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April 16, 2006

Six More Crazy Stories

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Many people requested more examples of companies driving their competition crazy. I found six more for you.

1. When Security Pacific Bank merged with Bank of America many Security Pacific branches were closed. First Interstate Bank rented trucks and parked them in the lots of the branches that were closing. Then First Interstate employees in those trucks then helped people open new accounts as there were leaving the banks.

2. In 1986 British Airways ran a promotion to give away 5,200 seats for travel on June 10th. Virgin Atlantic Airways ran ads that said, “ It has always been Virgin's policy to encourage you to fly to London for as little as possible. So on June 10 we encourage you to fly British Airways.” The British Airways promotion generated a lot of news coverage, but most of the news coverage also included a mention Virgin's funny ad. It cost British Airways a lot more than Virgin to get this coverage.

3. A research company surveyed 750 white-collar worker around the United States. The research showed that 81 percent of the people believed that casual dress improved morale; 47 percent believed that it increased productivity; 46 percent said they considered casual dress as a attraction to work for a company that permitted it, and only 4 percent thought a casual-dress standard would have a negative impact. When Levi Strauss found out about the study, it let thousands of publications know about it. The company also even put in a toll-free hotline to help companies implement a casual dress standard. Guess who was sure to benefit from greater knowledge of this study? Levi Strauss, of course, because of its Dockers line of clothing.

4. A Goodyear store in Chattanooga, Tennessee faced a predicament: it wanted to put up two Goodyear signs. However, the local law stipulated a one-sign limit. Undaunted, the store manager spelled out Goodyear in marigolds in a flower bed. The city inspector considered this a violation, but the public supported the store, so the city government backed off.

5. An electrician with only one truck was constantly razzed by his competition because his company was so small. To fake them out, he finally painted three different truck numbers on the right, left, and rear of the truck.

6. International Harvester couldn't get steel to its factory in Melrose Park, Illinois because of a truckdriver's union strike. The company couldn't use non-union labor because of snipers on the freeway. Finally, the company rented school buses and dressed drivers as nuns, loaded the buses with steel, and made the deliveries. No one would shoot at school buses driven by nuns, right?

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LOL! Great stories, and great article keep up the good work. I love coming here for a great read :-D

I've heard this (possibly apocryphal) story from a colleague who does pharmaceutical marketing:

When they launched Levitra, Bayer and its partners put an advertisement in a bus stop shelter at the corner of 3rd and 42nd in New York City.

That shelter is directly in front of the entrance to the world headquarters of Pfizer, makers of Viagra.

So Viagra marketers had to walk past that Levitra ad everyday, twice a day, on their way to and from work.

Another real one from Virgin Mobile UK.

In 2003 a competitor, Orange, launched a big tv campaign that showed an academy of trainers. They were supposed to teach clients about the phone functions they didn't use ("80% of people use 10% of their phone functions"). The idea was something like encouraging people to go to Orange's stores (which were redesigned) to learn about their phones, not only to spend.

Some time later Virgin Mobile launched a very successful viral campaign with a parody of Orange's ads. It was similar but opposite. They used the same ad structure and shots, but with a deliberate (and very funny) aspect of improvisation. Instead of focusing on learning about the phones they insisted on using phones to call friends ("80% of people use 10% of their friends", "we are here to forget about phone functions and to phone friends"). And everything was red (Virgin's color) instead of orange.

Although I don't live in the UK I think I can still hear Virgin staff laughing.

Great post, LOL! ;-)


Two other examples:
- Argentinian company's advert about how Brazil would get routed in their match against Argentina. And the repartee when Brazil won. (http://underscore.weblogs.us/archives/3)

- Pepsi vs. Coke in India (where you aren't allowed to do comparative advertising)


I liked that post. I always like to read about innovative strategies businesses, small and large, implement.

Hey Guy, I was re-reading your book last weekend so I knew you're plagirizing your own work.

There are plenty of other stories about Virgin Atlantic in the book which I loved too. A must read!

Two comparable stories from my native Quebec.

In Quebec, in the eighties, they passed a bunch of laws making it mandatory to have French be the most prominent language on signs, packaging, etc. In some cases this meant changing the name of the company or at least translating it, which has an affect on your brand (imagine Apple were forced to call itself "Pomme"). This was an effor to prevent American & anglo-canadian culture from eroding the french language and culture. This is what's known as "trying to stop the tide" :-)

Nevertheless, it lead to some funny stories:

A clothing store called "The Wearhouse", forced to change it's name on signs, changed it to the fictional world "La Ouerausse" - which pronounced in french comes out "La Wearhouse".

A suburban bakery (Vienna Pastry in Pointe Claire, QC) was cited for not having French more prominent. The owner made the french *slightly* larger than the TWENTY NINE ohter languages he had it translated to, and covered the whole storefront with the translation. He became a local hero fighting what many thought was a waste of tax money, and the press coverage he got was more than he ever could have afforded.


Honestly, it was easy to put this list together because I got them from How to Drive Your Competition Crazy. Getting NEW stories like these is very hard. Don't expect a book about such things from me anytime soon! :-)


Wow, # 6: "The company couldn't use non-union labor because of snipers on the freeway." Snipers?! Whatever happened to civilized behavior during conflict...?

Ooops, that must be some terrible bloggers faux pas I commited - I assumed you had to approve comments before they appeared and am mortified it posted. As you can tell I am new to all this. Feel free to remove the link.

Hate to puff my blog but I can't find your email address to send you this. It was inspired by your post


Awesome stories. I like the idea of you coming out with a sequel book with more of these stories in them. I'd buy a copy for sure.

Guy, ever wonder making a book full of these examples leaving half of the pages empty for the readers to fill it up using their own imagination and situation?

I think one of Guy's fundamental points in his article on driving the competition crazy was to not worry about your competition. Worry about your customer and your business. I think this is reflected well in some of these points.

In #3, the Levi story, Levi Strauss found a way to expand the casual clothing market. They spent the money and the effort to convince the business that casual was good for business. More companies than just Levi benefitted but Levi benefitted.


Hi Guy

Great stories (except for #5). I am from India. Here the game of cricket is huge, often leading to intense cola wars. When India hosted the World Cup, Coke bagged the official sponsor rights. Pepsi promptly responded with a campaign that had the tag line: 'Pepsi: Nothing official about it'. In one fell swoop Pepsi converted adversity to opportunity and emerged the winner. The campaign is remembered till date as Pepsi's most successful one in India.

Guy, great stories, thanks a lot!

BA vs Virgin saga had many nice moments, my favourite one is: when engineers, working on the BA sponsored London Eye, failed to erect it on their first attempt, Virgin promptly flew a ballon over the site which said "BA can't get it up" :)
Here is the link (see the Fun section): http://www.virgin.com/aboutvirgin/howitallworks/thevirginbrand/default.asp

Picture the scene: Three shops side by side with the outside ones towering over the one in the middle. The shop on the left has a huge sign saying "Monster Sale" and the sign for the one on the right says "Prices Slashed". The sign for the tiny shop in the middle says "Entrance".

In my day job, we're the only purveyor of Apple Warranty repairs in the province. One of our biggest competitors also services Apple Macs but they bring their warranty stuff to us because it's low margin work and they're not authorised. So....we took the opportunity to have one of their biggest customers at our office when they brought that customers Macs in for warranty service.

Risk: lose a few warranty service repairs from a competitor *shrug* We're heaps faster than the mail-in service so we retain the competitive advantage.

Gain: Four big customers. Word travels fast.

Loved the airline one. Heard it somewhere, can't point my finger on it but now its stuck in my brain.

per my earlier comment... yes, your response makes complete sense if by driving your competition crazy you simply mean being successful. However, driving ones competition crazy would seem to imply marketing tactics that directly engage the competition as with examples 1 & 2 but not necessarily described in 3 or 4.

Also, with example 3 it isn't clear how Levi's benefited more than Gap or Banana Republic. The casual dress awareness campaign would seem to benefit all 3 companies equally by expanding demand for business casual clothing. To me the interesting part of this story would be how Levi's successfully used their PR and toll free number convince consumers to that the Dockers line was more appropriate for business casual attire than the competition.

Example 5 isn’t clear how the electrician benefits from his competition believing he has 3 trucks rather than one. This could be cleared up by explaining what “razzing” meant in this context.

Lastly, example 6 is equally hilarious and ridiculous.


Pretty funny stories Guy - especially liked the Virgin - classic Bronson.

BTW, why not fiddle that Technocrati stat you have at the bottom right so it shows your current ranking rather than requiring a click-thru.

You are gunning to be in the top-10 ... keep us abreast of how you are doing and raise visibility to support your effort! ;-)

That was a great laugh--and insights too. I'm actually wondering how these were come upon... what sort of creative breakthroughs manifested them, in other words?

Perhaps someone gets driven crazy themselves before driving their competition so? (I'm coming at this from a Darkman-like angle.)

Fantastic, Guy! We need to be reminded that a lot of the best ideas are quite simple.


I don't know if these are true, but I could imagine:

Levi Strass--The Gap, Banana Republic
Goodyear--Goodrich, Firestone
Electrician--other electricians who thought he was expanding
International Harvester: truck driver's union


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