Last week PepsiCo sued Coca-Cola for false claims that the new Powerade ion4 sports drink is more complete than Gatorade. BevNet recently posted this article following the suit.

This high-profile case has highlighted the importance of ad claim substantiation in competative warfare marketing. A brand’s marketing and legal teams must work seamlessly in the planning of such an attack to be able to withstand critical challenge. Once the research process is started, everything is discoverable. If challenged, all research and internal communication that supports the claim has to be shared in its entirety with the networks and competition.
Between 1999 to 2001 I worked for Papa John’s as the VP of Marketing and Operations on the marketing aspect of “The Pizza Wars: Papa John’s takes on Pizza Hut.” I learned very quickly that this can be a very effective tool for a brand to generate trial.  If you claim to be better than the best or the leader, of course you make a strong case for the consumer to try your brand.
But here is the risk.  When the consumer tries you based on a competitive ad mentioning your key competition, the consumer has a high expectation of your brand.  Repeat business happens only when the consumer’s expectations are fulfilled.  If a brand’s experience falls below the expectation, the consumer feels that they were mis-guided and the brand falls in “been there, done that, and never falling for it again” category.  It is very tough for a brand to come out of this hole.
Earlier, competitive advertising was restricted to within a category, where an aspiring  brand went after the category leader.  But with the economic pressures impacting the macro aspect of the industry, many a time a brand is going after anywhere and everywhere it can source business from.  Otherwise, how does one explain Dunkin’ Donuts going after Starbucks or McDonalds going after Starbucks?