Rivalries make for great stories in marketing and advertising, where brands are fighting over their customers. Targeting competition often brought out a zany and almost immediate response from the rival brands, which made for box-office viewing as far as ad enthusiasts and customers were concerned.

Engaging with not only your target audience but your competitors, if done well, can elevate your engagement and profits.

Some longstanding battles between brands like Pepsi & Coke, and Burger King & McDonald's that we have witnessed in the past have set the benchmark high.

Let us look at some battles and banter in the field of marketing!

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All for laughs

Using humour and creativity to engage with the audience is a fantastic way to stay on top of their mind.

Zomato and Swiggy

The two largest food delivery platforms - have been competing fiercely for as long as they have existed. And the rivalry between them is intense, to say the least.

Recently, Zomato and BlinkIt went viral for their billboard marketing. While all the brands joined in with their own versions, Swiggy took a witty and sharp jab at the two brands through another trending moment on Twitter.    

A salute-worthy moment

While rivalries are fun, it says something about a brand that doesn’t fail to acknowledge its rival.

This Republic Day, Zomato tugged at the heartstrings of their customers with their ad saluting people in diverse uniforms. The message was simple and subtle - all uniforms serve the nation, even the orange one (symbolic of Swiggy) and deserve respect.

Let us see what makes rivalry marketing such an attention magnet.

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Rivalry marketing, to put it crudely, is comparative marketing. Brands choose to compare their products or services with their competitors, sometimes subtly, sometimes not-so-subtly.

Inter-brand rivalries:

  • Let a brand change the narrative and sway the conversation in their direction
  • Are meant to entertain and engage
  • Are an effective tool to humanise the brand
  • Let brands piggyback on the competitor’s popularity to boost awareness and increase mindshare
  • Can shape audience’s attitude
  • Promote brand loyalty

Nothing official, but definitely worthy

A few rivalries, like the infamous ‘The Cola Wars’, are ingrained in our culture. In fact, they play a pivotal role in shaping the contours of modern advertising.

Let’s go back to a time when the ad spend during cricket world cups was merely Rs. 900 million, compared to a whopping Rs. 3.5 billion being spent now. Yes, we are talking about how Pepsi turned the tables on Coke when it became the ‘official’ sponsor of the 1996 Wills World Cup.

When global brands were fighting for eyeballs in newly liberalized India, Coca-Cola grabbed the official sponsorship rights to the Wills World Cup. Pepsi lost the sponsorship, but this didn't stop them from stealing eyeballs with their history-making ad campaign, ‘Nothing official about it’. 

While every brand was screaming about how they were the official partners, Pepsi questioned, “what’s the problem if we are not the official sponsors, why can’t we be the unofficial ones?” This small incident gave birth to the tagline.

A truly and unprecedented move during that time made for a great example of rivalry combined with ambush marketing.

When something is ‘More than OK’

In Pepsi’s 2019 Super Bowl commercial, the beverage giant set out to prove a point.

By directly comparing it with Coca-Cola, the ad generated a lot of buzz and helped to differentiate Pepsi from its biggest competitor.

It also let its fans participate in a social media giveaway that could help them win a limited edition, football-shaped cans of Pepsi.

By highlighting the unique features, advantages, and benefits of a brand's offerings over those of its rivals, rivalry marketing aims to create brand differentiation and build customer loyalty.

Rivalry marketing can be an effective way to increase sales and market share.

By positioning a brand as superior to its rivals, brands and businesses can attract new customers and persuade customers to switch from a rival brand, thereby increasing its market share.

Let us look at some subtle and smart ploys by brands to counter their rivals.

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When the king met the clown

Not every brand has the quirk to make the audience laugh out loud after watching a horror movie.

The horror film ‘It’, released in 2017, featured Pennywise, the clown, as the antagonist. Given that its primary rival is the famous fast-food corporation with a clown mascot, Burger King sponsored the movie, and just before the credits, gave us the moral of the story: Never trust a clown.

Samsung’s swipe on Apple

A few years ago, Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus had a manufacturing defect because of which the phone kept bending. Samsung made a subtle yet hard-hitting banner simply showing two non-descript phones and a line that simply said 'bend to those who are worthy' in reference to its immensely popular Note series phone.

Godrej ne yeh kya KEA?

Godrej Interio had been enjoying its golden throne for a long time. When IKEA decided to enter the Indian market, the premium furniture brand rolled out some cheeky, sarcastic ads highlighting its benefits for the audience.

Cool Gai’s perspective

When it comes down to who will push the boundaries to drive growth while being conscientious, only a few in the industry can manage that tastefully. The question is can you find the sweet spot? Rivalry marketing may just be the secret ingredient to take your brand to the next level.

Go ahead and grab that share of voice. If dealt with intelligently, it can fast-forward your growth in the industry.