Marketers may try to distinguish their products from those of their competitors by engaging in comparative advertising. (X Detergent cleans 25% more loads than the leading brand!)

But be careful when you pull out those comparisons: make sure you don't denigrate your competitor. Research is showing that consumers become quite sensitive to the tone of criticism marketers adopt in a comparative ad.

Choose your words wisely: if your comparisons are seen as derogatory, your message may well backfire. Negative references to competitors have been shown to actually make consumers:

  • Believe an ad less.
  • Argue against what it is saying.
  • Have more negative attitudes toward the brand.

Ouch. Does that mean you should simply never mention a competitor, just to play it safe? Not necessarily.

Research also shows that negative effects do not occur when a marketer speaks more positively about the competition.

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