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Advantages and Disadvantages of Comparative Advertising – Laws, Ethics and Best Practices




Be it in a professional setting or in a personal one, we’ve all experienced the desire to compete for the big prize. This desire can appear in marketing as well, where the prize, generally, is an increase in leads and customers. 

Of course, the big marketing prize doesn’t have to limit itself just to a growth in customers. Businesses can also compete for brand exposure, social media followers, new subscribers, and many other things. 

Now, just like sports teams, each company needs to adopt at least one marketing strategy in order to have a chance at winning. And while some businesses prefer a more relaxed way of advertising, others choose something more aggressive. 

For example, the Blue Ocean advertising strategy leans towards a more pacified way of marketing. This method promotes innovation and creativity instead of competition. Compared to this, comparative advertising has a more direct approach when it comes to marketing.

If you’re ready to try a bolder marketing technique, then let’s see how comparative advertising works and if this technique is the one for you: 

What Is Comparative Advertising?

Comparative advertising, also known as combative advertising, is a type of advertising in which your business compares your products or services to a competitor’s. 

Like with many other advertising methods, the goal is to show your product’s value. But by using comparative advertising, you’re comparing two products, one of which is yours, to show potential customers that your product performs better. 

Probably the most prominent and well-known case of comparative advertising is the Pepsi-Cola feud, but there are other companies that use this strategy, such as Samsung. When both competitors use comparative advertising on each other, then we can say that we’re dealing with an advertising war.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of comparative advertising and see how this works:

We can see from the examples above that Samsung, Cola, and Pepsi have not only chosen very bold ways to compare themselves to their competitors, but they’ve also added a very important element to their campaigns — humor

Now, generally speaking, most companies might refrain from being so aggressive with their marketing. Although they can choose comparative advertising as the main strategy for some of their marketing campaigns, they can go for a more subtle version of it.

For example, they can make a list of pros and cons for their product and compare it to another business’ product. Let’s say your business is selling tablets. Here’s how a comparative ad could go:

Competitor’s TabletYour Tablet


🛑 fast charging

🛑 high battery life

🛑 sleek design 

🛑 affordable

✅ high-performance camera


✅ fast charging

✅ high battery life

✅ sleek design 

✅ affordable

🛑 high-performance camera

This would be a much better and more elegant option than full-on bashing the other business. You should also adjust the intensity of the comparative ad according to your brand’s image and voice.  

Another way to use comparative advertising is to not name a competitor at all. Fairy and Dove, for example, show the value of their products in comparison to an unbranded product. This technique is great if you don’t want to specifically call out a competitor and potentially start an advertising war.

Now, like any marketing strategy, comparative advertising has advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look and see what they are: 

Advantages of Comparative Advertising

1. You Will Create a Buzz

If your comparative advertising is out there in explicitness and boldness, then you will attract a lot of attention, especially if you’re targeting a bigger business. Customers will no doubt be intrigued by your brazenness and they will look up your business the first chance they will get. 

This is especially effective if you are just starting out and want a lot of attention in a short period of time. Basically, this is a great way to promote your brand and make sure it is not overlooked.

2. You Can Promote New Products

What better way to promote a new product than by showing just how much better it is than its counterparts? This is something that Samsung does extensively, especially when it comes to the advertising war it has with Apple.

By being bold and funny, Samsung manages to poke fun at its competitor without looking like a bully. If you don’t feel as daring as this brand, then you can always go for a comparative list between two products, or you can use an implicit and indirect comparison.

How does that work? 

Not naming any competitors, you start talking about the superior quality your product or service offers. For example, if you own a restaurant, you could have an ad talking about the way your chefs use only the best and freshest ingredients on the market, unlike other restaurants. 

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3. You Can Gain More Customers and Followers

Your actions will definitely generate a lot of interest if you challenge a business that is bigger and more popular than you. People will start looking into you, check out your social media feeds and your website, read your blogs, and even purchase your products.

But the thing is, although the comparative advertisement will bring in the attention, it is not always enough to convert. This is why organized and active social media profiles and a well-developed website are musts for any business looking to succeed. 

And when it comes to social media, a great and easy way to create quality content and post it regularly is by using SocialBee, one of the best social media posting tools on the market at this time. 

Once you have everything perfected on all the other fronts, you will be able to notice a significant increase in leads, customers, and followers after a comparative advertising campaign. 

For example, with SocialBee you’ll be able to share content across six major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, and Google My Business. 

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Disadvantages of Comparative Advertising 

Generally speaking, these rougher types of advertising come with a handful of cons as well. You can pretty much see comparative advertising as a double-edged sword. Everything depends on how well-timed and crafted your ad is. 

But let’s see exactly what are the risks you need to take with comparative advertising:

1. You Can Look Like the Bad Guy

If you pick on a business that is smaller than you or if the tone of your ad sounds even slightly mean, you can easily be seen as a bully. And nobody likes a bully. 

This is the main reason why businesses either:

  • Avoid this advertising technique altogether
  • Choose their competitors and their words very carefully
  • Prefer to make their product seem just as good as the competitor’s, but not necessarily better

2. Your Brand Image Can Be Tarnished and You Can Lose Customers

This goes hand in hand with our previous point. If you are not careful enough when crafting your comparative advertisement, then you will look like a bad sport. 

This kind of advertising technique might also not be very compatible with your brand image. If it is something drastically different than everything you have done up until that point, then your established customer base will be surprised. Trust will be lost and clients will leave, preferring a business that seems on the safer side. 

3. You Can Suffer Legal Repercussions 

Although this marketing strategy is not illegal, you can still be sued if you don’t play by the rules. But the thing is, the rules usually change based on your location. What does this mean?

For example, if you want to manage a comparative advertising campaign in Europe, you will have to be mindful of the Directive 2006/114/EC laws. But if you’re performing this sort of campaign in the United States, then you will have to take into consideration each state’s laws regarding this and the federal law, which is governed by the Lanham Act. 

Generally speaking, when using comparative advertising, you should avoid:

  • Stating false or misleading information regarding products or services
  • Deceive leads and potential customers 
  • Convince customers through deceitful methods to purchase one product over the other
  • Comparing products that don’t have the same purpose and functionality (for example, comparing a phone with a tablet)

All in all, it’s very important to understand the laws and regulations revolving around this advertising method in order to avoid being sued and fined. 

Best Practices of Comparative Advertising

To avoid suffering the consequences of bad comparative advertising, you will need to know how to advertise without seeming too harsh. Now, like with all marketing techniques, there are plenty of tips that can be shared. Here are some that we believe work best:

Be Funny and Lighthearted 

If you take a look at most of the comparative ads examples, then you will notice that almost all of the brands we mentioned use one very potent advertising technique. And that is humor.

By making content funny, businesses take less of a risk of being seen as the bully. Instead, by telling a joke or two, or by making their copy or videos amusing, they will be able to make comparative advertising like a playful banter between two friends. 

Not only that, but people will prefer funny content over something more serious. In fact, 53% of consumers say they remember and enjoy an advertisement if it is humorous.

Be Innovative

Just as nobody likes bullying, nobody likes seeing the same advertising technique being used in the same way time and time again.  So if you want to use comparative advertising, make sure you come up with some ingenious copies, visuals, or videos. 

Visuals usually work great when it comes to any kind of advertising, really. But if you have the means, we recommend you try making a video.

The reason behind selecting a video is simple. Videos are visually stimulating, interactive, and generally preferred over text. Not only that, but 51% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI.

Be Objective and Factual

If being funny doesn’t really align with your brand’s image, then going on the other route can also be an option. You just have to present two products in comparison as objectively as possible, while also being able to present factual and proven information.

Guesswork is not acceptable when it comes to comparative advertising. Performing studies and fact-checking are necessary, especially if you want to do a good job and avoid legal complications.

For example, if you are a web developer and you’re selling web developing services, then you might want to compare yourself to others by showing successful case studies and good reviews left by happy clients. 

Don’t Pick Smaller Brands

We all know the saying — pick on somebody your own size. This is a pretty good rule of the thumb in business and marketing as well. 

If you pick on a business that is significantly smaller than you, then you will most definitely look bad. This is why, when picking a business from your pool of competitors, you need to select a company that is either at the same level as you are or a bigger company. 

Be careful if you choose a bigger company, though. Bigger companies generally have more resources and they can easily respond to your comparative advertising with better structured comparative advertising. 

Bottom Line 

Comparative advertising is definitely a marketing technique that you should experiment with, at least once. Either by going full out and starting an advertising war with another brand or by using a more indirect and subtle approach, it is a method that will definitely spark interest in people.

So check out the legalities in your area, just to make sure everything is in order and see which style of comparative advertising works for your brand. 

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