Competition is part of the game when it comes to business. Some businesses become obsessed with keeping tabs on the other team and get caught up trying to outdo each other (think of the fast food industry for example). Others play the game more strategically and wait for just the right moment to set themselves apart via social media. Here are two companies that choose to do the latter.
Last month Guido Barilla, Chairman of Barilla pasta group made remarks on an Italian radio station referencing how Barilla would never use a same sex couple in their advertising. Barilla said “(My idea of) family is a classic family where the woman has a fundamental role.” Naturally this type of statement had the internet in an uproar. Quickly and strategically Bertolli, another leading pasta company, crafted a clever photo and posted it on their Facebook account with the caption “Love and pasta for all!”
Millions of offended Barilla consumers pledged their new allegiance to the pro equality brand and Bertolli came out on top. The Barilla exec has since apologized for his statement however the damage had already been done.
This type of strategic advertising was also seen this year when Apple launched their new iPhone 5S and 5C models. An aesthetic perk of the new 5C phones that many people were excited about was the vibrant, new color options (Apple is known for their generic white or black option on most of their devices,) While Apple likes to position themselves as trailblazers in the technology world not everyone thought this idea was so unique. Nokia took advantage of the buzz Apple had created and at the peak of the excitement posted an ad on their Twitter account showing their Lumia model which had been available in multiple bright colors. The copy on the ad and tweet read “Imitation is the best form of flattery. “Thanks, #Apple ;).” Even the most die hard Apple fan had to crack a smile at that perfectly timed jab.
Lesson learned: Instead of constantly trying to one-up your counterparts be smart and strategic like these two and let your competition set the stage for your campaign. Both of these companies quickly stole the spot light from their competitors and social played a huge part in this of course. Social media makes it easy for businesses to quickly interact with a captive audience. Thanks to hash tag searches you can easily find out what topics and companies are trending and get in on the action. Although timing is key, it is important to take a little bit of time to verify exactly why a business or topic is trending before you join the conversation. Have a great creative team on deck as visual campaigns tend to stick more than others. One clever visual can be more effective than month after month of trying to keep up with the Jones.
Competing isn’t always about exhausting yourself and your resources to keep up with everyone in your industry. Keep the majority of your energy focused on keeping your customers happy and doing the absolute best you can by them. Let your competition do the legwork in creating the buzz and when all eyes are on them find your opening and shift the [social] focus your way. All is fair in love and social media.