Brand Wars in Marketing

If you ask about brand wars in polite conversation, you’re sure to get an interesting answer. Top brands going head to head with each other through public advertising is the stuff of marketing legend. From famous rivalries between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to the all-out ad war between several car manufacturers. Indeed, brand wars in marketing is a sight to see. Some brand wars on the following list even saw involvement from social media followers, who tweeted, commented and voted on rebuttals.

Here are some of the legendary brand wars in marketing that have swept the world. In fact, most of the shots fired were printed in magazines or on billboards!

Coca-Cola vs. PepsiCo

Pepsi vs Coke Marketing Brand War

There has never been a more polarizing battle between beverages than that of Coke and PepsiCo. In fact, the famous rivalry between these two soda companies is referred to in marketing history as the Cola Wars. In order to understand how the ferocious rivalry came about, it’s important to understand the history of both mega brands.

  • Coca-Cola was started in 1886, while PepsiCo laid its foundations in 1893.
  • PepsiCo fired the first shot against Coke in 1975, by introducing a marketing campaign called the “Pepsi Challenge.” The Pepsi Challenge involved a blind taste test between people, who then favored the PepsiCo soda more.
  • It looked like PepsiCo had Coke beat for at least a decade, particularly after Coke changed their formula and launched “New Coke” in 1985 to terrible reception.

However, the tides began to turn when PepsiCo’s biggest stars began having headline troubles. Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi commercial. David Bowie had a sexual assault scandal while he was under PepsiCo’s contract. Furthermore, Pepsi used “Like a Prayer” in a commercial at the time it was being received as blasphemous. Finally, in 93, consumers of the blue can began finding syringes in their cans in at least 20 states.

The official end to the Cola Wars is widely thought to be 2011. This year was when Diet Coke bumped Pepsi out of the second most popular soft drink spot in the world. The first, of course, was Coke.

Burger King vs. McDonald’s

Burger King vs McDonalds Brand War

The burger behemoths have had a long-standing rivalry, similar to the soda giants above. In fact, the fight has been kept pretty clean for decades, with only a few jabs thrown directly here and there. For the most part, Burger King and McDonald’s are content to offer almost the exact same thing on their menus.

One notable departure was the disastrous “Whopper Virgins” ad campaign in 2009. This ad campaign appeared to steal a page from PepsiCo’s book, displaying blind taste test ads between the Big Mac and the Whopper. Nobody appeared to win that advertisement war, as the public found the ad campaign racist and exploitative.

Microsoft vs. Apple

Apple vs Microsoft Brand War

When most people think of brand wars, this popular tech one comes to mind. Apple founder Steve Jobs was famously no fan of Bill Gates. In fact, Apple has been taking aim at Microsoft for the four decades since it’s inception. You may recall the “Hi I’m a Mac, and Hi I’m a  PC” commercials.

In fact, Apple’s first advertisement hammered Microsoft- literally. The famous 1984 commercial featured a hammer-thrower running through the ranks of blank-faced grey followers staring at a propaganda screen and destroying the film with a hammer. The overlay text read, “On January 24th, Apple Computer will release the Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’” The advertisement referenced Microsoft as a dull conformist overlord, and Apple as the bright new disruptor. While we can’t say that Microsoft is dull and conformist, it is certainly true that Apple was a disruptor in the computer market.

BMW vs. Audi

BMW vs Audi Brand War

One of the more famous billboard advertising wars played out between BMW and Audi. Like other major brands on this list, BMW and Audi have been sniping at each other for decades. However, one billboard erected in Santa Monica fired off a savage shot heard around the world.

Here’s a breakdown of the famous billboard feud:

  • Audi erects a billboard on Santa Monica Blvd boasting a new A4 with the message, “Your move, BMW.”
  • Santa Monica BMW buys a billboard opposite to Audi with an M3 Coupe and the message, “Checkmate.”
  • Audi invites fans to photoshop responses onto their next billboard on their Facebook page.
  • Audi places a billboard on the same side as BMWs with an R8. The message read, “your pawn is no match for our king.”
  • BMW then tethered a blimp to the billboard featuring the F1 car and the message “Game Over.”

The feud didn’t end there, but continued in print. It even garnered ads from Subaru and Bentley in response.

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