Brand to Brand Combat: What’s at Stake When Brands Go to War

Brand Wars and Brand Rivalries

Who doesn't love a good rivalry? From the Red Sox vs. the Yankees or Star Wars against Star Trek, it's fun to join in with some good-natured ribbing towards those on the opposing team.



This sense of competition extends to who we are as consumers. When we see one of our favorite companies dunk on their rival, we feel good. And when they return with their attack, we take comfort with everyone else on our brand's team.

When brands go to war, they aren't just fighting for their share of the marketplace, but they're battling for our perception. They want to earn our loyalty by seeing them as the hip good guys and the competition forever behind, and forever out of touch. Here are a few of the most iconic brand battles of the recent past.


Choosing Sides When They’re All So Similar

Is Pepsi that much better of a combination of carbonated water, sugar, and artificial sweeteners than Coke? Are McDonalds’ greasy stacks of meat, cheese, and bun that different than that of Burger King? And for the average computer user, does it really matter whether you’re using a Mac or a PC?


Miller Lite vs. Bud Light

With products being that much alike, a fight can come down to a single ingredient. Bud Light took on their rivals use of corn syrup with a Super Bowl Ad calling out Miller Lite and Coors Lite.

In Bud Light's commercial, medieval characters push a cartoonish sized barrel of this accursed sugar to their competitors. Bud Light chose to turn corn syrup into a blasphemous smudge against good brewing, positioning their brand as the purer.

Miller Lite pushed back with a full-page ad in the New York Times stating, "To be clear, 'corn syrup' is a normal part of the brewing process and does not even end up in your great tasting can of Miller Lite.” Yes, Miller took the high road, but the Bud Light spot won with its clever hilarity.

Yes, there are differences between these products. But are any of these far superior to their closest competitors?

Branding is more than just a sum of its parts or ingredients. We’re buying into an identity consistent with what we value, and who we view as the underdog ties into our own beliefs. Whether you're a Mac or PC depends on what you consider to be the status quo, and ultimately, which team you want to belong.


Brands Gain Through Dividing Us

The brand wars are about creating a clear line between the good guys and everyone else. There's no nuance. You're either the villainous Wiley E. Coyote or the virtuous Roadrunner. Our brand heroes are those who use their wits to win against the competition.


McDonald's vs. Burger King

When Burger King rolls out "Unhappy Meals" or trolls McDonald’s with the “Whopper Detour” which awarded a 1 cent Whopper coupon through a phone app that could only be activated by coming within 600 feet of McDonald’s, fans of the hamburger monarch applaud their ability to outsmart the bumbling, smiling clown. We like seeing our brand favorites speed away having won the fight through cleverness. Beep-beep, indeed.


Apple vs. Samsung

Apple's iconic brand is built upon the philosophy to "Think Different." They were the polar opposite of the beige brand of conformity that was IBM.

However, those who challenge the mainstream aren't immune from becoming a part of it. Samsung, in marketing their Galaxy mobile phones, has a series of commercials portraying the Apple Store as the "Ingenius Bar," where savvy consumers ask Apple employees difficult questions only to be met with lackluster answers.

"Think Different" is flipped back on Apple as a hollow mantra, with their army of loyalists unable to see past their brand brainwashing, while Samsung portrays themselves as disruptors, pushing against those in the cult of Jobs.

In the war of the brands, enemy lines shift. Those who were the heroes may become the villains. Companies are continually repositioning their brand to keep us on their side as the more smart and virtuous consumer.


To the Victor Goes the Profits

Are you a Mac or a PC? Do you think that Coke is it or is Pepsi the right one? May the force be with you, or live long and prosper? Whatever the franchise, they want to influence our brand perception and decide with our dollars.





Whether you are looking to cause a stir in your industry, or create a brilliant brand campaign, UNINCORPORATED has the know-how to get you noticed. 


Let's Brand Together



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