On Thursday, March 27 the breakfast bell didn’t politely ring, it broke the sound barrier with a resounding gong and the gauntlet was thrown in the ongoing breakfast war. Taco Bell debuted a new breakfast lineup boasting Waffle Tacos and an A.M. Crunch Wrap among others. To help spread the news, Taco Bell enlisted the help of an icon…enter Ronald McDonald.

To introduce its biggest menu rollout, the Mexican food chain features a number of actual Ronald McDonalds in their latest promotional campaign. The TV spots poke fun at the breakfast giant McDonald’s, without specifically calling out the fast food chain.

Is it tacky or tasteful for a company to publicly call out a competitor in a product launch campaign? Today, companies large and small are in a cyclical battle to win over consumers and share-of-voice over its competitors. Long behind us are the days where consumers are hit with subtle messages about how “Brand Y” is better than “Brand X”.

Microsoft, Ford and Nokia are just a handful of companies that come to mind that have taken the bold approach of having fun at their key competitors’ expense. With a light jab here or a snide comment there, these companies have quickly rose to the top of social media conversations generating millions of consumers to talk about their brand, good or bad. It also can become the topic of conversation on traditional news channels. Taco Bell’s Ronald McDonald commercial resulted in hundreds of articles covering both the campaign and the product launch, from USA Today to Time to the Chicago Tribune. Below are some quick tips to consider when developing a strategy that incorporates a competitor:

  • Evaluate timing – Taco Bell’s success with the Ronald McDonald commercial coincided with a new product launch. Ask yourself, “why now?”
  • Declare a never-ending war – There is nothing better than some friendly competition and seeing two brands interact with one another. It allows for the conversation to be timeless and not just a one-hit-wonder.
  • Keep the tone light and utilize friendly humor – Use tongue-in-cheek humor to drive conversation with your target audience. Everyone loves a good laugh. The funnier the content the higher traffic results you will receive.
  • Cut to the chase – Don’t beat around the bush. Be direct. Get to the point. No one likes a long drawn out explanation.
  • Raise one seed of doubt – Campaign messaging should raise questions about the competitor and want the consumer knowing more about yours.

However, while  the results are often immediate, companies also need to be prepared for a rebuttal. In this case, McDonalds responded to Taco Bell with this simple Facebook post.

McDonalds

 

Only time will tell if Taco Bell’s breakfast menu launch is a success. For now we are all left with, “Yo quiero Taco Bell.”

 

A. Boltach

 

Alicia Boltach is an Account Supervisor for Airfoil, an integrated marketing communications firm, with offices in Silicon Valley, Detroit, London and Hong Kong.  Follow Alicia on Twitter: @aboltach