Sitting on your hands is a marketing strategy

Back in the days when my #1 online spend was Overture, I was called into the president’s office. Seems he had received a call from a competitor concerned about our website coming up when someone was searching for theirs on Yahoo.

Yep, I had been keyword advertising against their brand name. (I did point out that our brand name was in their meta-tags. So there!) I had considered it an experiment anyway … it was the only way at the time to see how much search traffic their brand was getting compared to ours.

Not too long after that that I realized this was legal and fair, but … I saw no reason to be so cut-throat and do it again.

More recently two software companies took this competitive battle to Federal Circuit Court. (Note that for software companies each sale increases their margin and commissions, unlike us equipment makers, amping up their need to be cut-throat.) The defending company was confirmed the right to advertise against the other’s brand by the court.

They won because they played clean: they didn’t attempt to deceive searchers, they didn’t even use the competitive name in their ads or copy.

In fact, SearchEngineWatch’s article about the case says:

“It is OK (currently) to buy trademarked names in AdWords, if:

  1. You don’t mention that product/service on your site.
  2. You don’t mention that trademarked name in your ad.
  3. Don’t try to harm the competitors reputation or product.
  4. Don’t have comparisons with trademark infringements.”

And I while #1 or #4 could count as legitimate marketing, when you are getting traffic off their name as a keyword, you can’t. (Not sure if this is from the courts or Google.)

Doing a quick check, the only company advertising against my brand on Google is a used-equipment dealer who resells our stuff. Certainly this is a legitimate use, and I’ve never had an argument about it.

So, if you’d consider your marketing strategy as cut-throat (hopefully only short-term), you can do advertise against the competitions’ name.

But, if you look around, you’ll realize that most all marketers don’t do this, and it isn’t just because they are afraid of being called into the president’s office. Sitting on your hands makes a statement– you aren’t punching, you aren’t grabbing.

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