Is attack marketing ever a good idea? Does launching into your competitor — or perhaps a politician or someone you disagree with — ever work for a brand?

James, Nic and Sarah take a close look at where attack marketing wins and where it fails.


Show Notes

Here are some key take-outs:

  • Attack advertising is a marketing strategy where one company (normally a challenger brand) directly criticises another company or brand. It’s also common in politics, where it’s more often party to party or candidate to candidate.
  • Not all attack ads are unpleasant. In fact, for the consumer, they can be a lot of fun. Check out these ads from the American “burger wars” of the 1980s.

“When I was a kid you either drank Pepsi or you drank Coke and in our house, as a family, we were divided. I love attack marketing as a technique when it’s done in a way that’s not mean.” — Sarah


  • Meanness often backfires for brands — you can alienate your audience. So attack marketing can be a risk. It’s particularly if you’re attacking a person, an individual, rather than an organisation.
  • If you’re an underdog brand attack marketing can be a good opportunity — people can get behind it because they appreciate what you’re trying to do. If you’re a big brand attacking the challenger brands, that’s not a good look.

“Most businesses and brands are celebrating when they see their competitor’s advertising because consumers are smarter now and they go do research — during that research phase any brand could get the business.” — Nic


  • We’re seeing many challenger brands (like Uber and AirBnB) totally changing the conversation that’s being had in their industries and those industries aren’t necessarily responding well. If you’re the taxi industry, attacking Uber isn’t going to win you much support.
  • If you’re attacking a leading organisation you have to expect them to come back at you. You have to have the resources ready to respond when your competitor fights back.

“If you’re launching a grenade into the mix, what’s your next play?” — James


Here are the links you might need


On My Desk

  • Sarah’s recommendation was Ann Handley’s book Everybody Writes.
  • Nic recommended getting along to one of his “Meet the Media” events. Full details will be on the Media Stable website soon, but the dates are: Melbourne, April 19 at the Smart Artz Gallery; Brisbane, April 21 at the GABBA Cricket Ground; Perth, May 2 at Wembley Golf Course; and Sydney, May 4 at a venue to be confirmed.
  • James’s recommendation was a reminder that brands can be the darling of the public one day and a villain the next — citing Uber as the most recent example.


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