Top brands going head to head with each other through public advertising makes for true legendary marketing. From famous rivalries between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to an all-out ad war with several car manufactures, there’s plenty of health brand wars competition to be viewed on the regular. And with the age of digital and social media, these opponents can now ask their followers to chime in. The result? Endless hashtags and some serious shade. Take a look at our full list of brand wars in marketing.
These battles have spanned decades while some are more recent, but all were made very public. In fact, most of the shots fired were printed in magazines or featured on billboards. Nothing quite liking sparking interest through some friendly and not-so-friendly competition. Creativity stands at the forefront of effective billboard advertising, so these brands have taken visuals and messaging to another level.
Check out the list from bMedia:
Brand Wars Competition
1. Chick-fil-A vs. Popeyes
You were likely living under a rock if you missed this well-documented feud from August 2019. The top dogs in the chicken game decided to spit some beef over their featured sandwiches. The aftershock was seismic. The battle went global and the spat was officially dubbed the “Chicken Sandwich War of 2019,” by Business Insider.
The hype began escalating shortly after the release of Popeye’s hand-breaded chicken filet sandwich. After a series of clap back tweets, the pair were publicly mixing and challenging customers, followers, and more to vote their favorite. The resulting response was phenomenal as both chains sported crowds of people while the hashtag #ChickenSandwichWars continued to trend.
Soon after, McDonald’s was sporting its own new spicy barbecue chicken sandwich. KFC refused to be outdone and produced variations and fusions, one of which featured doughnuts, plus their chicken and waffle. It was truly one of the internet’s best moments and we continue to witness some of the cascading effects.
2. Miller Lite vs. Bud Light
Nothing more American than traditional brew drinking. As a favorite past time for many, beer drinking is certainly considered at the top of the list of weekend thrills. But like many other products, folks tend to flock to their most beloved brand. However, it didn’t stop the long time competitors of Miller Lite and Bud Light to scheme up a battle in 2019. Of course, it wouldn’t be properly American unless executed during the Super Bowl.
Bud Light was the brand that started the infamous feud. After suggesting that both Miller Lite and Coors Lite used corn syrup in their respective products, they received a proper response. Brand wars in marketing are certainly entertaining if nothing else. Audiences nationwide watched the commercial ad with Bud Light adopting a “Game of Thrones” scene — watch it here — where a barrel of corn syrup is delivered to a King. The King then trek’s across the lands to take it to Miller Lite. Miller Lite’s response was their “Snow” machine ad, where the actors are again placed in the same Game of Throne’s setting, but reveals a behind the scenes glance of actors passing up Bud Light for Miller Lite. Brand wars in marketing declared this battle the #corntroversy of 2019. Cheers!
3. Coca-Cola vs. PepsiCo
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.
4. Burger King vs. McDonald’s
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.
5. Microsoft vs. Apple
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.
6. BMW vs. Audi
One of the more famous brand wars in marketing 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.