but is it really as simple as it sounds? Marketing wars, no matter how fair they might appear, can be tough. And when you directly tussle with your competitor, the fight is even tougher. 

Then why do some brands adopt comparative advertising strategies? Because if done right, mark that in bold, comparative advertising can raise your brand above the existing competition.  

So, yes, comparative advertising has its risks. But marketing is a risky business after all, don’t you agree? 

If you feel that way too and if you are looking to try an unconventional marketing approach, then you should know about comparative advertising. In this blog, we’ll give you an overview of what this strategy is about, its pros and cons, and some examples to inspire you. 

Comparative advertising – the rewards and risks it brings with it 

Let’s get down to the brass tacks – what is comparative advertising? Comparative advertising is the advertising strategy where a brand promotes its products/services by using a direct comparison with similar products/services from competitors. 

Why do brands get into such risks in advertising? Because advertising helps a brand grow. And strategies like comparative advertising help a brand establish its position in a competitive market. 

Side-by-side comparisons are often used by brands to highlight the existing gaps in the industry and to show how the brand tackles them. It is sometimes used as a way to draw attention to a competitor’s flaws to reiterate the brand’s strengths. 

Some light-hearted ads that take a dig at a competitor’s ad and campaigns that do not directly put down the other brand often deliver positive results. However, those that hurt customer sentiments and those that directly attack another brand’s identity are often the ones that get the brand into trouble. 

Having defined what comparative advertising is let’s now talk about its pros and cons. 

Benefits of comparative advertising
  • Strengthen brand awareness – one of the main reasons brands take the risk of comparative ads is to stir up interest in the brand and to get people talking about it. 
  • Elevate your brand position – when one brand compares itself to another, people tend to perceive the compared brands on the same level. So, new brands looking to elevate their position in the market often adopt this approach. 
  • Customer acquisition – people are always looking for options. So, if a comparative ad convinces them of a brand’s strengths as a clear advantage over its competitors, then the ad succeeds in winning new customers for the brand. 
Risks in comparative advertising
  • Negative response from fans – some brands have customers whereas others have fans. The key is to stay away from creating ads that target such brands with loyal fans. Because with ads targeting such brands, the fans come to the brands’ defense and things can take a turn for the worse. 
  • Retaliation from the brand in the picture – when a brand makes an ad that mocks its competitor, the competitor is likely to respond. Sometimes, it is about who has the last laugh. If the competitor has a witty comeback, things can turn sore for the brand that created the comparative ad. 
  • Legal troubles – some unfair comparisons attract lawsuits from the featured brand. This can take a toll on the reputation of the brand that creates the comparative ad and add to the expenses involved in clearing the brand’s name as well. 

Having spoken about the rewards and the risks involved, let’s now look at some of the iconic comparative advertising examples from popular brands. 

5 exemplary comparative advertising campaigns 

1. When Jaguar boasted about “cat-like reflexes” 

Mercedes came up with a comical TV commercial that uses chickens to portray “magic body control” one of the most popularly advertised features on Mercedes cars. 

The commercial grabbed a lot of eyeballs. And the notable aspect here is the brand’s slight deviation from its usual elegant marketing designs and traditional marketing approach. While the commercial became quite popular, Jaguar came up with a comparative ad that spoofed the Mercedes Chicken commercial hilariously. 

Jaguar’s commercial shows the chicken killed by a Jaguar. The video closes with the copy “Magic Body Control? We prefer cat-like reflexes.”

Without putting Mercedes down, Jaguar just puts its own rationale above the competition. It simply focuses on its unique brand personality characterized by power, speed, and performance. 

Jaguar’s funny ad put both brands in the spotlight. 

Kimp Tip: One unique detail to note here is that neither of these ads featured the products promoted and yet they got the message through. And this was possible only because of the strong brand presence both these brands have. Also, the use of signature brand fonts in the video completes the idea. 

These ads both show the benefits of consistently associating specific fonts and imagery with your brand in order to create strong brand recognition. Mercedes’s signature serif fonts and the jaguar featured in the Jaguar commercial are representatives of the brand that help people instantly recognize the respective brands. 

Need help creating such levels of visual consistency to firmly plant your brand identity? Work with the Kimp team and create your brand guidelines right away. 

2. The Pepsi Coca-Cola Halloween treat 

The marketing wars between Pepsi and Coca-Cola are perhaps the first examples that come to people’s minds when talking about comparative advertising. The brands get really creative when it comes to mocking each other. 

For decades the brands have been poking fun at each other in their commercials. From the age of TV commercials to the social media advertising era, the competition has been stiff. One of the most notable comparative advertising instances from this duo is the Halloween ad that Pepsi came up with. 

Pepsi released a simple Halloween post featuring a Pepsi can wearing a Coca-Cola cape. (Notice how Pepsi interchanged the C and L in the brand name to avoid intellectual property violations)

The image left everyone in splits and garnered a lot of attention for the brand. However, things got even more interesting when a response to this ad came, reportedly from a fan. (image on the right)

While the response itself is a good example of the difference copy can make in advertising, the whole incident is an example of what happens when you mess with brands with a huge fan following. In this case, one of Coca-Cola’s fans came up with a response when the brand was attacked. 

In the above example, everything ended well and no one got into any trouble. But there are situations where brands face the wrath of disappointed fans who don’t like it when their favorite brands are criticized. That’s one thing to keep in mind when you come up with a comparative ad. 

3. When Samsung playfully taunted Apple for the n’th time 

Like the Pepsi Coca-Cola brand wars, Samsung-Apple comparative ads are very popular. And most of the time Samsung is the one that starts the discussion. 

The below ad from Samsung is one of the most popular in the line-up of Samsung ads that mock Apple. The ad compares how some of the features on Samsung phones are leaps ahead of those on iPhones like the note-taking feature on Samsung Galaxy Note phones, the durability of Samsung phones, and the pain of waiting for hours to get a new iPhone. 

While the ad quite mercilessly trolls Apple, let’s face it, it only highlighted the truth. Additionally, these are the kind of Apple traits that most brands take a dig at. And that’s one reason the ad did not create any real trouble. 

The lesson here is that when you identify your competitor’s shortcomings, the ones that most consumers and even other brands talk about, you can safely use some of them in your comparative ads. Of course, provided your products actually overcome those shortcomings as promised. 

Well, in this case, things did not end there. Nokia had the last laugh with this hilarious commercial that cracked a joke on both Samsung and Apple. But that’s a different thing! 😉 

There truly is no bound to creativity when it comes to advertising, right? And Nokia’s response in this case is the ultimate example of the kind of magic you can create when you silently monitor what your competitors are up to and grab the right opportunity at the right time. 

4. When Wendy’s advertised its fries that don’t “arch”

Wendy’s has a strong social media presence. The brand is quite active on Twitter Tweeting, Retweeting, and responding to Tweets on various topics and from several brands. One of the brands Wendy’s actively targets is McDonald’s. 

There have been many McDonald’s Tweets that Wendy has responded to. Like this witty reply calling out McDonald’s for using frozen beef in its burgers. 

A very popular comparative advertising campaign from Wendy’s featuring McDonald’s has been its promotion of its new “Hot & Crispy Fries”. 

Wendy’s did not just promote the idea through video commercials but also took it to its outdoor advertising arena. Billboards placed in several spots pointed out how “Hot & crispy fries don’t arch”. The design even included a portion of the signature golden arches of McDonald’s. 

Several users shared pictures of these billboards on social media. And Twitter users had a field day with this campaign. The OOH campaign did grab a lot of media coverage for Wendy’s. 

But yes, there were two sides to the conversation as some fans also Tweeted in defense of McDonald’s. 

Kimp Tip: Again, we would like to point you in the direction of the use of simple and memorable brand logos for better brand recall. In this case, the golden arches logo of McDonald’s is so well-recognized that the idea was crystal clear even when Wendy’s only used a portion of it. 

That comes as a good reminder to work on creating a strong logo for your brand. And just in case you need help designing your logo, Kimp subscriptions are just a free trial away. 

5. When Popeyes ruled both print and digital landscapes 

Popeyes roasting Chick-fil-A is a story that most people know about. Often, Popeyes makes fun of Chick-fil-A outlets being closed on Sundays. One popular comparative advertising campaign from the brand involves a bunch of newspaper ads for a Sunday Sandwich Maker. 

The brand went on to place its ad in several newspapers and the concept gained a lot of popularity in the digital space as well. The plot thickened when National Sandwich Day in 2019 fell on Sunday and ironically, a restaurant known for sandwiches, Chick-fil-A remained closed. Popeyes made fun of Chick-fil-A on Twitter with this comical video. 

However, that’s not the only time these brands locked horns. There was another time when a simple 2-word Tweet from Popeyes made headlines. See for yourself. 

The above Tweet from Popeyes went viral and boosted the brand’s engagement on Twitter a great deal. 

Kimp Tip: The above interactions show the power of engaging your customers on social media and the effect it can have on your brand. After all, with unconventional strategies like comparative advertising, the idea is to go viral, and what better place than social media to execute this plan? 

However, that does not happen overnight. So, start building your brand’s social media presence slowly but steadily. Consistent-looking visuals, on-brand content that connects well with your audience, and regular engagement are all essential to building your brand’s social media presence. And this comes in handy when you wish to experiment with advertising strategies like comparative advertising where gauging your audience’s immediate response is important. 

Create your comparative advertising designs with Kimp 

As you can see from the examples listed above, comparative advertising is not all bad. When you make a fair comparison, you end up attracting the attention of the competing brand’s target audience as well. And this can be a good thing. The key is to understand the emotional connection your competitor has made with its target audience and ensure not to risk ridiculing these emotions involved. 

As long as you keep this in mind and create ads featuring good-natured humor that does not hurt anyone’s sentiments, your comparative ads can create quite a buzz for your brand. 

Having a dedicated design team that gives shape to all your ideas can be a huge plus when you explore different advertising strategies. So, what are you waiting for? Get Kimp!

Register now for a free 7-day trial.