On the back of the development of Delhi High Court’s dismissal of the injunction petition filed by Colgate against Pepsodent Germicheck Superior Power advertisement last week, concluding that Pepsodent does not degrade competition brand Colgate in its advertising, we explore if this decision will give rise to more competitive advertising...
In a country where people love to see the under-dog win as it gives them a feeling of being victorious, will more brands resort to this tactical form of advertising to create the buzz?
“The only thing one can say about HUL’s endeavours – Rin vs. Tide earlier and now Pepsodent – is that it is bold and against accepted convention. Theory will support comparisons with competition and trump carding with performance claims on grounds of consumer awareness, but what is to be done about taste – that amorphous, yet discernible factor that makes iconic brands?” stated Shubhranshu Singh, Marketing Director – India and South Asia, Visa.
What caught the audience and industry by surprise about Pepsodent’s attack on Colgate was the brand name Colgate was clearly visible in the ad, supplemented by a voiceover that came with a confident conclusion that Pepsodent’s Germicheck is no less than 130 per cent better than Colgate – the current market leader with a 54.2 per cent market share in the Rs 5050 crore Indian toothpaste market.
“There is a very fine line that brand marketers attempt to walk on the subject of this kind of advertising – showing your product as superior vs. running down or degrading direct competitor products. The High Court no doubt would have considered the merits of the case appropriately before coming to the decision it has. However, every brand needs to define its own self code of conduct that it commits itself to while interacting in the marketplace, and determine how much of the envelope it seeks to push,” said Karan Kumar, Marketing Head, ITC Classmate.
Advertising has now evolved into more insight-based communication. Gone are the days when the accepted norm in India was to communicate attribute level comparisons obliquely. With a 'sharp beep’ in the narrative or air brushed or subtle pixilated imagery sufficing to the get the point across, what we are now seeing is more direct and bold advertising that leaves no doubt in the consumer’s mind.
“Yes, competitive advertising now gets more teeth thanks to Pepsodent Germicheck and this ruling. This will definitely encourage players to come out more into the open when it comes to the terrain of brand claims and counter-claims. There will surely be more adventure in this space. Some will get bitten and others will bite,” noted Harish Bijoor Brand Expert and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults.
The acceptability of comparative advertising varies from country to country depending on the culture. In some countries, comparisons are seen as arrogant and inappropriate. But in India, a country that worships ‘Hero’, competition is rooted in our very culture.
“Comparative advertising generally works best in categories where benefits are very rational and there is very little emotional benefit. A well-remembered claim for efficacy could be enough to influence brand choice at the point of purchase,” opined Sandipan Ghosh, Assistant Vice President, Marketing, Ruchi Soya Industries.
While brands have done this in the past – the cola war, one blue detergent going head-on against another, and the many shampoo ads – how much of a positive impact does such a strategy have on brands?
“I do not believe Pepsodent has gained an inch in terms of brand imagery due to this campaign. All this campaign has achieved is possibly very good brand awareness scores. Conversions into actual volume is surely a different story altogether,” said Bijoor.
Kumar agrees with this sentiment, “Consumers have matured enough to take these campaigns with a pinch of salt and more often than not, see through what’s happening. It is often the established, current usage brand that benefits from such an exercise in its consumer's mind, making the overall exercise look facetious.”
So where does it fit in the long-term strategy and the larger picture of building rich brands of stature?
“It seems that times have changed and smart tactics over extended weekends trump long-term thinking, building brands over fractions of a century. Performance equities are passé. Brands that build emotive differentiation and are pregnant with purpose alone become iconic. Ultimately, brands build business not buzzness!!” concluded Singh.