Armaan Agrawal, a Kolkata-based content strategist searched for March Tee, a popular D2C lifestyle brand. In response to his search query, he saw an ad from competitor Shibusa. This by itself, is not an unusual occurrence. Bidding for competitive keywords, including competitor brand names, has been part of search optimisation strategies for long.
In September 2015, as Apple users waited eagerly for the launch of the iPhone 6, they found that entering iPhone 6 or iPhone 6S, in Google’s search bar displayed an ad from Samsung. In fact, Samsung ran an entire campaign titled, “Awkward, you obviously mean S6 (from Samsung),” which specifically targeted users searching for iPhone 6.
Around the same time, Ryanair sued travel site eDreams for not just misleading ads, but also skinning their website so that it looked almost identical to Ryanair.
Shibusa, however, has gone a step further. They have an entire page on their website devoted to March Tee, explaining why their products are better – and cheaper. The intent is clearly to draw in prospects looking for March and then convert them, with a much lower price point.
Sukh Dugal, Co-founder, March Tee is not worried about Shibusa’s marketing tactics. “It’s a free world. We’ll let the customer decide,” he says.
Rishit Jain, Founder, Shibusa, has this to say: “I was actually in two minds about whether to run it (the ad) or not. But, as someone just starting out, you want to try out various things and see what happens. Amazingly, it has turned out to be our highest converting ad! March Tee does a good job of what it does. For some customers they are the perfect solution and those customers will never switch. That’s okay. But, I think, there are many others for whom what March Tee offers doesn’t work quite as well and we’re simply offering an alternative approach.”
THC Advice for Brands
Search Engine Marketing
As a safeguard, bid on your own brand name, to dominate your Search Engine Rankings Page by showing on top of the search result, and also making the clicks more expensive for your competitors as they will have to bid higher to outrank you.
Focus on Your Long-term Brand Strategy
Guerilla tactics may work in the short-term, but finally your product and brand must stand on its own legs. To survive and endure, customers must buy into your brand and not just your product.
Anchoring your brand around being ‘cheaper’ is a slippery slope. Do this as a short-term tactical play if you must, but not a long-term strategy. There is always place for a larger entrant who will use economies of scale to dislodge you.
If your customer feels that she is only buying your brand, because she can’t afford the better option, you are denting her self-image. You have created an opening for her to abandon you and trade up as soon as she can.
Finally, any long-term play requires a clear and consistent brand message. Customers can only remember one message about your brand. What do you want it to be?
We’d love to hear what you think. Leave your opinion in the comments.
Also read this story on how March has built a cult-like following
This is a good tactic by Shibusa. They lined up on the mid-premium tee market that March’s premium product did not bother. At the same time, blocking out March from counter-offering a product with fewer features in mid-premium, as Shibusa already claim to be as good as competitor’s premium product.
On the other hand, it is a entrepreneurial test for March…how they will solve this problem through product innovation. Game on!
Hi Sid, would like to differ slightly from this. As a wise folk far West dis put down that Strategy is all about deciding whom to leave. A medimix soap won’t care if it is losing out on customers looking for beauty soaps. The good folks of Medimix have decided not to serve those customers.
So when you said “They lined up on the mid-premium tee market that March’s premium product did not bother”, do you imply that March should be serving both – mid premium and premium segment?
Thanks Sumit for pointing that out. In hindsight, I’d use the word ‘target’, not ‘bother’.
Yet, the point remains that March could lose new customers (while old ones may remain loyal). That’s because a plain cotton tee is after all a plain cotton tee. Brand power can carry it only so far once competition offers a similar quality product. That’s why March’s answer must be product innovation, not better marketing!
I love March. I buy into the craft and attitude, not the T-shirt.
Love back. Thanks for saying this here.
Millions of startups died because they focused only on short term marketing
So true. Only Google & FB made money. Everyone else just got fucked
Arre bhai, yeh Google leh doobega sab ko
Whoa, too much smartness
I have a D2C brand. I honestly did not think about competitors outbidding me. Thanks Team THC Deepak and Meeta, you are just rock solid
I know everyone will get holier than thou and be politically correct but when you are a startup, you try everything. If it’s working, why not?
This is a smart marketing move but may not work in this case. I am a March customer. I can get a million cheaper Ts – but that’s not the point. But honestly could work in a more commoditised space
You got this Vimal. Thanks for the confidence. 🌈
So the landing page on Shibusa’s site increases relevance for Google? That’s how it works?
I like Sukh’s attitude. Finally, no amount of tactic work – the customer likes your product or they don’t
Very cheeky of these Shibusa guys. But Team THC I recall you saying that all is fair in love and customer acquisition