Do You Dare to Compare? The Effects of Comparative Advertising on Consumer Responses Towards the Advertised and Attacked Brands - A Case Study of Arla Foods and Oatly
Abstract: In 2014, a long-stretched feud began between dairy company Arla Foods and oat milk company Oatly, and is continuously ongoing. The rivalry between the two companies includes advertising where the companies target one another, in different ways. This public communication can be classified as Comparative Advertising (CA); a marketing technique through which advertisers assert their company's superiority, by explicitly or implicitly making comparative claims towards a targeted competitor. There are differing opinions about how effective CA is and whether it is a favourable marketing strategy. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to investigate how consumer responses to CA are affected by (1) the advertised and attacked brands' market positions, (2) the perception of the CA as an attack and (3) the experienced advertising value. Furthermore, the investigated consumer responses include; perceived product quality, others' attitude towards the brand (cognitive responses), brand and product attitude (affective responses), brand advocacy, purchase and recommendation intention (conative responses). The subject is investigated through a deductive approach, using a mixed method of a qualitative case study and a quantitative survey, arranged in an exploratory sequential design. The present paper shows that all three moderating factors affect cognitive, affective and conative consumer responses to CA. The results show that consumer responses to CA are more positive towards a new brand than an established one. In addition, a new brand can benefit from CA, both when they are the advertised and attacked brand, while an established brand does not. Further, if the CA is perceived as an attack affects consumer responses towards the advertised brand negatively, and towards the attacked brand positively. Lastly, effects of advertising value on consumer responses to CA are of considerable magnitude for the advertised brand. However, effects of advertising value for the attacked brand are limited and somewhat lacking significance. Practically, the findings from this study can provide guidance for marketers considering to incorporate CA into their marketing strategies, by demonstrating its potential effects. Theoretically, the findings contribute by 1) extending research on moderating factors to consumer responses, 2) examining effects both for the advertised and attacked brand and 3) specifically investigating the Swedish market and digital advertising.
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