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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Friendly Competition?

Read an interesting post on Gaping Void recently, which, among other things, hit on the idea of embracing (or at least considering) your competitors as your best advocate. From his Stormhoek road trip, Hugh MacLeod notes:

"Believe it or not, I'm actually a big fan of our competitors. Why? Because experience has taught me, if you can get your competitors talking about you, they suddenly transform themselves into your most powerful and efficient advertising medium."

While he calls this thinking "evil" (right pinky up to the corner of his mouth I'm sure), it did make me think about how we sometime view our competition as "the enemy" (other ad agencies, that bad food company, etc.). It also made me think about how sometimes you can team up with your competitors (most often if you find another enemy) to grow a category or change its perceptions—though, it would seem to make most sense for (and is sometimes done solo by) the market leader who'd expect to see the greatest benefit (i.e. "This is beer." "This is Budweiser." vs. vodka and other spirits).

Speaking of Budweiser and competition, I was just passed an article from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, detailing a bet issued by Miller Lite to Budweiser (apparently in a letter from CEO Tom Long to August Busch IV).

“According to the challenge, if the Miller Lite car finishes ahead of the Budweiser car, Busch Stadium (home of the St. Louis Cardinals) will be renamed Miller Lite stadium for a to-be-determined 2008 series in St. Louis between the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers. If the Budweiser car finishes the NASCAR season ahead of the Miller Lite car, Miller Park will be renamed Budweiser Park for a 2008 series in Milwaukee.”

Apparently it's the second year Miller has issued the bet and last year Budweiser didn't bite. It doesn't look like Bud's up for the challenge this year either as Dale E. has issued a statement about how he takes his job seriously and the goal is to get points...blah, blah, blah...

While I can't say I blame them for the response, I do wonder what they're trying to prove. After their Super Bowl commercials, they can't be trying to take the high road, right? Or would it be a completely different issue if it was the Bud Light car? Could it be that Budweiser CEO has more at stake because his name is on the stadium (vs. Long)? Or does he see there's no reason to put Budweiser's leadership on the line? (Though I think Miller Lite's the #1 beer, so that's perceived leadership.)

Could it be that he's afraid of losing?!? Of losing what? Imagine he took the bet or better yet countered with something more interesting/meaningful/funny or raised the stakes. Imagine what that would do for corporate culture. Imagine what that would do to Coors (irrelevant much?).

Trying to tie this together, I'd suggest as brands become more and more transparent, they/we remember they're/we're not really at war. In fact, there many cases of one brand paving the way for another in a category. And there are many people who aren't 1000% brand loyal and just want brands to be realistic about the role they play in their lives. I'd also remember the importance of internal PR and how it is more and more closely aligned with (directly related to, even) to external PR. What could this bet do for the internal culture (enthusiasm) at each company? How can this top mgmt spirit work its way down to employees and how can it work its way out to the public?

Can both brands win from practicing The Art of Fun?

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