Competitive advertising: when brands make fun of other brands

Libby Margo in Growth hacking on 29th of Aug 2019

Competitive advertising: when brands make fun of other brands

Someone once said that competition is good for business. It forces you to be the best in the game and makes you think outside the box.

For some brands, part of the fun of rivalry involves poking fun at the competition in advertising. Whether they’re making a discreet pass or throwing blatant shade at their rivals, competitive advertising is a common tactic used even today.

When you see a brand address their competitors’ product, whether directly by name or by subtle references, they’re saying a couple of things:

  1. The competitor is a big deal — and they may even be a threat to us; and
  2. We’re confident enough to take on this competitor directly.

Naturally, competitive advertising isn’t a strategy that will work for every business (law firms and insurance companies, we’re looking at you). But for businesses that can get away with it, a competitive advertising strategy that’s executed well can boost brand awareness as well as present brand characteristics such as confidence, intelligence, wit, and a sense of humor.

Here are 6 instances of brands that have made campaigns of teasing the competition.

Mac versus PC

Remember those “Hi, I’m a Mac — and I’m a PC” TV ads from the late 2000s? Launched by Apple in 2006 as part of their “Get a Mac” campaign, these funny ads featured a young and cool Justin Long as Mac and an older, out-of-touch John Hodgman as PC. Naturally, Microsoft wasn’t going to sit there and take it — their response involved releasing a series of ads criticizing Apple’s prices and product design. And just last year, Microsoft launched an ad promoting its Surface Go over Apple’s iPad, with the tagline “big dreams need a real computer.”

If you think these rivals have called it quits in 2019, you’re mistaken. Microsoft’s latest ad features a real person named Mackenzie Book (as in Mac Book, get it?) who argues that Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 is better than a Macbook. The 30-second ad comprises a quick-fire Q&A session between a voiceover narrator and Mr Book himself, who tells us why he thinks the Surface Laptop beats the Macbook in many ways, before arriving at the punchline “Mac Book says gets a Surface Laptop.”

Samsung versus Apple

The PC people aren’t the only ones who love to mock Apple. Last year, Samsung released an ad telling a story about a user who was getting fed up with her iPhone and decides to switch to a Galaxy.

At the start of the video, the woman is still using the iPhone 6, which lags when she tries to show her boarding pass to the TSA agent; the woman behind here, however, breezes through the process without any problems with her Galaxy S9. On the plane, the iPhone user tries to watch a show on her device but gives us because the TV app takes too long to load; meanwhile, her Galaxy-using seatmate is able to watch a high-definition video without any issues.

Towards the end of the ad, the iPhone user goes to the Apple store to get her device fixed — only to be told that she has two choices: turn off the performance-management feature, which will most likely cause an unexpected showdown, or upgrade. She thinks about doing the latter but eventually decides to buy a Samsung Galaxy S9.

Samsung has also dared to mock Apple fanatics. In the ad below, Samsung captures the “we’re too cool for raving fanboys” vibe while highlighting the features of the Galaxy phone, explaining why they’re better than the iPhone. They also mock the culture of early adopters queuing for hours to get their hands on the latest iPhone.

Audi versus BMW

Of course, you don’t have to limit your mocking to TV commercials and YouTube videos. If you’ve got the budget, billboards will do the job — just ask the guys at Audi and BMW.

In 2009, the car manufacturers had a billboard fight on a busy intersection of Los Angeles. Audi made the first move by releasing a billboard promoting its A4 Sedan. It challenged its rival BMW with the tagline: “Your move, BMW.”

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A local BMW dealership responded by placing a billboard on the opposite side of the motorway. The advertisement showcased its BMW 3 series E90 and introduced a chess theme by inverting the black and white colors used in Audi’s first billboard. Its tagline was a single word: “Checkmate.”

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Meanwhile, Audi wasn’t prepared to admit defeat. Audi took the last available billboard space on that stretch of motorway to showcase their “king,” the Audi R8 (“Your pawn is no match for our king”). Ultimately, BMW wins this roadside tournament, bypassing the lack of available billboard space by placing a blimp above the billboards. Their ad references BMW’s involvement with the pinnacle in car engineering: Formula 1 racing.

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This unconventional game of chess not only became a source of fun and intrigue for motorists along the motorway, but it also generated social media hype, positive word of mouth and news coverage.

Wendy’s versus Burger King and McDonald’s

Wendy’s is one of the biggest and most popular fast food outlets in the United States. Established in 1969, Wendy’s continues to grow in popularity to this day, largely due to its marketing strategy which involves engaging with its customers on social media. Wendy’s also uses social media, particularly Twitter, to interact with its competitors — even going so far to mock them.

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To date, Wendy’s sassy tweets have garnered tens of thousands of likes. It is a brand that understands social media’s important role in the marketer’s toolkits and successfully uses it to engage with their customers, build authenticity, and generate hype.

Marmite versus Vegemite

When it comes to cricket, a Test match is an ultimate battle. Two teams play for five straight days - yes you read that correctly, five straight days. This is essentially the heart of The Ashes, a series of five of these Test matches between Australia and England. And chances are, your Australian and British colleagues will be harping on about The Ashes over the next six weeks.

This year, a much more entertaining sledge contest (to sledge means to taunt or tease, FYI) has taken place beyond the boundary rope. The battle between these two rivals is as fierce as the one seen on the cricket pitch. Naturally, we’re talking about Marmite and Vegemite.

Marmite bowled the first ball by giving away free jars of Marmite to attendees, in an attempt to convert fans. Vegemite responded by taking out a full-page ad in The Daily Mirror to highlight Vegemite’s superiority — and emphasize the fact that Australia won the first test by 251 runs.

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Marmite responded in kind with its own print ad, cheekily making reference to a ball-tampering scandal involving the Australian cricket team and sandpaper during the Third Test match against South Africa back in 2018.

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The good news is that The Ashes is far from over at the time of writing, so we’re looking forward to seeing how this “mitey” saga between the two yeast spreads will pan out.

Autopilot versus other marketing automation software companies

We’ve saved the best for last: the battle between Autopilot and other marketing automation tools that don’t quite cut it.

Fun fact: the original Mac versus PC campaign actually provided inspiration for our Make the Switch campaign, which features a series of 5 cheeky videos to encourage frustrated marketing automation users to switch from their current solution to Autopilot. In each video, we address possible pain points that users of each marketing automation software encounter such as a clunky interface, limited functionality, and poor landing pages and form builders.

In the video below, we make fun of a certain orange-clad competitor who tries to do too much — and charges their customers accordingly.

Game on!

Whether you’re a SaaS provider, a small business owner, a marketing professional working in FMCG, or anything in between, you too can gain a competitive advantage by kicking off a competitive advertising campaign. Take a lesson from those 6 brands that poke fun at the competition to create memorable campaigns that resonate with everyone who sees them.

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