Dancing with the Enemy: Broadened Understanding of Engagement in Rival Brand Dyads

Behice Ilhan, Koen Pauwels, and Raoul Kübler, 2016, 16-107

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Increasingly, brand fans are engaging and interacting with the touchpoints and fans of rival brands. These inter-brand and inter-communal practices provide immense opportunities for brand managers to respond to the competition, influence the rival brand’s customers, and strengthen their own brand’s message. Yet marketing efforts are usually limited to managing, measuring, and facilitating engagement with company-owned or operated social media accounts.

Here, Behice Ilhan, Koen Pauwels, and Raoul Kübler aim to broaden understanding of brand engagement that is facilitated and fostered by this growing practice – which they call “dancing with the enemy” (DwE) – and to empirically relate DwE to its triggers and consequences.

They combine content, sentiment, and time-series analysis to explore and describe this practice for rival brand dyads. They distinguish three types of DwE: across: where fans migrate and interact with the social media of both brands in the dyad; discourse, where rival brand fans communicate their thoughts through words on the central brand’s social media; and ripple, where central brand fans react to rival brand fan’s posts and words on the central brand’s social media.

Findings show that (1) new products and brand communication trigger DwE, (2) DwE for one brand drives DwE for the rival brand, and (3) DwE substantially drives the volume and valence for both the originating brand and rival brand’s Facebook comments.

In particular, their findings highlight the key role of fans posting across both rival brand pages. Because DwE across is a strong driver of page posts for each brand dyad, these fans are likely very engaged with and responsive to brand communications. Moreover, DwE across unlocks the full dynamics of discourse and ripple. 

Overall, their findings give social media managers concrete and feasible metrics to drive DwE and relate the interactions to overall engagement. Their study shows that fans, even the rival ones, are not passive actors in a company’s competitive strategies but rather active and proactive participants who can shape competition and rivalry between brands. In other words, competition is not a zero sum-game in the dynamic, multi-channel, social, and interdependent digital brandscape.

Behice Ilhan is Adjunct Professor of Marketing, Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, DePaul University. Raoul Kübler is Assistant Professor of Marketing and Koen Pauwels is Professor of Marketing, both at Özyeğin University, Istanbul, Turkey.

Related links

How to Dance with Big Data and User Disruption
Koen Pauwels (2016) [Conference presentation]

Do Online Behavior Tracking or Attitude Survey Metrics Drive Brand Sales? An Integrative Model of Attitudes and Actions on the Consumer Boulevard
Koen Pauwels and Bernadette van Ewijk (2013) [Report]


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