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Is it ever a good idea to undermine or slate your competition? Microsoft seems to think so.

Is it ever a good idea to undermine or slate your competition? Microsoft seems to think so.

Following on from the recent Sainsbury’s golden PR story with the Tiger/Giraffe bread, we come full circle to Microsoft’s example of how to get it all just a little bit wrong. And this is content they have generated themselves, and chosen to host on YouTube of all places (owned by the company they are having a poke at – would be amusing if not so ironic!)

Microsoft’s latest smear advertising campaign ‘Googlelighting’ against Google Docs, with its out of date reference to the television show Moonlighting (for those born after 1989, this might help) is not proving to be popular amongst those that have watched it so far, as reported by Mashable this week with a whole stream of negative comments also building on Mashable’s Google+ post and numerous thumbs down on YouTube itself.

Never mind the fact that the concept of the advert is very cheesy, it is basically an out and out strike below the belt at Google.

And rather than leaving the viewer feeling like they’ve learned something from the advert and the feeling to propel them towards the Microsoft website to make a purchase, instead the vast majority of viewers are probably wondering why on earth they have taken this approach.

Besides, Google and Microsoft are essentially aiming at different markets with their office/document type solutions. So why do Microsoft feel so threatened by Google Docs? Maybe because Docs is free and smaller organisations are realising you can do everything you need to do to be productive without the hefty price tag that comes with the MS Office solution.

So, is it ever a good idea to slate a competitor in your advertising campaign, or indeed in your sales pitch? Apart from the fact that it’s resorting to cheap tactics, it’s also unsportsmanlike. It just doesn’t sit right or feel right. And it will leave a bad taste in the mouth of your potential customers and existing prospects, and start them thinking that there’s perhaps cause for concern, rather than giving them the impetus to buy. After all, why would a company spend so much money talking about how bad their competitor’s product is if they weren’t just a little threatened by it?

Your company may well have a better product with better features, and these should definitely be highlighted and shouted from the rooftops, but to undermine your competitor’s product is like telling tales in the school playground – it’s childish and not necessary. It doesn’t ever show you, as an organisation, in a good light. Your product is great, so focus on that. Tell everyone why they should be buying from you, tell them why your product is the best, tell them about the benefits, what they will gain, the time and money they will save and why it makes good business sense to choose your company.

If you are confident and proud of your product or service then portray that enthusiasm in your advertising and sales materials.

Evangelise, don’t criticise.

So whilst trying to be witty and amusing, have Microsoft instead shot themselves in the foot and displayed their weakness: their real fear that Google Docs may just be winning over their treasured target market?

As someone rather famous once said:

“First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win.”

- M. Gandhi

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