Positioning is a wonderful thing.
I remember working at Sonlight when we had a drawn-out discussion on how we should position the company. The owner had for years been defending himself against smaller competitors. But his reading had persuaded him to a new point of view: to go on the offensive and attack the market leader.
With this new perspective, I suggested an aggressive positioning statement: "Forget Boring Textbooks." Although it was much loved, it was never used. Everyone thought it was too aggressive, even though we were not targeting a single competitor, merely a segment of the market.
So imagine my shock and delight when I came across a Qwest ad in the Rocky Mountain News that said: "Don't get Comcastuck." The ad went on to describe three different ways you could get stuck by switching to Comcast. (Qwest has been hemmorhaging customers to Comcast for the last year or two.)
This is not the only "attack the market leader" ad I've seen in my paper. The Burt family of car dealerships has recently taken up the cause against the various "GO" dealerships, which are owned by AutoNation. Their headline: "Pass GO. Stop at Burt."
I assume Burt's ads have been successful. At least two others have copied him with similar attack ads targeting the GO chain of dealerships.
Here's the thing. Consumers are overwhelmed with marketing messages. You have to break through the clutter. And an aggressive, controversial ad that targets the market leader does just that.
Will some people be offended? Sure. Is it a cost worth paying to polarize the market and attract new customers? I'll let you be the judge of that.