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3 Ways Throwing Shade Can Secure Your Competitive Positioning

I make it a habit to look at billboards when I’m driving. Safety first, of course, but when I’m in standstill traffic, it can serve as a form of entertainment. Being in the marketing industry, I will say I have pretty strong, negative opinions on what I see; but every now and then, I see a great one – one so good that I’m still thinking about it two weeks later. I’m talking about PDQ’s new billboard that throws major shade at Chick-fil-A.


Image via OOH Today

Wendy’s started trolling McDonalds a while back, and they continue to exercise this modern-day form of competitive positioning – now PDQ is hopping on the bandwagon.

Watching these fast food chains throw digs at their competitors as part of their marketing strategy is witty, relevant, and just downright entertaining. But more so than that, it’s smart.

3 Reasons Why This Type Of Competitive Positioning Is Brilliant

1. When They Think Of Your Competition, They’ll Now Think Of You

If your audience didn’t know who you were before, they definitely know now. By directly calling out your competition you’re making it extremely easy for your audience to identify what your product and competitive positioning is.

For example, let’s say we weren’t familiar with PDQ before; after taking a look at this billboard, we now know that they are a fast food restaurant that primarily serves chicken, and their chicken is better than (good enough to compete with) Chick-fil-A.


I’m not here to argue which chicken chain reigns supreme, but I will say that if you can get your audience to think of you every time they think of your competition, you’re moving in the right direction, especially if you’re a small company that’s trying to work it’s way up to the big leagues.

2. You Eliminate The Guesswork For Your Audience

Building off the first point, when we go to buy a product, we typically shop around until we find the item that best fits our wants and needs. By directly comparing your product to others, you’re clearly letting your ideal customer know what sets you apart from the competition. 

Those shopping around in your industry won’t have to do much digging to understand how you position yourself against the competition because you’ve flat out told them, “I’m better than X because of Y.” The less work you have to put your prospective customers through, the better. 


3. They May Call You Savage, But They Won’t Call You Boring

In a digital society over-taken by social media, consumers are constantly in search of quick entertainment. The marketing tactic of throwing shade at your competitors doubles as entertainment for your audience. It’s a clear win, win.

Additionally, if you’re a B2B company, this form of competitive positioning shows that you’re keeping up with the times, since a large portion of your audience is made up of millennials.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, “more than one-in-three American labor force participants (35%) are Millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.”

By understanding how this portion of your audience gets the majority of their content, you can present your messaging in a way that comes off as more “buddy, buddy” and clever rather than as an obvious hard sell. 

Image via Twitter

Disclaimer: Using this marketing tactic in order to secure your competitive positioning may earn you the label of “Savage.” Before choosing to go this route for your next campaign, please first consider if this tactic is in line with your company's morals and values.

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Ryanne Doumet

Ryanne Doumet