Brands can boost their own reputations and sales by praising rivals​

By our News Team | 2022

Being nice to your competitors in public can pay off in unexpected ways for brands, researchers find.

Whether they’re snide comments on billboards or sparring on social media, big brands are known for taking jabs at their competitors.

But what these brands usually don’t do is say nice things about their rivals, because they wouldn’t want to grant an adversary free publicity, says Keisha Cutright, a Marketing Professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in the US. 

This sounds reasonable. But recent research by Professor Cutright, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marketing, suggests exactly the opposite: a little goodwill shown to your competitors can pay off.

Remarkably, nearly a dozen experiments with almost 4,000 people show that a brand that compliments a competitor ends up boosting its own reputation and sales.

Marketing Research

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

“You don’t want to spend your media dollars talking about the competition, but there are times when it makes sense to say something nice, and at the same time, signal who you are as a brand,” Cutright explains. “That message is that they’re a warm, caring brand that you can trust – which implies they’re also going to be considerate and warm to their customers.” 

Kit Kat ‘praises’ its rival brand Twix

In one experiment, the researchers showed a group of consumers a fictitious tweet from chocolate brand Kit Kat praising another chocolate brand, Twix: “Competitor or not, congrats on your 54 years in business! Even we can admit—Twix are delicious.”

After 11 days, the researchers asked the consumers who saw the fake tweet to report any candy purchases. People who saw the public message from Kit Kat praising Twix were 34% more likely to buy a Kit Kat compared to a control group that saw a tweet from Kit Kat about its own product. Importantly, the authors noted, Twix sales didn’t increase, even after Kit Kat praised the candy as delectable.

In a surprising turn, the most sceptical of the consumers in the experiments were likely to have the biggest positive response to brands that tipped their hats to a competitor, the researchers found.

“Seeing a brand take a risk like this seems to break the ice with consumers who are least trusting of companies’ intentions,” Cutright explained. “But praising a competitor will be most effective when done strategically and at the right moment – authenticity is key.”

“If you are constantly talking about the competition, people may not see it as sincere,” Cutright said. “This isn’t something brands need to do all the time, but it’s something they shouldn’t be afraid to do occasionally to help boost perceptions of their warmth and trustworthiness.”

Read the full research here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/00222429211053002

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.