How To Reposition The Competition

Use It Against Them

In an already complicated market space, positioning your product can be a very difficult task. Finding that uncontested ground is very similar to finding a needle in a haystack. So, if you had to reposition the competition, the job is a lot harder.

Repositioning is taking an established space that a competitor owns in the consumer’s mind and using an inherent weakness in it to debunk its claim. The weakness can also be used to cast negative light on the competitor while highlighting the superiority of your offering. This strategy nudges the competitor away to create more room for your brand. 

It must be made clear early on that to reposition the competition requires a legitimate point of argument . If your contention is unsubstantiated, you may end up solidifying the competitor’s position instead. Legitimacy stems from qualified data or what already exists in consumers minds. 


Brands that repositioned the competition

Tylenol Vs Aspirin

Not very long ago, Tylenol upset Aspirin’s product position when they ran an ad campaign highlighting the side-effects of the latter and positioning itself as the worthy alternative. 



The ad copy had all the makings of a perfect repositioning strategy. Aside from the ad’s very intriguing heading, the copy appealed to the very real symptoms that many Aspirin consumers experienced with Aspirin. It wasn’t an overly suggestive, ‘we’re better than Aspirin’ jab. Rather it used subtlety to influence the consumer, allowing the consumer to draw his/her own conclusions.

Notice the ad never openly stated that consuming Tylenol would avoid similar discomfort. It did state however, that it lacked the vital aspirin content, the attribute linked to the user’s discomfort. The user would just have to assume that Tylenol worked better.

Even non-consumers of Aspirin, reading the ad copy for the first time, would take note of this information, thereby influencing their buying decisions. The end result saw Tylenol climb the analgesic ladder to take the number one spot.


Stolichnaya Vs American Vodka

Stolichnaya decided to hit competitive vodka brands where it hurt most. The ads read, ” Most American Vodkas Seem Russian…Samovar: Made in Schenley, Pennsylvania… Smirnoff: Made in Hartford, Connecticut…Wolfschmidt: Made in Lawrenceburg, Indianna…Stolichnaya: Made in Leningrad, Russia.”



Very few consumers peruse labels to find the true origin of the brand they’re considering, most relying upon the name to drive associations. Because of the strong Russian associations of the beverage, American-made vodka brands adopted suggestive names. Stolichnaya’s ad copy exposed the competition for what they were trying to do. Unfortunately, during the Afghanistan crisis, Stolichnaya back-tracked on its Russian position, opening the door to Absolut.


Repositioning Versus Comparative Ads

Very often companies undertake repositioning strategies that simply turn out to be misguided comparative campaigns where the brand is shown to be superior to the competitor in some way. Comparative advertising uses a benchmark approach where the brand and competitor are stacked against each other.

The trouble with comparative ads is that they often appear as hard sales pitches, aggressive or undermine the ability of the consumer to make the right decision. They therefore end up being unproductive or strengthen the competitor’s position further. “Of course, you’d say your product is better”, is the thought every ad recipient would have.

Repositioning has much to do with how the competitive brand is interpreted by the consumer. It delicately urges the consumer to evaluate or question their current understanding of it. While ads may elude to some form of comparison, they aren’t blatantly obvious. 



The element of ethical advertising comes into play when we discuss ways to reposition the competition. Some may argue that the practice is in poor taste. But, if executed appropriately and creatively without the aggressive nature of comparative advertising, they could shake things up a bit.

Else, you could stick with the traditional feature-benefit campaigns that just about everyone else in the category runs along with unique branded differentiators that amount to virtually the same thing. 







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *