Brand rivalry is nothing new. The words “Pepsi” and “Coke” can still set off an endless debate over which tastes better, which is sweeter, which is better for cleaning a car battery, etc.
However, something we’re seeing that is new is what’s being called “disruptive” marketing, where one brand very publicly calls out another specific name brand, and begins talking smack about that brand via social media, television ads, billboards, and even blimps.
If the challenged brand is game, the resulting back and forth can be very entertaining to witness. This very public, often very amusing, brand brawling can translate into increased sales for the victor.
Taco Bell and McDonald’s ads fight for the breakfast kingdom
Consider McDonald’s and Taco Bell’s recent efforts to rule the kingdom of cheap, drive-thru breakfast meals. Taco Bell made consumers wide-eyed with a commercial featuring a bunch of ordinary guys, each with the real name “Ronald McDonald,” talking about how much they love Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu.
McDonald’s was quick to respond with a photo of the branded Ronald McDonald, making nice with a lookalike of Taco Bell’s mascot, accompanied with the message, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Boom.
Not down for the count, a recent television ad
for Taco Bell features an ’80s-type dude singing to the tune of “Old McDonald.” The new lyrics describe his younger years as a loyal Egg McMuffin eater who has decided it’s time to leave behind his Loverboy posters and grow up, which apparently means making Taco Bell his first stop for breakfast on the way to work. Is the ad funny? Yes. Especially if you grew up watching “Miami Vice” and you know all the lyrics to “The Kid is Hot Tonight.”
We’re looking for McDonald’s counter-commercial. Hang tight.
Classic brand rivalries
Audi vs. BMW
This big-spending rivalry is legendary. If you don’t remember, it started out with a smirking billboard from Audi, to which BMW cleverly responded:
After a few other rounds of witty billboard-banter, BMW won the victory:
Read the full, wonderful story here
Kit-Kat vs. Oreos
Well-executed rivalries are not always so bold. Surely you remember Kit Kat challenging Oreo to a game of Tic-Tac-Toe via Twitter. Even though Oreo’s response took the noncompetitive high road, the cookie maker still emerged as the clear winner.
The real winners
When companies turn competition into entertainment, they’re fighting for consumers’ attention. And who doesn’t want two guys, two girls, two employers—or two brands—fighting for their attention?
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When the dust settles, and one brand is declared the victor, it’s actually consumers who win. So long as consumers enjoy a ringside seat for each public brawl, brands are likely to continue staging these public scraps—to the benefit of all.
Jenn Starr is the director of brand strategy at digital marketing agency Signet Interactive. A version of this story originally appeared on the company's blog.