bing it onIn today’s highly competitive market, consumers are bombarded with advertising so competitive that it’s flat-out negative. From the presidential race to brand rivalries, negative advertising is everywhere, yet some brands refuse to indulge in the mudslinging while others revel in it. So where exactly is the line between negative and competitive advertising?

In the political world, negative ads are almost always focused on the competitor, not the candidate that the ad is actually for. However, in the realm of retail, negative ads are focused on calling out the competition similar to the Bing vs. Google rivalry. Regardless of how uncomfortable these ads can become, they continue to be staples in content strategy. Why? Because negative campaigns work. There’s fascinating study after study showing that voters vote based on emotion, both in the voting booth and with their pockets.

Should Brands Engage in Negative Advertising?

Some brands such as Bing certainly think so, but others are much more cautious. The difference between negative and competitive advertising is a fine line – competitive ads for brands are typically less vicious and personal than negative ads. In fact, some brands such as Apple have even relied on humor to be competitive.

What’s interesting is that sometimes brands fight back against competitive advertising from their competitors and others don’t. For instance, Google has barely flinched from Bing’s constant barrage of negative ads, yet Samsung has hammered Apple with ads mirroring the iconic Mac vs. PC ads.

Studies have shown that negative ads don’t translate to votes or purchases (directly), so why do brands still use them? Because they instill emotional connection and encourage consumers to learn more about the issues. Since negative ads focus on the competitor, they tend to offer more facts and statistics than positive advertisements. This increased level of information (even if negative) stimulates loyal consumers and attracts customers who are dissatisfied with their current product or service provider.

What negative advertising have you seen lately? Does it affect your purchases?