Should you call out your competition?

Apple vs. Google, Hefty vs. Glad, Coke vs. Pepsi… the list could go on forever. Competitions suck – but they are inevitable. *cue Thanos* In lieu of the recent social media battles between CLIF Bars and KIND Snacks, it got me thinking about brands calling each other out on ‘flaws’ all the time. Is it really worth it to call out competition in YOUR ads? Has bashing the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend ever actually helped your argument? Maybe in your lifetime, but not mine.

Comparative advertising is advertising your brand as superior in reference to your competition. This can be a side-by-side comparison of the newest Apple and Google smart phones, or it can be the Bud Light Knight trekking across the countryside to return a barrel of corn syrup to the Miller castle. Both ads directly call out the competition in a not so subtle way.

But does this work? With this type of advertising, you run the risk of law suits (MillerCoors sued Anheuser Busch in March over the Superbowl ad), dilution of your brand reputation (annoyed consumers over CLIF vs. KIND Facebook battles – see the Facebook post below), or worse, inadvertently advertising for your competition using dollars from your bottom line. Comparative advertising can unleash a beast – one that is much larger than bachelorette Hannah B(east).


First things first, if you decide to go this route, you must have all the facts. You cannot claim something that is untrue about your competitors – the law says so. Any John Cena commercial about “Hefty Hefty Hefty” being less expensive than “wimpy wimpy wimpy [Glad]” needs to be proven true to avoid getting *trashed* by the media and legal systems. Who wants to spend money on an ad campaign to have any results be *disposed* of in legal fees?

Also, do you really want to be known as the brand that bashes others to try to get ahead? A reputation takes years to build and seconds to destroy. While there are successful one-liners and sarcastic brand voices out there (think Wendy’s Twitter), if that’s not your brand and aligned with your brand’s values, you may want to stay away. People don’t like the Regina George’s of the world.

Finally, isn’t the point of an ad campaign to highlight your brand? Why would you want to bring up the competition when your brand should be front and center for the ad you are paying for? The “Share a Coke” campaign was monumentally successful and didn’t even mention their Cola Wars counterpart. Just a thought to sip on.

In all reality though, this type of advertising has been effective in the past and will continue to be in the future. When Wendy’s tweets get extra *beefy* in efforts to *fry* McDonald’s, they get thousands of likes and retweets – people think it’s funny. But when you have an all-out drag out on Facebook like CLIF and KIND, people get irritated, and your brand may end up with crushed nuts.


There is a very fine line between funny and irritating, and BMW and Audi have been driving that line for years.

So stay true to what you want your brand to be remembered for. Do you want to be that annoying aunt constantly posting replies on Facebook that no one even likes, be the sarcastic uncle who gets all the laughs at someone else’s expense, or be the mom who is proud of her kid and wants to tell the world? It’s your call [to call out your competition or not].

TL; DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

  • Comparative advertising can be effective if done well.
  • Be aware of claims you make in comparative ads – false claims can end up in expensive legal battles.
  • Stay true to your brand voice.
  • Your ad should elevate your brand, not your competition’s.
  • There are lots of puns so you should read it all😊