Kanye and Samsung Unintentionally Boost Sales of Rivals

As Beck received his Album of the Year award at the Grammys, Kanye West jumped on stage to presumably do what he did to Taylor Swift 5 years before. This time, however, he did an about face, but was not shy sharing his views (that Beyonce should have won the award) in media interviews backstage. As it turns out, Beck should thank him. Why? From all the media exposure of Kanye's rant, Beck's album sales shot up 1342 percent.

Beck wins the trifecta

Luckily for Beck, his album sales benefitted from the promotional trifecta - (1) winning a major award, (2) getting more media attention and exposure, and (3) receiving sympathy from an unwarranted and unfair attack from the "Attila the Hun" of the music business. Of course, Beck got a brand assist from Taylor Swift as a result of her parallel experience five years ago.

Apple gets an assist from Samsung

While seemingly unrelated, Apple is getting a similar assist from Samsung, which announced the release of its Galaxy S6 smartphone on March 1st. By all accounts, Samsung has borrowed a lot more than the number "6" from Apple. As with Apple, it is making its new smartphone from aluminum and glass; it is launching Samsung Pay, which reportedly functions in a similar way to Apple Pay; and it is copying Apple's use of an authentication chip to prevent 3rd-parties from making unauthorized options.

What disparaging and copying does for competitors

What Samsung and Kanye don't seem to understand is that when you copy or disparage rivals, it typically helps them succeed. There are many reasons why this is the case.


Copying is the highest form of flattery, and when you copy the most valuable company in the world, the flattery only helps its bottom line. Apple has roughly 86% of the smartphone profits, and Apple is eating into the market share of its competitors. Pepsi followed Coca Cola, and has been trying to overtake the original for many years. The result? Pepsi slid from 2nd to 3rd place several years ago.

Disparaging competitors

Even before Kanye's rant, Samsung repeatedly disparaged Apple in its ads. What has this done for Apple? Its share of smartphone profits was pegged at 73% three years ago, and as described above, it is up to 86%. What about Beck? Sales of Beck's album shot up over 13-fold.

Why disparaging competitors rarely works for you and helps them

  • Free advertising. Disparaging the competition gives rivals free advertising and brand impressions.
  • Makes you look bad. When you disparage competitors, many in the target audience think negatively about you.
  • When you badmouth popular products, you are putting down the people that like them. Those you insult will not be inclined to buy your products, and they will spread the negative word about you to their friends - resulting in a negative word-of-mouth pyramid saying bad things about your company and products.
  • Makes you look arrogant and insecure at the same time. Consumers learn at an early age that good companies don't "bad-mouth" competitors. Leading companies know their products are good and have no reason to talk negatively about competitors.
  • Puts a target on your back. When you tell the marketplace that your products are better than popular competitors, you are putting a target on your own back. Many will go out of their way to find defects and prove you wrong.

What can businesses learn from these mistakes?

Disparaging or copying competitors is not a good strategy because it will help them and hurt you. If you want to win, you have to find out what your target audience needs that it is not getting and satisfy those needs better than your competitors. While it is easy to say and harder to do, you have to do it if you want to come out on top. Best of luck.