Consumers tend to perceive the origin of a product by its name rather than reading the label to find out where it really is made. Such was the case with vodka when most vodka brands sold in the U.S. were made in the U.S. but had Russian names. Stolichnaya Russian vodka successfully repositioned its Russian-sounding competitors by exposing the fact that they all actually were made in the U.S., and that Stolichnaya was made in Leningrad, Russia.
Sometimes there are no unique positions to carve out. In such cases, Ries and Trout suggest repositioning a competitor by convincing consumers to view the competitor in a different way. Tylenol successfully repositioned aspirin by running advertisements explaining the negative side effects of aspirin.
When Pringle’s new-fangled potato chips were introduced, they quickly gained market share. However, Wise potato chips successfully repositioned Pringle’s in the mind of consumers by listing some of Pringle’s non-natural ingredients that sounded like harsh chemicals, even though they were not. Wise potato chips of course, contained only “Potatoes. Vegetable oil. Salt.” As a resulting of this advertising, Pringle’s quickly lost market share, with consumers complaining that Pringle’s tasted like cardboard, most likely as a consequence of their thinking about all those unnatural ingredients. Ries and Trout argue that is usually is a lost cause to try to bring a brand back into favor once it has gained a bad image, and that in such situations it is better to introduce an entirely new brand.
Repositioning a competitor is different from comparative advertising. Comparative advertising seeks to convince the consumer that one brand is simply better than another. Consumers are not likely to be receptive to such a tactic.