[By Tony Popowski]
So the Academy Awards are this Sunday. Despite the obnoxious over-the-top thank you speeches (I'm talking to you Sally Field), year after year I enjoy tuning in and seeing both the predicted winners who deserve their glory (Tom Hanks -Forrest Gump) and the upsets that leave me cheering (Alan Arkin - Little Miss Sunshine - seriously grandpa was hilarious). This year, the two Oscar frontrunners couldn't be more different: Avatar and The Hurt Locker. You have James Cameron's monumental hit which dethroned his previous blockbuster, Titanic, as the highest grossing movie of all time VS. Kathryn Bigelow's underground hit about a bomb squad in Iraq. (It must be awkward to compete against your ex-spouse for a Best Director Oscar right?) At first, everyone was putting their money on Avatar - and who can blame them. It was just SO overwhelming with visual stimuli and you feel emotionally drained after seeing it. (Who else is upset that Pandora isn't real?) Even the biggest Avatar haters must be able to appreciate the time, energy, resources and process that went into making this movie. Then, The Hurt Locker started gaining momentum. It was a low-budget film played in few theaters with a B list cast... but it got people talking. Slowly but surely the film started racking up accolades and catapulted into front-runner status for the Big Show on Sunday.
Unfortunately, one of the producers for The Hurt Locker pulled a "marketing no no" and tarnished the once immaculate reputation for his "little engine that could" movie - he blatantly bashed his competitor. Producer Nicholas Chartier first sent an email out to voters saying that they should vote for The Hurt Locker - nothing wrong with that. While it's great marketing to promote yourself and explain why you deserve the title, he took it one step too far when he told voters NOT to vote for a "$500M dollar film." This insult was obviously against Avatar and he faced a backlash - he's banned from the show on Sunday.
I think this is a good comparison for marketing. Demonstrating why your product or service is the best is basic marketing. Yes, that includes illustrating why you're better than your competition. However, when you specifically and publicly go after your competitor, it gets dirty. After a little while, the public thinks you're just bashing the competition because you don't have anything good to say about yourself. The AT&T commercials with Luke Wilson are a perfect example - they annoy me. They spend so much time bashing Verizon they only get in one good point about themselves. The commercials may dissuade me from using Verizon (they haven't - they're still my cell phone provider), but they haven't convinced me to use AT&T because I don't know anything about their brand.
At the end of the day, send messages to your audience that are positive. Show them why you're the best instead of showing why others are worse. There's nothing wrong with aggressively knocking our your competition...that's basic business. However, you need to strategically and tactfully convey your argument.