Competitor Strategy:
Disruptive Marketing Pranks

Competitor Strategy – Disruptive Marketing Pranks
By Mike Brown

Not every disruptive marketing tactic in a competitor strategy has to be an industry-changing move by a non-traditional competitor against a stagnant old-line competitor.

Sometimes disruptive marketing might simply involve one behemoth beating up on another one in an unusual way – even through a prank.

A video appearing online last week is an intriguing example of competitor strategy involving disruptive marketing. Although, according to some reports, it is a prank of a prank.

Disruptive Marketing Pranks

The original video “suggests” that courier DHL shipped several boxes via its competitors, including UPS and TNT. At pickup, each package initially appeared to be black, allegedly from being covered in “temperature-activated ink” that was chilled before shipping. As the boxes warmed during transport, the black disappeared to reveal a prank message on the difficult-to-deliver boxes. DHL (or its agency or some other third party) videoed delivery of the boxes to hard-to-find addresses to create the video shared here:

At the time this was being originally published, there were questions about whether DHL was involved in the prank.

Quite honestly, having competed against DHL where they directly used our company’s name (along with reference to the UPS Brown campaign) in a print ad, I would not put this past them. But whether DHL was involved originally or not, it is still a trigger for strategic thinking about going after a competitor in an unusual way.

Another interesting thing about this example is that from a US perspective, this looks like a small, potentially disruptive competitor (DHL) going after a huge industry leader (UPS). But that’s not the global picture.

DHL is part of Deutsche Post DHL (which is the German Post Office), the world’s largest courier company. So instead of the little guy engaging in disruptive marketing against the big guy, this would be the biggest guy slapping around a couple of enormous, but still smaller competitors.

Having been in the transportation industry, the delivery side of a prank like this (again, if it is real) would be the least of the concerns for UPS and the other competitor involved. The bigger issue would be the complaints about these boxes that would not move through competitors’ conveyor systems, likely necessitating one-off handling as they started revealing their messages.

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