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Strawman Product

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Just put your product next to it and see what happens.

Are you worried that people won't think your product is the greatest thing since sliced bread? Do you feel that your product won't sell if people think a rival product is good enough, especially if it's the leading brand? Then you should try the all new miracle advertising method of the Strawman Product!

Take flaws that most people find mere annoyances, or outright make flaws up, and crank them up to So Bad, It's Horrible levels. While your work will only have a beautiful fresh shine with every use. Soon people will begin to wonder how they even functioned using the other, godawful products.

These are some of the exciting uses for this method:

This marketing technique has served over one million customers already!

So call now, and get the hottest trend in bullshi... we mean marketing, today, for just three easy payments of 29.99!

Strawman Product is not legal in every country. Do not inhale, swallow, or taunt Strawman Product.

Subtrope of Competing Product Potshot, which doesn't always get this intense. Compare Absolute Comparative, where this is avoided by declining to mention exactly what your product is better than.

Contrast Our Product Sucks.


  • "I'm a Mac." "And I'm a PC." The Mac is shown as Justin Long, a young, cool guy who is always calm because he's always right. The PC is John Hodgman, a portly guy in a suit with glasses who freaks out and goes ballistic because he's always wrong. It's like the same-sex version of Defenestrate and Berate. Many commercials have a lot of "customers" who always prefer Macs without stating sufficient reasons other than "It's better." They always claim that "any PC" will have "a bunch of viruses and headaches" and that Macs have none. In the UK, PC and Mac are played by David Mitchell and Robert Webb, respectively.
  • The way Pepsi ads have portrayed Coke since the 1980s.
  • Johnny Turbo of the TurboGrafx-16 and his attempts to punch out the evil corporation of Sega who sold kids the Sega CD solely to see the look of despair on their little faces when they realized they needed a Sega Genesis to use it.
    • Sega was this trope back in the days. More than half their ads were just bashing their rival company (usually Nintendo) in 'creative' ways. We all know the 'Genesis does what Nintendon't' one, which chastised the NES for being 8 bits lower than the Genesis. When the SNES came out, they found the only thing they could say was better about the Genesis was its slightly lower price, so they included a kid screaming at this 'higher price' in fear. Even though they were only about $50 (one game) apart.
    • There was also a commercial that negatively compared the game library of the SNES to the Genesis, despite one having been around for years and the other being a fairly recent release. And let's not forget ... the Genesis's DMA controller had BLAST PROCESSING.note 
    • The above one was later remade for a Sonic Mania Plus commercial, updating the games the man was selling to a first-person Finger Gun game loaded with "microtransactions, paid DLC, and loot boxes" against a colorful platformer in slick retro 2D. They didn't forget to mention it's "The highest rated Sonic game in 15 years", or the 29.99 price tag.note 
    • And then there was the Game Gear versus the Game Boy, as seen through the eyes of a dog: "If you were colorblind and had an IQ of less than twelve, then you wouldn't care which portable you had. Of course, you wouldn't care if you drank from the toilet, either."
    • On a side note, as the Nerd pointed out 3DO Interactive Multiplayer ads went out of their way to say that the SNES and Genesis were just toys compared to the awesomeness of the 3DO.
  • MCI ran some really nasty anti-AT&T ads in the early '80s.
    • There was an all-out war between the two companies in the mid-90's. In fact, both companies practically spent more time criticizing their competition than actually promoting themselves.
  • MAD parodied the rivalry between car rental companies Avis and Hertz in The '70s with a "war" of insulting ads between the two. The punchline was that the companies have actually staged the rivalry to monopolize people's attention, and having done so they proceed to merge and move on to crushing all the smaller car rental companies. In The '80s, they recycled the premise and punchline to poke fun at the Coke-Pepsi rivalry.
  • Quiznos did a fair number bashing rival Subway. What's funny is that they used to brag about how they toast their sandwiches, although many people don't even remember when Subway didn't offer that option. The slogan of this campaign was, "The only way they can beat a Quiznos sandwich is to cheat!"
    • One of the best of the Quiznos vs. Subway commercials would be the one where the "randomly selected test subject" is asked which sandwich he prefers, the Quiznos sandwich, or the Subway sandwich. The test subject chooses the Subway sandwich, primarily because in addition to cold cuts and cheese, the bread has been stuffed with "extra lettuce" - i.e., hundred dollar bills. Another had the tester ask the "randomly selected test subject" to select either a Subway sandwich or a Quiznos sandwich, and when the test subject began to reach for the Quiznos sandwich, shot the subject with a tranquilizer dart. The unconscious test subject then fell across the Subway sandwich. "Test subject chooses Subway."
    • A lot of the Quiznos ads also bragged about how their sandwiches were so much bigger than Subway's. Subway's response? Turn the attack against Quiznos by pointing out that their smaller sandwiches are healthier. This would not be the last time that Subway used "healthier food" as a selling point. Isn't that right, Jared?
      • Subway constantly treats "fast food" as a Strawman Product, regardless of the fact that many people are capable of eating other fast-food chains' food in moderation and the fact that depending on what you put on your Subway sandwich, it may not even be any healthier.
      • Subway also likes to poke fun at the traditional "assembly line" strategy that most fast-food restaurants use, with the idea that "special orders" are not allowed. This is despite the fact that most fast-food restaurants do special orders and some do not even make the food until the transaction is complete. For that matter, some people might like the uniformity that having food cooked to a specific standard ensures for reasons of personal preference or hygiene worries, but don't expect them to be doing testimonials for Subway.
  • Alltel commercials have the Sales Guys who are straw spokesmen for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. If you were expecting the straw Verizon guy trashtalking the Alltel guy when Verizon bought Alltel, you were in for a disappointment: The real Verizon guy and Chad finally met and the Sales Guys were nowhere to be seen.
  • represents its competitors using humans who communicate like search engines. This implies that their product is a search engine that communicates like a human.
  • Every Cable/Satellite Mudslinging ad ever.
  • You cannot legally do this in several European countries; so when an ad comes out doing exactly that you know that the two "rival" companies are actually owned by the same stock board. Additional irony if they're the only two choices you have. Instead, the marketing resorts to "standard products" or "other products". In one comedy sketch, the CEO of the firm "Standard Products" was complaining about how everybody else picks on them.
  • Parodied in an episode of Mr. Show, where a national chain of supermarkets runs an increasingly slanderous series of ads against their mom-and-pop competitor. Among their boasts is that at their store, unlike at certain other stores, you'll always find apples, rats don't crawl all over the food, homeless people won't defecate in the aisles, and your children will not be kidnapped by a white slavery ring.
  • This Cracked article discusses (and shows) 10 "laughably misleading" TV ads, some of which use this trope.
  • One particularly bad anti-DSL ad (placed by Buckeye Cablesystem) talked about how dangerous DSL phone line service was. The revelation that the "free" dsl modem actually cost $49 before rebate wasn't so bad. The next part, in which the advertiser vastly overstates the issue of placing a filter on every phone jack (the phone company provided 8 filters, more than adequate) was worse, especially the part where they said "and your home security system may not work without one" complete with rapid camera movement and eerie sound warbling. The end of the ad really took the cake, in which the announcer threw up his hands in dismay as he went through the installations steps, which he listed (insert filter into phone jack, run dsl cable from phone jack to modem, connect modem to computer, install software) then stalked off, infuriated, after the "install software" part, which was the last step.
  • In Australia at least, Energizer advertises its batteries as lasting three times as long as Duracell's; Duracell advertises its batteries as lasting three times as long as Energizer's. While one would think this would require either Blatant Lies or infinite-capacity batteries and the destruction of the Universe, it turns out they're both comparing their own long-life batteries to the competition's high-power-but-short-life batteries.
  • In the late 90s there was a big EarthLink ad campaign aimed at luring AOL users to their service. One radio commercial had a disgruntled AOL user desperately calling EarthLink to switch. When the EarthLink rep told her that they would automatically notify everyone on her Buddy List of her new email address once she switched, the lady shrieked "They're not my buddies! They're just a bunch of freaks who instant-messaged their way into my life!" Even in the attitude-filled 90s, insulting your would-be customers then asking them to switch to your product was an odd marketing strategy.
  • A series of radio ads for Progressive car insurance has "listeners" calling in and asking whether they should shop around for car insurance or just go with their parent's company. Are these people calling in expecting that Flo will say, "you should just stick with whatever your parents have"?
    • The weirder part is that every (obviously pre-recorded and highly edited) ad claims it's "live"...
  • Verizon often airs ads which blatantly show off how much cell coverage their service provides by overlapping it in Red spots on a US Map. And will often times, compare their service area to AT&T's, which will have significantly less coverage area, represented in blue.
    • The kicker is that AT&T airs ads which use the same US map, with the exact same coverage representation, except inverted, with AT&T having the superior coverage area in be in Blue, and the inferior Verizon in Red. On both maps, usually the places that don't get coverage are places where most cell phone providers wouldn't work.
  • United Van Lines has commercials where they say that customers should only hire their competitors if they want their belongings set on fire, infested with wild animals or stolen by vagabonds.
  • A well-known Urban Legend has two rival salmon canners, one selling pink salmon, the other selling white, trying to outsell each other. The white salmon canner takes out an ad touting their salmon "won't turn pink in the can!" Not to be outdone, the pink salmon canner takes out an ad touting that they don't use bleach in processing.
  • A series of ads for GM's Good Wrench service depicted a rival mechanics shop as being staffed entirely by rude, apathetic and incompetent long-haired young punks.
  • Commercials for side dishes like Stove Top Stuffing and Rice-a-Roni tend to portray potatoes this way, suggesting that potatoes are dull and boring (and that they're the most common side dish. There was even a commercial for Rice-a-Roni where animated spuds promoted the product to stop "the senseless slaughter of innocent potatoes").
  • Advertising law in the UK used to outlaw this style of ad, but deregulation during the 2000s saw it permitted. It's still generally more common to see products comparing themselves favourably to "the leading brand", or occasionally "the number 2 brand" if what's being advertised is the leading brand.
  • Painkiller ads are notorious for this. "1 Tylenol will last for a zillion hours, it takes umpteen Advil to do that." Generally they're comparing their long-duration brand to their competitor's standard brand. Also, there are instances of the very next ad after the Tylenol one, on the same station, being "1 Advil will last for a zillion hours, it takes umpteen Tylenol to do that".
  • For a while, Total was fond of counting how many extra bowls of other cereals one would need to eat for the same amount of nutrition (savagely parodied by the Saturday Night Live ad for Colon Blow cereal).
  • Parodied on The Simpsons; the family visits EPCOT and goes on an educational ride about electric cars, sponsored by "the oil companies of America". The ride, which moves slow and jerkily, proclaims that as an electric car it's slow, can't go very far, and that if you drive it everyone will think you're gay.
  • In 1994, there was a really weird commercial for Duncan Yo-Yo's, depicting a brain dead gamer sitting alone on a chair and playing a Sega Genesis (with Atari 2600 sound effects), while a cool kid with a backwards baseball cap is playing with a Duncan Yo-Yo.
  • Chuck E. Cheese ran a series of commercials in 1994-1995 (plus one in 1996), comparing "boring" (ie. cartoonishly exaggerated) restaurants with Chuck E. Cheese's. The ads always ended with kids at said restaurants complaining about how they "should've said, 'Chuck E. Cheese Please.'" In one commercial, they even went out of their way to diss ethnic restaurants!note 
  • This famously backfired in 2010 with an advertisement for the racing game Blur. The ad began with a Shallow Parody of Mario Kart, complete with Game Boy style music and sound effects and cutesy characters, with one proclaiming "Racing's not about winning! It's about making friends!"note  The idea was that blur was a "grown up racing game for the big boys." But, instead, the characters in the Mario Kart parody wound up becoming more popular than the game itself. And the commercial garnered some unexpected controversy when Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aime himself deemed it offensive, given that his children were fans of Mario Kart. While the game was positively reviewed by most media outlets, it sold poorly and wound up bankrupting Bizarre Creations.
  • When the '98 American Godzilla movie came out, some TV stations ran brief reports over the history of the Godzilla franchise to promote it, showing clips from some of the more shoddy Japanese films (such as Godzilla's infamous tail-slide scene from Godzilla vs. Megalon or the ugly-looking monster suits from Son of Godzilla) in an effort to make the new movie's drastic reimagining of the title character more attractive to modern audiences. Essentially, these reports aimed to poke fun at the "old and inferior" Godzilla by deliberately focusing on the lowest points of his "career", contrasting them with the "new and improved" American version.
  • The DirecTV ad series that started with Rob Lowe, that has Rob as a DirecTV customer, and an Alternate Universe Rob with a hilariously socially awkward defect, who, even worse than that, has cable. One of the earlier ads casts the non-DirecTV Rob Lowe essentially as a sex-offender.
  • The Canadian webseries "Knuckleheads" has a commercial for the Willy-Waller 2006, a small utensil that makes peeling potatoes much easier (it should, as it's... a potato peeler). How do they demonstrate its superiority? By showing one guy peeling with the Willy-Waller 2006 side-by-side with... a guy using his fingernails. Sold in sets of 14 for $120.
  • Dollar Shave Club has several commercials that portray store employees as ranging from indifferent to downright abusive with customers trying to buy razors, doing things that would likely get them fired or even arrested for assault. "It's almost as if they don't want you to buy razors."
  • In 1993, there were Taco Bell commercials featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle where Boris and Natasha tried to bore people while selling MicBoris burgers, with Rocky and Bullwinkle thwarting the duo's schemes by buying Taco Bell tacos and claiming that "burgers are boring".
  • Little Caesar's has begun touting their own superiority over a "Big Pizza" Corporate Conspiracy that looks like something Dr. Evil would be running.
  • Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) tried to reinvest some of his income from the cartoon strip into a business providing healthy eating products, and wondered why sales were indifferent when he'd put a lot of thought and research into how to present and market the product. He discovered that as the new boy on the block, the established competitors were using their clout to get the upstart relegated to less prominent positions in stores, or else the untried, unproven, new brand was deliberately being used as the "strawman product" to make the big names look like the stars on the shelf.