'Move Over, Monzo': A Brief History of Aggressive Marketing

If you’ve been in and around London recently, you may have noticed a series of adverts by Viola Black titled “Move Over, Monzo”. The fact that brands can use other company names to boost their own profile still seems a little strange, but it is a marketing tactic that has been used frequently over the years.

This particular campaign got us thinking about the root of aggressive marketing tactics. Where do they come from? Are they successful and, if so, why? Here’s our brief history of aggressive marketing – enjoy!


What is Aggressive Marketing?

Aggressive marketing is an offensive strategy which uses provocative tactics to generate a response from your audience. It often involves marketing warfare tactics, where one brand will attack or parody another in order to generate buzz and draw attention to itself.

Since advertising laws allow companies to mention other companies by name in their advertising and marketing campaigns, there is nothing illegal about the aggressive marketing tactics used by Viola Black and many other companies. However, it is a divisive strategy – while some find it amusing and clever, it can be viewed as simply piggybacking on someone else’s success.


The Early Days: BA Can’t Get it Up

An early example of aggressive marketing comes from business magnate Richard Branson. The year 2000 saw the unveiling of the London Eye, which was sponsored by BA. However, there was a technical problem and the wheel couldn’t be erected. Virgin soon took advantage of this incident, deciding to fly a blimp over the site with the slogan “BA Can’t Get it Up”. Fair play, Richard Branson.

This stunt embodies the very idea of brand warfare and shows how companies can capitalise on the failures or embarrassments of others. Aggressive marketing of this kind requires quick-thinking, a proactive approach and, perhaps most importantly, a big budget.


“Bing It On”

Google is the undeniable leader in the search engine world and it’s hard for any competitors to even get a look in. Some have tried to tackle Google from an environmental angle but Google is so dominant in our lives that it’s a real struggle for other search engines to provide a viable option.

That’s why Bing decided to take things to a new level in 2013 by launching a marketing campaign titled “Bing it On”. They used results from a study of 1000 people, where 53% of participants chose Bing search results, to suggest that Bing was the superior search engine to Google. They even created an online comparison platform where users could compare Bing and Google search results.

However, Microsoft refused to release the results of the “Bing it On” online challenge, which millions of users participated in, rather than just 1000. This was raised as suspicious and many questioned the legitimacy of Bing’s so-called experiment.

Bold and interesting aggressive marketing moves like this are a sure way to cause a buzz. However, the flipside to this approach is that the validity of a company’s claims often comes under fire. This can cast doubt over the trustworthiness of the brand who launches the campaign, rather than casting doubt on the validity of the one it was attacking.


Comparative Advertising & Supermarket Wars

Comparative advertising is legal, however, there are guidelines and it is a fine line for marketing teams to tread. The ASA has put together a guide for brands who decide to use comparative advertising tactics. Supermarkets are probably the most famous example of brands who opt for comparative advertising, with price point being a key factor in their marketing appeal.

Back in October last year, Tesco claimed that it was now cheaper than both Aldi and Lidl. However, further investigation shows that this claim only applied to a few selected products and could be misleading to consumers. Aldi and Lidl fought back, with both claiming that a typical basket or trolley of products is far cheaper at their stores. Lidl even opted to use the slogan “every Lidl helps” in a comeback advert.

Comparative advertising, though widely used by supermarkets, can backfire when challenged and may give the impression of an untrustworthy company. Instead, supermarkets might be better-placed focusing on how to create a culture of brand loyalty and a message of authenticity.


Is Aggressive Marketing a Viable Tactic?

While it’s definitely a source of amusement and intrigue for consumers, is aggressive marketing the right approach? Or does it simply come across as petty and sensationalist for the sake of it?

The answer is that it can be highly effective if it’s done in the right away. Consumers value authenticity, humour and lightheartedness, and it’s always good to think outside the box and see how you can rival your competitors. If you’ve got the budget for entertaining, large-scale, Richard-Branson-style stunts, why not go for it?

However, aggressive marketing often involves bold claims – claims which can be easily undermined. Positioning yourself as better than a competitor can be a dangerous situation, one that can backfire and damage your own reputation. As well as valuing creativity and humour, consumers also value authenticity and trustworthiness, so if you’re seen to be making false claims, it can negatively affect your reputation.

Be that as it may, aggressive marketing tactics are likely to continue. They often take place among leading brands, and big names will expend large amounts of energy and money on brand wars and marketing campaigns which attack their competitors.

One consequence of this is that it may give smaller companies the time and opportunity, away from the noise of brand wars, to quietly create their own effective and insightful marketing campaigns.




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