How Brands Reply to Poking Competitors

How Brands Reply to Poking Competitors

It was the year of 1975 when Pepsi decided to check the ground reality and make people realize that they like Pepsi more than Coca Cola. The famous campaign was called 'The Pepsi Challenge' and it was one-of-its-kind blind taste challenge. A representative would set up a booth in a mall or a shopping centre, pour two white glasses with Pepsi and Coke respectively and ask people to take a sip from both the white cups. The sweeter taste was a hit and Pepsi came with a survey insight that more Americans prefer Pepsi over Coke.

For whoever took the challenge, Pepsi representative handed them a promotional Pepsi can and a metal tab button to promote the campaign. Coke was not behind and started distributing metal badges with the text "I picked Coke in the Pepsi Challenge"

This story brings an interesting debate in marketing -- Does it pay to have a presence of mind, coupled with a sense of humour?

In this blog, we have a few marketing comebacks from competitors that stole the show and created new brand fans.

Luxury war

With this cheeky billboard, Audi challenged BMW to show that they have better cars in luxury sedan segment. Soon, BMW came with a reply and it escalated with a couple of more replies.

This was the sequence of the jabs -
Audi: Your move, BMW.
BMW: Checkmate.
Audi: Your pawn is no match for our king.
BMW: Game over.

Glass or Chalice?

Newcastle, a British based Brown Ale brewery, took a little different approach. Newcastle decided to pick on Stella Artois by exploiting the word “Chalice” used on Stella’s popular print ads that have “It’s a chalice, not a glass” written on them. The Newcastle billboard just says “Who uses the word ‘Chalice’?”, and is placed under the Stella Artois billboard. At the bottom of the pint ad, “No bollocks” phrase is written to point out that beer ads usually convey irrelevant messages.

Logistics war

Logistics and delivery competitors, FedEx and DHL, went against each other via what defines them, the trucks that do the job. FedEx creatively painted its truck and said ‘FedEx Always First’, a direct take at DHL’s brand colour.

However, DHL took the opportunity to talk about how people are fed up with the two brands - FedEx and UPS.

Burger war

Known for their dominance in the fast-food market, McDonald’s and Burger King are commonly known as forever rivals. However, McDonald’s is comparatively more widespread with a larger number of stores. The battle started when McDonald’s launched a billboard talking about how a McDonald’s brand was just 5Kms ahead while a Burger King store was 258Kms ahead.

However, Burger King wasn’t going to let it go, it launched it’s own response campaign too, crediting McDonald’s for giving its customer relief before they travel the mile to reach Burger King. These ad battles called ‘burger wars’ haven’t stopped amusing customers for a while now.


Brands can be very competitive at times with comparative ads. However, they are forbidden from pointing out competitor brand's flaw by explicitly mentioning brand's trademark entities such as name, slogan etc. That is why most companies target competitor brand's characteristics which are not legally registered. For example, that’s how Samsung created the “Next Big Thing Is Already Here” campaign focusing on the hype that can unmistakably be connected to its main competitor Apple iPhone and all the prejudice that accompanies it.

While a really smart comparative ad can give you good social media mileage, there's a good chance that it can backfire too. Also, comparative ads may bring attention to your competitors at your marketing expense.

Do you see comparative advertisements as a smart strategy? What is your preferred/favorite advertisement strategy? Tell us in the comment box below.

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