Competition can bring out the best and the worst in people. The same is true for brands. When Target entered the Canadian market earlier this year, many wondered what it would mean to Walmart’s market share. That battle seemed to quickly fizzle. But others have been in play for decades.
Perhaps the most famous battle is that between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Coke was founded in 1883, and once Pepsi entered the market in 1903, the rivalry was on. Since their launch, Pepsi has been on the path to remove Coke as the number one selling pop. The battle has been less than quiet. Pepsi has taken a ‘gloves off’ approach since the 1980s when the beverage giant launched the “Pepsi Taste Challenge”. Ever since the taste test campaign seems to have come and gone in different forms. The campaign has rattled Coke so much, that they responded by launching the ever-so-popular New Coke (which ended in disaster). What was clear through the Pepsi Taste Challenge was that people do actually prefer the sweeter taste of Pepsi. However Coca-Cola is holding on to the number one spot, mostly due to the timeless branding of the product.
Another worldclass rivalry within the food and beverage market exists between McDonald’s and Burger King. The two fast food giants have been at a constant price and menu offering war with each other. Although their techniques are not as point-blank in calling out their competitor, in some instances Burger King has taken jabs at McDonald’s. The golden arches have not necessarily reciprocated, until in February it seems that the Burger King Twitter account was hijacked, and turned into a McDonald’s shrine. It is still unclear how this transpired, but it sure makes for a great story! Studying their strategy, it seems that McDonald’s is really great at rolling out menu and campaign innovations, getting the desired response from their consumers. On the other hand, Burger King seems to be the winner when it comes to taste, according to a study released by Tristano this year. And the numbers don’t lie. BK reported higher than anticipated earnings on July 31st, 2013, while McDonald’s earnings were in the red for the same quarter. Just as with Coca-Cola and Pepsi, one side seems to do better with the branding while the other offers the tastier product.
Moving into a higher price point market, who could ignore the Apple versus Microsoft battle. I knew Justin Long as the Apple guy even before he established any sort of another career. And the Apple guy video’s became a viral hit. Heck, sometimes I would check out the Apple website just to catch up on any Apple commercials I might have missed on TV. Apple shredded Microsoft when it came to innovation, with most consumers making the switch to Apple nation when it came to their computers and smart phones. However, with Steve Job’s unfortunate passing, Apple’s innovation seems to have stalled out, and all other technology giants, Microsoft included, seem to be closing the gap on their product offerings. Have you been in a Microsoft store recently? Would it not be for the product on the tables, you would think you were in an Apple store, and it seems that (finally) Microsoft has struck back.
Product rivalries are not a new reality, and they will definitely only intensify as we come to need more things, have the willingness to spend more money, and want innovation. Does your brand find itself in a situation where you are the original brand? Or are you the challenger brand, wanting a bigger piece of the pie? Here are 5 great rules to follow in your brand war:
1. Don’t attack your rival publicly unless you know your message and your offering will stand the test of scrutiny.
2. As the challenger are you launching a product or service that copies your competition? Make sure the offering will work for your consumers, and that you think the move through. There is nothing worse than copying something, and then becoming a failure.
3. Don’t be afraid to innovate! If you have an idea to innovate, even if you are not number one, you can become it by launching something your competition has not yet thought of.
4. If you are challenged by a competitor, sometimes it is better to take the high road. Unless you can prove you are better than they are, then, take the gloves off.
5. Learn from your competitors’ mistakes. We all make them, but it is always better to learn from others’ mistakes, than to make your own.
There is nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition. I bid you good luck on your path to battle.
While you’re here, we’re curious, are you Team Pepsi or Team Coke?