Indago Digital’s recent competitor campaign seems to have caused a bit of a storm and divided opinions; on mUmbrella, LinkedIn, Facebook and my personal inbox. Ugly, passé, cheap on one side and on the other, creative, ROI focused and one agency we’d targeted, Atomic 212, even said, ”I love it and wish I’d have thought of it.”

When we embarked on the campaign we weren’t trying to make friends, we were doing what we do best; driving results. If you think that’s ugly, passé or cheap, then maybe you’re in the wrong industry. This post isn’t an apology or justification of our tactics, it’s to enlighten people on why we chose this route.

Why Bid on Competitor Brands?

It doesn’t always work, but surely as marketeers we should be trying various tactics, and as search marketeers, experimenting with new keyword sets. Have a read of the below data from two client campaigns in two different verticals – Finance and Insurance – comparing the effectiveness of their competitor activity to targeting generic keywords:

Insurance Client – The competitor campaign drives a Cost Per Click (CPC) that is 61% lower than their generic campaign and the overall Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) is 57% lower.

Finance Client – The competitor campaign drives a Cost Per Click (CPC) that is 40% lower than their generic campaign and their overall Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) is almost identical. This campaign however increases conversion volume by 15%.

So, if it works why wouldn’t we continue with this strategy?

Who Bids on Competitors’ Brands?

I’m amazed at the negative sentiment from other agencies when I know several of them run competitor campaigns on behalf of their clients. Does this suggest that it’s okay if they themselves are not being targeted?

More importantly, if they are not offering it as a service, or as a recommended tactic to experiment with, then they’re doing their clients an injustice.

Wotif bidding on Booking.com, AHM on Bupa, MYOB on Xero – the industry is rife with it and why? It works.

Using Competitors’ Trademarked Terms

Google’s Trademark Policy states, “Google won’t investigate or restrict the selection of trademarks as keywords, even if we receive a trademark complaint.” However, it also says, “Google will review complaints and may restrict the use of a trademark in ad text. AdWords ads using restricted trademarks in their ad text may not be allowed to run. This policy applies worldwide.”

A simple way of stopping competitors using your brand in their creatives is by submitting a complaint using Google’s trademark complaint form.

Does it Devalue Your Brand?

I’m not the right man to ask as I’m not a brand marketeer. So, I’ll provide some examples for you to form your own opinion. Comparing your brand and/or product to a competitor using fact is nothing new and having a pop without saying anything libel seems to be to be standard practice in traditional media. So, if it doesn’t devalue your brand there, why does it in search marketing?

BMW and Audi didn’t seem to have an issue with it when they had their billboard war and nor did Mercedes with their happy birthday message to BMW that appeared online and in-print. Samsung seemed happy to attack Apple’s iPhone and on the flip-side, Apple produced over fifty ads comparing Macs to PC’s. Maybe the Pepsi Challenge is the most iconic example of our time?

What Was Indago’s Strategy?

We’re a newish entrant (under three years old), have low brand recognition, a limited marketing budget and a huge desire to win new clients. Therefore, everything we do needs to be low cost, increase our brand awareness and drive maximum Return on Investment (ROI).

The Cost Per Click (CPC) on Google for keywords such as ‘SEO Agency’ or ‘Digital Marketing Agency in Sydney’ can be as high as approximately $40 (Source; Google Keyword Planner March 2017). For ease of maths, let’s say our conversation rate for that term was 1%. That would mean a Cost Per Lead of $400. Again, for ease of maths, let’s say we converted a lead at a rate of 5% – we would be paying a Cost Per Sale of $8,000.

‘Doesn’t sound too bad’, you might (or might not) be thinking. The issue we (and every agency) have is that these keywords provide no qualification. Indago, like every agency we have targeted, look to work with a certain level of client and with no qualification, many of the leads generated from these keywords are irrelevant and the Cost Per Sale sky-rockets.

Roll on a competitor campaign with relevant creatives and a landing page to boot. Now we have a keyword set that is cheaper, brings higher conversion rates, a lower Cost Per Lead and the cherry on the cake is that leads are highly qualified (except of course for, ‘Mr. You’re Wankers’ at getfucked@gmail.com, whom we’re struggling to get back in contact with).

Now, consider that the combined monthly search volume on Google for the competitors we are targeting is over 6,000 and one brand has 880 searches alone. And that monthly searches for our brand is minimal. What does that mean? It means as a new player we had little to lose if our competitors decided to target our brand.

Has it Been a Success?

The campaign is a little over a week old and has driven an extremely low Cost Per Click and Cost Per Lead. Via a LinkedIn post we didn’t initiate and an article in mUmbrella we had no influence on, secondary benefits to date have included;

  • Our campaign appearing in the industry press and e-mailed to 33,942 people via mUmbrella’s newsletter (Source; Audited Media Association of Australia 2016)
  • Driving back links that will aid our SEO
  • Increasing LinkedIn profile views by 700%
  • Increasing website visitation by 487%

It’s too early to talk about sales but not too shabby for a $652.72 investment.

It's only fair to share...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit