You reap what you sow, Skechers.

On February 20, 2019, Duke University’s Zion Williamson, who is expected to be the top pick in NBA, sustained a knee injury after his shoe split open 36 seconds into a highly anticipated game, against North Carolina.

Former US President Barack Obama was in the audience and the cameras captured on video with him declaring, “His shoe broke”!

The shoe that broke was Nike. The fallout for Nike was swift, including a fall in the share price!

Puma started to rain on the parade. And deleted the tweet when they understood that people found it in terribly poor taste.

But, Skechers seems to have gone several notches by releasing an ad in the New York Times with a headline that riffs on Nike’s famous slogan.

Skechers also used the same ad online, on Facebook and Instagram.

For context, Nike has sued Skechers in the past, for being a copycat. And while Skechers sells performance sneakers, it does not have a sneaker officially being worn at the pro or collegiate level, like Nike does.

One way to look at this is that Skechers took advantage of a situation to showcase their superiority. That this is super smart timing and clever advertising opportunity.

The other way to look at this is that by showing negativity to a competitor, they open themselves to negativity. It’s almost like they are poking people to look at the negative aspects of the brand too.

It was clearly in action in a marketing Whatsapp Group where I noticed this ad by Skechers being shared. After the initial ‘Oh, they did that?’ reactions, the direction soon turned towards what is wrong with Skechers, including some specific stores in India where their service is terrible!

True, that could have started even if it was simply an ad that says ‘Skechers is very good, please buy it’. But, when they put down a rival, that too with such viciousness in the name of clever word-play (called ‘shade’ in a more diplomatic sense), they are far more likely to offer people ways to pull them down too. The simple human psychology is, ‘If they are saying Nike is so bad, let me find something wrong Skechers too.’

The trouble is, they wouldn’t know which way people would react. If they simply suggest they make fantastic shoes, the chances are people would consider it and probably want to find more about it.

When they pull down a competitor, that too, so close to a terrible incident they have had, it’d no doubt make a much louder noise, because it is bold. But it is bold precisely because so few of the rival brands would consider doing it in the first place. The reason why they wouldn’t do it is because this could happen to any brand, and in itself a mighty rare occurrence.

The choice to use this to market your own products is out of cut-throat competition.

But, the choice to not use this to sell your own brand is usually made out of human/social decency.

When you step off that decency pedal, you are fair game to your audience too.

You reap what you sow.

In India, Air India tried the same, when IndiGo was under fore for manhandling a passenger in November 2017. Air India did these on Twitter!

Your first reaction, understandably, may be, ‘Wow, cheeky of Air India to say these!’. But, as humans, your next reaction would be, ‘Hmmm, Air India is saying this? Are they so without blemish that they can point a finger at IndiGo? Hmmm, do I recall something bad about Air India from the past?’ (and there’s quite a bit to recall on those lines, incidentally).

However, this incident is vastly different from the other time multiple brands descended on IndiGo subtly. This:

Vistara and Railways’ reaction to IndiGo charging for check-in was not based on any one misfortune or accident or incident effected by one/few people in IndiGo. But, it was directed at a business policy that could be deemed as competitive disadvantage, and hence an advantage for rivals. This is legitimate competition because it is fought fairly on a policy by IndiGo.

The key is to know this difference and act accordingly.

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