Nescafe takes on Starbucks

Recent comparison ad asserts Taster’s Choice is better, cheaper, less pretentious

Taster’s Choice has launched an assault to protect market share against the Starbucks Via Ready Brew. The Instant, or soluble, coffee market is sizeable, according to a 2010 Reuters story the U.S. instant coffee market was $640 million – well worth taking a proactive approach to defend Taster’s Choice estimated 40 percent market share.

In this Sunday’s Denver Post, I received a sample of Taster’s Choice attached to the ad on the right. Personal disclaimer: I am not a soluble coffee drinker. To me, it is simply hot brown liquid. I gave my samples to the first person I met that said, “I drink instant coffee.” Instead, I found this story interesting from the perspective that a company will employ aggressive advertising to fiercely defend its market share.

By including an obvious reference to Starbucks with the green circle logo and packaging to mimic the Via, Taster’s Choice is placing their coffee on par with Starbucks simply by associating the two products. The web presence is even more aggressive, and they are including free samples of each Taster’s Choice flavor. If you want to try the free samples, check out the Taster’s Choice Free Sample Offer.

In the U.S. advertising that identifies a specific competitor is closely regulated and claims must be “substantiated, truthful and not misleading.” Since Starbucks is not named (although clear by reference) and the Nescafe claims are opinion-based, I doubt there is legal recourse. However, there are common mistakes that can undermine comparative advertising efforts:

  • Any intentional attempt to undermine the competitor’s reputation, credibility or image
  • Mistaken attribution of claim, since advertising is viewed passively, negative points made about a competitor could stick to the advertiser
  • Changing consumer perception often needs a more integrated approach, simply showing images of one product and the industry leader will not register with viewers

The reality is that if successful marketing were this easy, every product and service would simply place itself against the market leader and wait for the sales to roll in. However, when executed well, a comparison ad campaign can be exceptionally effective. Recognize the PC vs. Mac ads?

Tell us if you think Taster’s Choice will be successful using this marketing approach or if you think it will backfire. Share your best comparison ads with us on Facebook at Weise Communications and follow @Weise_Ideas on Twitter.



6 Responses to “Nescafe takes on Starbucks”

  1. March 23, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I feel that quality products should always speak for themselves. Sure, attacking the industry leader may get some people to try out a company’s product, but will that really make them the top dog in the industry? In the case of Nescafe vs. Starbucks, this may give a small, temporary boost to Nescafe’s sales, but that’s all it will be if the product doesn’t measure up. Consumer’s aren’t stupid. They will go with the better product in the end, after all the dirty tricks are played. To top it off, some consumers may find the negative ads annoying or distasteful. People generally don’t like negativity, especially when it’s clearly untrue. This rings true in both political and advertising campaigns. No one likes “mudslinging”.

  2. 2 Mark Plumb
    March 23, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Kim, you are right on target. I think there is a danger is using comparison ads, especially when one company denigrates another. I usually fall in the camp of “tell me why you are great” rather than “tell me why the other guy is horrible”. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.

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