Are you one of those people who don’t quite trust your overstuffed luggage to stay shut on a flight, and sheepishly resort to having it wrapped in plastic to set your mind at ease? Well, Samsonite recently took advantage of people’s need to wrap their luggage by offering the service free of charge at the airport, with travellers having to sport a sticker saying “I wish I had a Samsonite” on their luggage in return.
In just one day in April at Palma airport, the cheeky stunt had sent people to over 120 destinations around the world carrying the message that they had little faith in their luggage. By taking advantage of a service which travellers are all too happy to pay for and offering it for free, Samsonite played on the fact that people don’t completely trust their luggage to hold up during a flight to spread the word about the toughness of their own product, quickly and cheaply.
Instead of using tried and tested strength tests to demonstrate the toughness of their product, they instead effectively turned customers of competitor’s brands into walking billboards for Samsonite. The stunt gets people thinking actively about the values of Samsonite in one of the few places luggage is on the mind – in an airport – and helps it to stand apart from the category.
This stunt is an attention-grabbing example of boldly calling out the competition through advertising, with Samsonite so confident in their message that they plastered their brands over competitors’ products. But is the potential cut-through and headlines promised by this boldness always worth the risk to the perception of the brand?
Take for example Dominoes, who decided to invade Subway’s turf with its campaign for oven-baked sandwiches in 2009. The campaign featured images of their suspiciously subway-esque sandwiches, with the claim that a blind taste test conducted nationally had seen Dominoes’ sandwiches beat Subway’s 2 to 1. Subway were understandably livid, but Dominoes bold attack on Subway looked to have gone too far when Subway got their lawyers involved and sent them a cease and desist letter. Taking on your competitors as brazenly as this runs the risk of riling them to legal action which, if successful, can result in campaigns being pulled, media budgets effectively wasted and consumers none the wiser about who’s service was actually superior.
On the other hand, Samsung’s ‘The Next Big Thing is here’ campaign took on their rivals Apple directly with no real backlash, as Apple chose not to retaliate. The ads mocked iPhone fans queuing, with ‘only 9 hours left’, for the latest Apple smartphone as they enviously asked Samsung users about their smartphone. These ads cleverly showcased the features of the Samsung which set them apart from their rivals while also positioning them as the less obvious but more impressive option for people looking to have the best smartphone in the market.
Clearly, targeting your competitors directly to convince consumers of the superiority of your product or service is not without risks. It can land a brand in legal hot water and do no favours for how they are perceived by consumers, as they can be left confused by the aggressive tactics rather than convinced. When brands get it right though, generally with a bit of cheek and boldness, it can establish the brand front of mind, and maybe even convince people theirs really was a Samsonite.