How do competitors react to each other's price-promotion and advertising attacks? What are the reasons for the observed reaction behavior? We answer these questions by performing a large-scale empirical study on the short-run and long-run reactions to promotion and advertising shocks in over 400 consumer product categories over a four-year time span. Our results clearly show that the most predominant form of competitive response is passive in nature. When a reaction does occur, it is usually retaliatory in the same instrument, i.e., promotion attacks are countered with promotions, and advertising attacks are countered with advertising. There are very few long-run consequences of any type of reaction behavior. By linking reaction behavior to both cross- and own-effectiveness, we further demonstrate that passive behavior is often a sound strategy, while firms that do opt to retaliate often use ineffective instruments, resulting in "spoiled arms." Accommodating behavior is observed in only a minority of cases, and often results in a missed sales opportunity when promotional support is reduced. The ultimate impact of most promotion and advertising campaigns depends primarily on the nature of consumer response, not the vigilance of competitors.

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Marketing Science: the marketing journal of INFORMS
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Steenkamp, J-B.E.M, Nijs, V.R, Hanssens, D.M, & Dekimpe, M.G. (2005). Competitive reactions to advertising and promotion attacks. Marketing Science: the marketing journal of INFORMS, 24(1), 35–54. doi:10.1287/mksc.1040.0069