How to Respond Effectively to Negative Advertising

For many businesses, connecting with and selling to a target market can be challenging enough on its own. But, when a competitor jumps into the mix and badmouths your product, service or entire company, an entirely new front opens up. Consider a local grocer watching TV when an ad comes on from a competitor discussing how the local grocer’s produce is not as fresh as the competitor’s and that its product selection is less expansive. Many marketers and business owners struggle with how to respond. Do you ignore the attack? Do you hit back?

The choices you make when faced with this situation will depend on a number of factors specific to your industry, your business, your market and your competitors. But here are some general tips that may help you determine the best approach.

Evaluate the Potential Damage

A negative ad from a competitor may simply be a desperate, last-ditch effort by a failing opponent to regain some ground. Sometimes you can intuitively tell that the negativity of the ad has the potential to backfire—creating more of a negative impact for your competitor than for you!

But there may be occasions when a competitor’s ad hits on a real weakness of your product and exposes that weakness to a mass audience. It’s important as an initial matter to do an analysis of how much damage the negative ad has caused, or has the potential to cause. If a response is warranted, it’s also important to move quickly.

Move Quickly

When faced with negative ads from a competitor, you need to decide fairly quickly how to react. This doesn’t mean you will necessarily decide to respond. As Geoff Williams writes for American Express’s Open Forum, “While you may ultimately decide that reacting to the threat is the worst thing you can do and you would be better served ignoring your competitor, doing nothing is still a decision and one you’ll want to make quickly.”

Don’t Start Mud Slinging

It’s easy to become offended and feel personally insulted and attacked by a competitor’s negative advertising against your organization. But you absolutely need to remain professional and objective. Sometimes companies can effectively use humor to go after competitors – think of the “Where’s the Beef?” and “I’m a Mac” ads – however, you need to be careful here. Trying to be funny and actually being funny are not the same thing.

Negative advertising isn’t just for political campaigns. From time to time, businesses will go after their competitors directly in addition to, or even in place, of touting their own products and services. The decision of whether or not to respond—and how—will depend on the situation.

Have you been involved in a situation where you needed to consider whether, and how, to respond to some negative advertising? What was your decision? Would you make the same decision today?


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About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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