You and your top competitor sell very similar products and services. But upon closer inspection, you realize that your offering is:
- Less expensive.
- Better performing.
- Backed by a superior guarantee.
- Rated higher and recommended more.
The light bulb goes off.
Rather than having customers hop from one website to the next looking for comparative information, why not present it on yours, side-by-side, in an easy-to-understand table?
When they see how awesome you are, they’ll contact you ASAP and place a big order.
This is actually covered under Canadian advertising and marketing law
It’s called comparative advertising.
Originally, comparative advertising was put in place for print or television ads. Over time, it’s been modified to include digital marketing too.
In short, you can refer to your competitors, as long as you abide by the following edict:
- Compare with care.
So, what does that mean, exactly?
And, more importantly, what does that mean for your company?
Just the facts, ma’am
Let’s say you’re in charge of marketing for a landscape supplier. You and your top competitor both sell topsoil.
- More people buy our topsoil vs. company X because ours is better.
You actually cannot make that claim because it’s subjective (based on a personal opinion). It needs to be objective (just the facts, ma’am).
Without hard data, you can’t prove:
- If more people buy topsoil from you vs. them. For example, do you sell in bulk, while they sell in bags only?
- If yours is better. Just because customers say they prefer your topsoil does not mean that it’s actually a superior product.
Want to talk about your competitors on your website? Go ahead. But any claim you make must be verified and/or substantiated.
So, if your topsoil and theirs was tested by an independent third-party – and the results came back that yours is indeed better – you can say that (as long as people can check out the testing).
Otherwise, you just can’t without inviting trouble.
What about pricing information?
Just above, this blog talked about objective vs. subjective information.
Saying your topsoil is better is subjective, because you believe it to be.
But saying your topsoil is less expensive is objective, because you can prove it is by grabbing that info from your competitor’s website.
Equally as important is that customers can also visit your competition and verify that, yup, your topsoil is a better deal than theirs.
As with anything regarding the law, there are some caveats to be mindful of:
- Pricing changes. If your competitor suddenly decides to lower their price, you have to be aware of it and update your digital marketing accordingly.
- Inaccurate comparisons. Yes, a hatchback sedan is less expensive than a luxury roadster, but they’re not really the same at all.
- Technicalities: The airline industry gets dinged for this pretty hard. They advertise $100 flights, but the end price is three times that amount because of extra fees. Any associated costs must be included.
Using prices in comparative advertising is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, it’s relatively easy to collect. On the other hand, it’s very fluid and can change at any time.
Make sure you tread carefully.
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth
If your competitor’s product has a distinct advantage over yours (or if yours has a distinct disadvantage over theirs), you have to acknowledge it somehow.
Here’s a simple example.
Again, let’s pretend you’re a landscape supplier. You and your competitor both make your own ice melt. However, theirs is effective to -30°C and yours only works to -15°C.
In your comparison table, you cannot simply say something generic like “effective in cold weather.”
And you can’t deceive by omission, either.
If there’s a tangible difference between you and them – something which can be measured – you need to include that info.
Other things you should keep in mind
Even if you don’t directly name your competitor, you’re still responsible
- Ever see toilet paper ads comparing “the bird brand” to “the bear brand?” Are the names listed? No. Is it obvious they’re referring to Swan and Charmin? Yup.
- Don’t place your competitor’s logos on your comparison table. They don’t belong to you and you can be sued for copyright infringement (yikes).
- Comparative advertising should be apples-to-apples. Saying something like “don’t buy topsoil from company X because the owner got busted for a DUI once” is a no-no. That’s disparaging and has nothing to do with topsoil at all.
It could backfire
- Even if your comparison table is legit, and even if your product comes out on top in many categories, cynical shoppers may say “well, yeah, of course they’re going to make themselves look good on their own website.”
When looking for a product or service, many people are going to visit multiple websites to collect as much info as possible.
Obviously, when they get to yours, you want to keep them there as much as possible.
Comparative advertising is a great way to showcase all relevant details in one spot. In fact, there are websites dedicated exclusively to providing this information.
As long as your bases are covered, comparative advertising can be an effective tool. The trick being there are a lot of bases to cover.
Looking for more info? Want to know how WEB ROI can give you a competitive advantage?
Let’s talk about it. Contact us for a FREE consultation.
We’ll talk about your business, your competitors, and how you can (smartly and safely) get ahead of them.