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The most fascinating brand wars – Part 1

By Magda Adamska / 19 October 2016 The most fascinating brand wars – Part 1

Most big names in the business world have direct rivals, who offer similar products in entirely different ways. They usually appeal to separate segments of the market, due to the way they communicate the brand and its products. Brand wars can take place in every area of the marketing mix: companies can fight with each other with the product offer (e.g. introducing new variants), with pricing (making their products cheaper or more expensive, depending on the strategy), with distribution (e.g. getting exclusivity in certain retailers) or with communication (describing their product to the public in a distinct manner).

As part of a new series of blog posts here on BrandStruck, we’re going to take a look at some of the most well-known brand wars, with the focus on how companies use brand strategies to differentiate their products. Today, we investigate three examples of brand wars in technology, sportswear, and drinks.

1. Microsoft vs Google

If you go back several years, Microsoft and Google weren’t really direct competitors. Microsoft created computer software and Google was a search engine. Now, they’re squaring up in many markets – both have search engines, both create phones and tables, both have operating systems.

Google’s brand strategy is based around the Sage archetype, with elements of the Creator. Google wants to make the world a better place with its technology, enables people to find any information they need and in its communication focuses on helping them learn more about the world around them. Microsoft has a different image, previously being solely a Ruler brand, but now also having some of the Hero archetype woven into its branding. This comes with Microsoft’s new mission statement: “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”.

The two differ in terms of communication, style and marketing. Google has never directly attacked Microsoft in communication, but the same can’t be said about Microsoft. Microsoft a few years ago ran an attack campaign against Google, launching website (which still redirects to, pointing out disadvantages of Google’s products, including issues with the Google Shopping advertising model and the software used on Chromebooks.

2. Nike vs Adidas

Nike and Adidas are big rivals in the sporting world and have different brand strategies to ensure they’re both reaching out to the market in unique ways.

Nike’s dominating archetype is the Hero, using the story of overcoming weaknesses to achieve greatness as their main advertising focus. Nike provides inspiration and innovation to every person in the world, treating everyone as athletes. Overall, this builds a strong, powerful image but the brand often uses humour and a warm and welcoming tone of voice in marketing campaigns.

Adidas has some similarities to Nike, in that they both put out empowering messages. Whilst Nike talks about overcoming weaknesses, Adidas spreads the word that “sport has the power to change lives”. However, where Nike has some humorous tones, Adidas has a more serious, strict and less forgiving point of view when it comes to sport. Similarly to Nike, Adidas to some extent is based on the Hero archetype. However, it also builds a big part of its brand equity on the Creator archetype, perceiving sport as a tool for self-creation and seeing itself at the border of sport and creativity (which can be seen in its campaigns: “Here To Create” or “Sport Needs Creators”).

3. Coca-Cola vs Pepsi

One of the biggest rivalries in the drinks field is Coca-Cola vs Pepsi. They are the two biggest brands of cola, offering a near-identical product in different variations, including diet, sugar-free and flavours of their drinks. But how do they differentiate their brands?

Coca-Cola is a timeless brand, remaining almost untouched by the changing world and continuing to be based on the same pillars it’s used for years – taste and refreshment, inclusiveness, happiness and optimism. Whilst Coca-Cola plays the role of traditional, classic brand based on the Innocent archetype, Pepsi is into the here and now and represents Jester brands. It focuses on staying relevant to a younger audience, and constantly reinvents itself to remain the ‘cool’ brand. This means often working with the current most talked about A-list celebrities for campaigns and communicating with young people’s language and emoji style packaging.

The brand wars between big names are never-ending – there’ll be victories and losses on both sides and the market will always show who is better. As long as the battles are fought in an ethical way, the consumer will be better off as a result.

We’ll analyse three more brand wars in the next post of our series.

If you need help with research or want to hire Magda for a brand project, email her at

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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.

BrandStruck ithe only online database of brand strategy case studies.
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