The Wolf in Googly Clothing.

Last week I talked a little about competition. The article focused on the subtle usage of attack ads, and the nature of going after the competition.

There are other ways, of course, to deal with your business competitors. Microsoft, in a bold gesture of "Can't-beat-'em? Join-em!" spirit, has decided to eschew competing with its rivals altogether and will instead now exclusively focus on imitating them. By mirroring the winning moves that challengers have made, ol' softy is hoping to win new customers and make over their image.

The primary disguise Microsoft is wearing is that of Google. I could go into how is rapidly becoming the butt of a grand Internet joke comparing it to the great Google-y moogly. I could mention that many consider the onomatopoeic name more likely an acronym for "But It's Not Google." Or I could just show you some logos...

Below are the logos for Windows 7 (the product that is supposed to redeem the Vista disaster) and Google Wave (the product that is supposed to forever change the way everyone communicates on the internet). I should note that the only photoshoppery performed below was comping the two logos together and resizing them; no color shifting was used, nor were the background or shadows affected.

A little healthy (and secret) competition

The very fulcrum on which the lever of capitalism lifts is competition. Without competition there is little financial incentive for innovation, fair pricing, or customer friendly business practice –without debate, all good things.

Competition also breeds another behavior in the american consumer space, that of negative advertising. It's rare in today's marketplace for one brand to strongly advertise against another. Subtle comparison, distracting wordplay, misdirection, and allusion are the order of the day. In spite of the active use of mudslinging in the political sector it is somehow considered uncouth in consumer advertising and outright inappropriate in B2B.

[A quick editorial aside: I personally don't understand this phenomenon at all. Ad execs often grow to loath their competition, and in private will endlessly rag on the "the other guy." The fact that there is any modicum of restraint or illusion of proper manners in their marketing initiatives boggles the mind.]

So when FedEx launched their new website I was surprised. The site has the look and feel of a grassroots protest site, complete with loads of numbers, a "contact your senator" button, and way more informational content than you would usually find in a corporate microsite. All of this directed at calling out FedEx's biggest rival, UPS.

They even go so far as to parody UPS' whiteboard commercials (complete with shoddy wigsmanship and mom-safe Ben Gibbard-esqu soundtrack).

It's a bold move from FedEx, but don't think this means they've gone all rebel yell/fight the power on us yet. As far as I can tell they haven't done much advertising of this site, or of their political initiatives to resist UPS' lobbying. Keeping your negative ads on the downlow isn't exactly the same as never making them, but it's pretty close.

Check out and form your own opinion on the matter. FedEx clearly cares enough about this cause to bring it to your attention (and to break from convention), but not enough to risk turning off customers in a very delicate race for power. Is that a risk you would take?