There have been many well-known cases of brands touting their weaknesses and being liked for it. Avis car rental’s memorable slogan ‘We’re No.2. We try harder’ that meant when you’re not no.1, you have to try harder. Or 1950’s Volkswagen Beetle’s campaign that Beetle wouldn’t win any beauty contests, but its strengths were durability, fuel economy and price. Or Stella Artois’ ‘Reassuringly expensive’. In fact the third largest auto insurance company in the US, Progressive Auto Insurance is known for letting its customers know about its competitors rates too. Although Progressive clearly has better rates in many instances, it’s not always the case. Inspite of this Progressive has grown successfully.
Social scientists Valerie Trifts and Gerald Haubl also support Progressive’s practice. In their study participants looking to buy books online were more likely to shop from a moderately priced bookseller when that bookseller also provided its competitors prices, which were sometimes lower.
Why does this strategy work? “Arguing against your self-interest,” says Robert Cialdini, “creates the perception of honesty and trustworthiness. This puts you in a position to be more persuasive when promoting your genuine strengths.”
This persuasion technique could even be applied when selling your car. Volunteering negative information about the car, especially information that the prospect would be unlikely to discover by himself/herself should do some good for his or her trust in you and your vehicle.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that this strategy can be effectively used only if your weakness is genuinely a minor one in comparison to your strengths. Like Francois, the 17th Century French writer and moralist, wrote, “We only confess our little faults to persuade people that we have no big ones.”
Source: Valerie Trifts and Gerald Haubl – Information Availability and Consumer Preference: Can Online Retailers Benefit from Providing Access to Competitor Price Information? – EBusiness Research Center Working Paper 06-2002