Marketing battles: brand feuds that made headlines

Brand feuds

Kanye vs Taylor, Leno vs Letterman—the bigger the names, the greater the feud. And it’s no different in the corporate world. I’m sure even people living in countries without Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A heard about the great Chicken Sandwich War of 2019. Some of these brand feuds are as old as the industrial revolution, and some have gained traction in the social media era. We list the significant modes of feuding when arch-rivals go to war:

Taking brand feuds to court

Lawsuits are quite common among rivals in the business world. Behind the scenes, all companies go for each other’s throats, from your favourite cookie brands to your reliable tech brands.

Brittania vs ITC

In 2020, two of India’s favourite cookie moguls went to war when Brittania took ITC to court. Brittania claimed copyright infringement on the ITC’s digestive biscuit packaging. However, the court did not find grounds for Brittania’s claim. Still, ITC changed the packaging of two Sunfeast Farmlite Digestive biscuit brands, which were formerly too similar to Brittania’s Nutrichoice Digestive. 

Apple vs Microsoft/Nokia/Apple Corps

Apple has locked horns with Microsoft from the very beginning. In 1988, Apple filed a lawsuit against Microsoft and HP to prevent them from copying their GUI elements. After years of litigation, Apple lost the fight in 1994. Xerox, on the other hand, sued Apple for having features similar to Xerox’s GUI. This time, the court dismissed Xerox’s claims. 

Apple also had a tiff with Nokia, and it was again on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Nokia alleged that Apple had been using its patented software. Apple shelled out $2 billion to settle this one!

Then, there’s the fact that Apple’s name wasn’t entirely original—Apple Corps by the Beatles already existed before Steve Jobs’ Apple Computer entered the scene. At first, they settled with Apple Computer on the grounds that they would never be in the music business. But then, they were. In 2003, when iTunes came into being, the whole thing started all over again. Steve Jobs’ Apple came out of the fight unharmed, with the Beatles’ music gracing the iTunes catalogue by 2010.

The two WWFs

No such luck for the Wrestling Federation (WWF), which inadvertently had the same abbreviation as the pre-existing World Wildlife Fund. The Fund won the battle, and while WWE lost a ton of money changing that last word to Entertainment, at least they got a fun promo slogan: “Get the F out”.

Brand feuds and billboard advertising

There’s nothing quite like two mega-brands battling it out in larger-than-life print ads on highways and busy streets. Here are some brand feuds that made us look up and take notice. 

BMW vs Audi

The two German car manufacturers, BMW and Audi, have long engaged in some healthy competition. Both took out large billboards in Los Angeles to pit their latest models against each other, complete with chess metaphors

Apple vs Samsung

While promoting Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5, Samsung and Apple got into a feud after Samsung put up an ad that read ‘It doesn’t take a genius’ with a list of features for each product, Galaxy’s list being much longer. Of course, this ad ignited a new fire about whose gadgets were superior. Before the iPhone 14 launch, recently, Samsung released an ad mocking the new iPhone’s 48MP wide lens, pointing out that they’ve had 108MP since 2020.  

Indian domestic flights

In Mumbai, Jet Airways put up a billboard with the tagline “We’ve Changed.” Next, Kingfisher Airlines erected an ad above it saying, “We made them change!!” Then, GoAir got into the mix and placed a billboard above the other two, proclaiming, “We’ve not changed. We’re still the smartest way to fly.” The highest billboard had the last laugh, methinks.


While looking at billboards, special mention goes to Durex, whose black-on-white text ad targeted no one in particular. However, it hit many where it hurt: “To all those who use our competitors’ products, Happy Father’s Day.”


The only time ads don’t get skipped is when they’re fixing to cause some trouble. Controversial video ad campaigns usher in opinions from the woodwork, fanning the flame that their marketing needs. Here are the envelope-pushing brand feuds that got into the advertising arena to tussle. 

Mercedes vs Jaguar

Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar have sparred over the years. Jaguar, boasting of its cat-like reflexes, has often been pitted against Mercedes’ Magic Body Control technology. Mercedes then came out with an ad proclaiming itself the world’s most aerodynamic production car: the ad featured a cat slipping along the car’s hood to fall off its trunk.

Burger King vs McDonald

The Burger King vs McDonald’s beef is quite old. It first gained momentum in 1981, when a much younger Sarah Michelle Gellar starred in an ad denouncing the McD burger for its much superior Burger King counterpart. Burger King has since released ads comparing the Whopper to the Big Mac. It has also followed this up with another, where Ronald McDonald buys burgers at Burger King and a couple more very witty commercials. Nevertheless, McDonald’s seems to just respond with higher international sales. 

Pepsi vs Coca-Cola

At first, Pepsi wasn’t really on equal footing with Coca-Cola. The catalyst was the 1975 Pepsi Challenge, which showed that, in a blind taste test, people seemed to prefer Pepsi over Coke. Thus began a soft drink brand feud that continues to this day. Tons of hilarious ads on both sides have come out since. Highly popular among these would have to be Jackie Chan’s Diet Pepsi ad, the one with Hallie Eisenberg as Italian Mafia Girl, and the infamous Halloween-themed Pepsi ad of 2013 (and its Coke fan response).

The Hindu vs Times of India

In India, newspapers are getting into it—namely, The Hindu and Times of India. TOI implies that The Hindu is boring and snobbish, while The Hindu mocks TOI’s penchant for sensationalism. Having seen both sides, I must say, The Hindu seems to have the wittier responses. 

Another one uses an apt pun: “Stay ahead of the Times, read The Hindu.”

A social media storm of brand feuds

Brand accounts on social media are often just for advertisement purposes, and the tone is primarily promotional. However, some of these brand accounts on Twitter have developed personas to the point where people have begun to question the ethics of having corporate entities act like people. Wendy’s, Old Spice, and Taco Bell, among others, seem to have adopted sassy, sometimes catty, personas.

Taco Bell vs Honda/Old Spice

Due to this personification, brands on Twitter often go at accounts that are not their rivals, initiating and joining in on current conversations like any other verified account. For example, while promoting its in-built car vacuum system, HondaVAC, Honda’s Twitter account went after Nature Valley, Oreos, Taco Bell, Sun Chips, and other producers of crumbs. Taco Bell replied with a punny, “Your vacuum cleaner sucks. No, really.”

Taco Bell also bickers with Old Spice. Why are they jabbing at each other? Nobody knows, but the result is mutually beneficial, as it winds up getting both accounts more traffic than if they had simply stuck to their boxes. 

Amazon vs Zomato/eBay

Amazon took a dig at Zomato about their changing logos with the hashtag #AurDikhao (translated: ‘show me more’), and Zomato hit back with a jab at Amazon’s logo. eBay then used the original hashtag to advertise that it had more products than Amazon.

KitKat vs Oreos

When Twitter user Laura_ellenxx tweeted, “Can tell I like chocolate a bit too much when I’m following @KITKAT and @Oreo,” KitKat responded by challenging Oreo to an online tic tac toe match with two KitKat fingers making a cross. Oreo responded by “munching” on the fingers—”Sorry, @kitkat, we couldn’t resist … #GiveOreoaBreak”, the caption read. This kind of banter boosts the brand’s word-of-mouth publicity and makes the brands seem endearing. 

Brand feuds can also cause people to feel like they have to choose a camp; some may be uncomfortable with that. However, for the most part, it just encourages brand loyalty. It has the same effect as a celebrity feud right before an album release. Does your favourite brand have a rival? Let us know if we missed any juicy brand feuds.

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