Publicly challenging your competitor – distasteful or a step in the right direction?

Let’s start today’s post with a really simple, Family Fortunes style challenge. 

Name a popular search engine. 

By Ashleigh McLeod

How many of you said Google? There’s no doubt that, on Family Fortunes that would be the top answer.

Google owns an estimated 85% of the market share in the UK and around 65% in the US. The search engine is said to receive an incredible 900,000,000 unique visitors a month. How often do you hear the phrase ‘Google it’? In contrast, how often do you hear the phrase ‘Bing it’? I’ll let you answer that one.

But it seems that software giant and Bing-owner Microsoft is not completely phased by Google’s unquestionable superiority. It recently launched its ‘Bing it on’ campaign in the UK. The programme is directly challenging its opposition by inviting searchers to compare Bing’s results to Google’s.

Now let’s put this in a B2B perspective. Should you challenge your competitor so publicly? I don’t think that’s a good idea. It might get your firm some headlines but you will be sharing those headlines with the least desirable company.

Not only is Microsoft giving Google more of the spotlight, by comparing itself solely to them, but it is also putting itself in a position where, if the campaign fails, the brand’s reputation will decrease even further.

Regular readers of this blog will have seen my colleague Charlie’s post on alternative advertising slogans last week. She linked to a tumblr that generates comic ‘real’ advertising slogans, instead of the company’s actual strap line. The one it produced for Pepsi reads, ‘Is Pepsi OK?’ This is a phrase anyone who has ever ordered Coke in a restaurant or pub will recognise.

As you may know, Pepsi famously took on Coke in the eighties and nineties by challenging people to taste the competing drinks and tell the difference. Everybody could, Pepsi is now an also-ran and the Pepsi challenge is legendary.

As this illustrates, Microsoft isn't the first company to address its competitors so visibly. Supermarkets are well known for it. Perhaps, in these cases you could argue that the very competition they are highlighting is the elephant in the room.

We’re all aware of the top supermarkets, just as we are the top search engines, but talking about another company in what should be your company’s campaign isn't necessarily a good idea. On the other hand, it worked for Apple, which is now the world’s fifteenth largest company, leaving Microsoft trailing in its wake.
I appreciate the courageous step, but I’m certain that there are more inventive, and indeed positive, ways to get your target audience’s attention.

You can take the ‘Bing it on’ challenge here.

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Ashleigh McLeod

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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