Criticizing the Competitor Does not Win Customer Trust

From years of research across multiple categories, in general, people don’t trust other people, brands or businesses that criticize the competitor. It doesn’t show great sportsmanship. And if you don’t have enough good to say about your own brand, without criticizing the competitor, then you have a problem.

Banks Bashing Banks

Over the weekend, I saw two banks bash the competitors to take advantage of the Royal Banking Commission and trust issues with financial services, in particular the big four banks.

One of them, Bank West, copped their own share of criticism from consumers over their campaign last year, and they’ve decided to run with it again, highlighting big banks with the chopper mnemonic for the Westpac brand. It’s not open and honest. It feels sly and underhanded, like they’re stabbing Westpac in the back. And within the context of Westpac’s brand position of “help when it matters”, built on a platform of years of supporting the community with NSW’s beloved Westpac Rescue Helicopter, it doesn’t feel like a wise move from an out-of-towner.

The other one was Bendigo Bank. I was first taken aback hearing them raise issue with the ”Big 4” banks. For a bank brand that is a straight shooter and has so much good to say about how they’ve helped communities from the grass roots, Bendigo don’t have to go there. What came next was plain confusing as they communicated their size now means they’re one of them “the fifth bank”. Is this a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”… quite literally? For years, I’ve trusted Bendigo Bank because I knew what they stood for, their smaller size and community nature meant closeness, knowing me, personal customer service, caring about my community’s financial wellbeing. This “big five” bank that raises issue with the “big 4” banks is foreign to me.

Is there a Way to Compare without Criticizing?

Years ago, when NAB launched the much-revered “Break Up” campaign, it referenced the competitors. It was direct in breaking up with the category, with letters addressed directly to the competitor. It was anything but underhanded. It felt open and honest, and trustworthy. So it can be done. But this is a once in a blue moon idea.

What Action Do I Need to Take?

Think about:

  • Do you really need to criticize the competitor to get your point across?
  • What is criticizing the competitor saying about your brand? Will it build or weaken trust in your brand?
  • What are the good things you can say about your brand that will leave people thinking “my brand doesn’t do that” without you having to say it?


Image source: ID 142241193 © Photodynamx |

Rachel Bevans

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