Comparative Advertising: A Definitive Guide (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 October 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

In advertising, there are many different methods that companies do to show why their product might be best for potential consumers. One method companies use is to compare their products with similar ones from their competition to showcase the value and features of their own. Learning about this method of advertising can help you understand how it might be effective and when you might use it in your own advertising campaigns.

In this article, we define comparative advertising and share key details about this concept, like common examples and best practices for implementing it at a company.

What Is Comparative Advertising?

Comparative advertising is a marketing technique where you compare items from competitors to show why your product or service might be better. Companies often compare several aspects of other products, services or companies, like price and quality to show the difference between the two. For example, laundry detergent manufacturers might show the effects of stain removal when using their product over another product to show that it can be more effective.

Related: Advertisement Introduction: Definition, Process And Types

10 Examples Of This Type Of Advertising

Here are examples of different strategies to give you an idea of how you can build your own:

1. Value comparison

Some comparative ads quantify the value of one product compared to a competitor's to attract business. When a company claims their product is five times as effective or you need two bottles of the competing product to accomplish what our product does in one bottle, they use this type of comparative ad. For example, a soap company may show one bar of their soap next to four bars of a competitor's soap to show that they offer four times as much value.

Related: 12 Advertisement Types (With Their Uses and Benefits)

2. Lifestyle changes

Emphasising lifestyle is one way companies might compare their products to others by showing how their lives can change when using a product or service. For example, a food subscription service may advertise its services by showing its customers enjoying more free time. Their competitors, sometimes grocery stores, might have people in their advertisements looking stressed and busy as customers shop for groceries. Car dealers might use similar advertisements, sharing how one driver for their car has fun adventures with the competition driving in traffic.

3. Taste tests

Taste tests can be an effective way to show the difference between two products. For example, a soda company may remove the labels from two similar soda brands while a person tastes both. This can be most effective if many people choose your brand, as others might choose to try it. Recording this and showing it in a television commercial can be one way to spread awareness of how customers choose one product over a competitor's.

Related: How To Write An Effective Advertisement: A Complete Guide

4. Live demos

Live demonstrations of how one product works compared to another are an example of this type of advertising. This is especially common in infomercials that showcase the speed or effectiveness of one product next to an ineffective similar product. Live demonstrations can show how the product solves problems and help educate users about the features.

Related: What Is An Advertorial? (With Advantages And Disadvantages)

5. Real customer feedback

Using customer testimonials about how much more they like your product than another is a common method for this type of advertising. You can use quotes from satisfied customers who switched from a competitor to indicate your superiority without discussing the competitor's actual products or services. Consider offering discounts or credits to customers when prompting them to leave feedback to improve your ability to collect reviews.

6. Statistics

Using statistics about how well a product works compared to similar offerings is another popular example of this type of advertising. When sharing statistics, ensure the information you gather and present is accurate and honest. For example, phone companies often share information about their network's coverage compared to a competitor's coverage using concrete details from independent studies to attract customers.

7. Side-by-side visuals

Many companies show their product side-by-side with a similar product and outline the key differences. Using actual product images makes it easy for customers to see exactly why one product is superior, letting them determine their own conclusions and helping them feel confident in their purchasing choice. For example, you may show your toilet paper side-by-side with the competitor's so it is easy to see how your product is thicker.

8. Non-specific comparisons

When businesses use terms like the leading brand or other products without actually showing a competitor's brand, they are implementing non-specific comparisons. These usually involve grouping all competitors together and focusing on the main value their product has to offer customers. This strategy can offer a more holistic view of the product's benefits.

Related: 18 Important Tips For Sales And Marketing Strategies

9. Customer experience reenactments

Video commercials often show reenactments of customers using their products and a competitor's products to show how much easier it is to use their brand. For example, the marketing specialists at a local credit union may advertise superior customer service using comparative advertising. They may show a split-screen with their customer on the left quickly making a deposit, while the person on the right spends time in the line at a chain bank.

10. Unique features

If a product or service has a feature that no one else on the market has, companies can emphasise the uniqueness of that feature in their ads. The unique feature can be an additional function, difference in operation or free offering. For example, if a local car wash was the only one in the area that offered free interior shampoos, it may advertise by emphasising that its competitors lack this service.

Best Practices

Before you start preparing one of these advertising campaign, make sure you understand the ethical implications of comparing your product or service to that of another company. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is a voluntary self-regulatory organisation that encourages self-regulation in advertising to protect the interests of India's consumers. While the organisation recognises the importance of free speech for creativity and advertising for business, it believes companies have a responsibility to advertise ethically.

Here are the ASCI codes of ethical advertising:

Honesty

ASCI states advertising is to be honest to avoid misleading consumers. This involves ensuring all claims you make in your advertisements are accurate. Be sure to verify all facts you include in your advertisement to avoid dishonesty. It may also be helpful to complete independent studies to gather evidence to support your claims, such as surveying consumers about their preference for your product over another.

Decency

ASCI believes advertising is to be inoffensive based on the public's norms of decency. This requires you to think carefully about what you include in your advertisements and whether the images or phrasing may conflict with public decency, even if you are hoping to achieve shock value in your advertisement. Conducting focus groups or using A/B testing may be helpful for evaluating how consumers react to your ads.

Non-harmful

ASCI limits advertising products or situations that are hazardous or harmful to society. It prevents advertisements that create a risk to society beyond an acceptable amount. It may be useful to research the potential environmental or societal effects of your product or service before promoting it.

Fair in competition

ASCI requires advertisements to be fair to competitors. This includes not being derogatory to your competitors with your phrasing, imaging or goals, which is especially important if you are making comparisons. Try to create advertisements that indicate your competitors offer some value while emphasising the greater value you provide.

Is This Type Of Advertising Right For You?

This type of advertising can be more effective than other methods in certain situations. To think about if it is right for you and any ad campaigns, think about if you have the resources to perform detailed research and gather the necessary information about your competition. You might also consider which products you want to compare. This can work best with the most similar products or those that provide similar value in a person's life.

You can still use some components of this type of advertising without the comparisons. For example, you can still share value or do experiments like a taste test to show audience reactions or emphasise lifestyles in advertisements without discussing other brands or companies.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

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