Comparative Advertising: Definition and How-To Guide

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Whether you recognize it or not, you’ve likely seen comparative advertising in action. And contrary to popular belief, comparative advertising isn’t just for big companies like Coke and Pepsi or Dell and Mac — it can also be used by small and new companies like yours. 

Here’s how Greg Gillman recommends you use it for your business: 

What Is Comparative Advertising?

Comparative advertising involves comparing two brands or products to either indicate parity or superiority. Parity asserts that a company’s product or service is as good as another company’s. 

Superiority asserts that a company’s product or service is better than all others in the marketplace or better than a specific competing product. 

Comparative advertising is designed to help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions, although sometimes it may not seem incredibly meaningful or even effective. 

Is Comparative Advertising Legal and Ethical?

Comparative advertising is legal, although it is subject to rules and regulations that dictate how it’s done. In order to avoid legal issues, you need to make sure that your comparative claim isn’t false or misleading, that it won’t deceive a substantial segment of potential consumers, and that this deception won’t influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. 

Even though comparative advertising is legal, you might be wondering if it’s ethical. The answer really depends on how you develop your campaign. When done right, comparative advertising can be perfectly ethical. 

At the same time, you need to be careful not to go too far with your claims or comparisons to the point that it becomes unethical or potentially illegal. 

Pros and Cons of Comparative Advertising

Before you decide to launch a comparative advertising campaign, you need to consider both the pros and cons. 


  • Boost brand awareness: Comparative advertising can help boost brand awareness by tying your small business to a large business. Many people think that small businesses can’t possibly compete with big ones — but you can show them how and why you’re better with comparative advertising. 
  • Help inform customer decisions: Comparative advertising can help inform customer decisions. When a customer is used to buying a specific product with a familiar product experience, they likely don’t perform any research on potential alternatives.

    Through comparative advertising, you can present them with the information they need to make better purchasing decisions. 


  • You need to follow the law: While comparative advertising is legal, there are certain rules that you have to follow to ensure that it remains so. Verifying your claims can be difficult and time-consuming; at the same time, it’s incredibly important to do so to avoid potential legal issues. 
  • You can hurt your reputation: If comparative advertising isn’t done correctly, it could hurt your reputation. Excessive and aggressive comparative advertising tactics can make you seem like a bully, so make sure to keep things light-hearted and not go after smaller businesses. 
  • You can scare away customers: If comparative advertising hurts your reputation, you can end up scaring away potential and existing customers.

    Your existing customers will no longer feel comfortable purchasing from your company, and your business will suffer as a result. 

When to Use Comparative Advertising?

Based on these pros and cons, you might still be confused about whether or not you should use comparative advertising for your business. 

Specifically, you should use comparative advertising when it’s hard for people to tell the difference between your company and a competing company. You can use it to point out the differences between your company and products compared to your competitors and show off why you’re better. 

You should also use comparative advertising when there’s a misconception about your brand as it relates to a competing company. Comparative advertising can help impact your brand perception and communicate to customers that your brand and products are actually better than those of your competitor. 

Things to Consider When Creating a Comparative Advertisement

Here are some things to consider when you’re developing a comparative advertising campaign

1. Consider the Claim You Want to Make

The first thing you need to consider when creating a comparative advertising campaign is the claim you’re trying to make. 

For the best results, your claim needs to be clear, and it needs to be true. You also need to think about how this claim will be perceived by consumers — so be sure to leave no room for interpretation. 

2. Consider If the Claim Can Be Tied to a Specific Competitor

The second thing you need to consider when creating a comparative advertising campaign is whether or not the claim can be tied to a specific competitor. 

At the same time, you don’t have to specifically name a competing company or product in order for the ad to be considered comparative. 

For instance, “leading” claims that include the country’s cheapest type of product or the best type of product also fall into comparative advertising and, as a result, are subject to comparative advertising rules. 

3. Consider If You’re Comparing the Right Things

The third thing you need to consider when creating a comparative advertising campaign is if you’re actually comparing the right things. 

When making your comparisons, both products need to meet the same need or be intended for the same purpose so that they’re essentially interchangeable. 

For instance, generic versions of products can be compared to name-brand products that are essentially the same thing but come with a lower price tag. 

4. Consider If the Comparison Is Verifiable

Finally, you need to consider if the comparison is actually verifiable. Within the ad itself, you need to include enough information about the products in question for consumers to fully understand the comparison being made. 

This means that you need to include sources where possible or include a signpost where consumers can look for more information. 

Comparative Advertising Best Practices

As you can see, comparative advertising can be extremely effective when done properly. So what are some best practices to ensure that you’re doing it properly? 

  • Focus on what consumers care about: When making your claims, you need to focus on things that consumers actually care about rather than talking about irrelevant details that they don’t actually care about. This requires knowing your customers very well, so try talking to them to figure out who they are and what they care about. 
  • Be objective: When making your claims, you need to be objective. Present customers with clear and unbiased data about your brand or products so that they can make an informed decision. 
  • Keep it light: When making your claims, you need to keep it light and funny. Intense and aggressive comparative claims can send the wrong message to consumers and paint your company in a negative light. Instead, have a sense of humor and make consumers laugh — after all, it’s in good fun. 
  • Don’t be a bully: When making your claims, you need to be careful not to appear like a bully. If you’re a larger company, you should avoid picking on smaller companies. Smaller companies, on the other hand, should feel free to go after larger companies. 
  • Back up your claims: Finally, you need to back up any claims with cold hard proof. Not only is this the law, but it’s also a good business practice. 

Final Thoughts on Comparative Advertising

With the right approach, comparative advertising can be extremely effective. At the same time, you need to be incredibly cautious about this advertising method. For the best comparative advertising results, work with marketing experts like Greg Gillman


The 12 Most Intense Marketing Wars Ever | Business Insider

Comparative Advertising Definition | Investopedia

A Quick Guide to Comparative Advertising | ASA CAP

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