A look into brand competition and what happens when rivalries play out for the public to see.

The biggest rivalry at this year’s Super Bowl didn’t have a thing to do with the pigskin, but something equally as important to the American people: cheap, domestic beer.

Bud Light always stands out for Super Bowl commercials with the best their creative team can offer. This year, that meant taking a shot at the competition.

If you haven’t seen their jab at opposing distributors Miller and Coors, you should. And then, you should take a look at their responses.

Miller Lite printed a full-page ad in the New York Times to point out where Bud Light went wrong – and to educate everyone on their brewing process.

Coors Light hopped into full gear to capitalize on those caught in the crossfire of Bud Light’s corn syrup critique – the middle-American farmers that harvest the corn.

The chairman of Coors Light hand-delivered a beer shipment straight to the National Corn Growers. Coors social team pushed the newly-minted #ToastToFarmers hashtag. Twitter latched on and then the hashtag picked up its own head of steam. Soon, former Bud Light fans were pouring their blue-can-beer down the drain as a #ToastToFarmers.

We bet Coors Light is chalking this latest development as a win.

Bud Light didn’t end up apologizing, but they did release the closest thing to a backstep since New Coke was sent back to the depths from which it came.

Other brands, take note.

Lesson #1 for taking shots at your rivals: pay very close attention to exactly who’s getting caught up in the crossfire. Even when you’re aiming at a competitor, you don’t want to put a hole in your own audience.

I'm A Mac.

From 2006 to 2010, Mac engaged in one of the biggest callout campaigns we’ve seen – or at least, one of the most direct. And it saturated the media landscape so effectively, we bet you still remember the tagline:

“Hi, I’m a Mac.”

“And I’m a PC.”

Enter four years and sixty-plus skits reminding us all that PC’s are clunky, uncool, prone to viruses and only a better operating system if you’re over forty and spend your day on spreadsheets.

When Mac first began this campaign, they held a relatively tiny portion of the market-share. By the end of the 2006 fiscal year (which was September, only a few months since the campaign’s kick-off in May), Apple’s computer shipments rose by 30% compared to the year-ago quarter.

Windows fired back and we commend their advertising teams for putting together well-thought out responses and quips. But if you want to know who won the marketing feud between the two, you just have to answer a simple question:

Without Googling it, can you remember how Windows responded?

If you ‘re going to get involved, might as well take the offensive.

Lesson #2: He who fires first usually hits the hardest. Responding is great, but you’ll always be reacting to someone else’s creativity.

Even after Mac ended it’s crusade against its PC counterpart, Windows tried to revive the rivalry in 2014, taking shots across the company’s paralleled product lines: phones, tablets, laptops, the whole shebang.

When PC fired back, Apple was pointedly quiet. But why?

When Mac first began its campaign against PC, they were David to the Bill Gates’ Goliath. By the time Windows tried to resurrect the rivalry, though, the landscape had changed.

Mac laptops now held almost 11% of the total computer market share, a remarkable uptick from just 4% in 2006. In tablets, Apple controlled almost a third of the market. In phones, Apple had 15% of the global market for the first quarter of 2014, up from just 3% after releasing the first iPhone in June of 2007.

Mac wasn’t the underdog anymore.

Windows in 2014 targeted the parts of the market where they stood most to gain, hoping to engage with Mac from the position of the underdog.

So why did Mac remain quiet? Because firing back at an ‘underdog’ brand doesn’t help Goliath. In fact, it may even validate their claims and draw more attention to a competing brand.

Lesson #3: Taking shots at a rival brand is an underdog story when you’re the smaller of the two. Everyone loves an underdog story. For a larger brand, it comes off as bullying and leads to diminishing returns in the public realm.

Where's the Beef? Twitter. Definitely Twitter.

Between television spots, passive-aggressive billboards and clever digital campaigns, modern marketers have found a way to turn traditional marketing into war games – instead of planes and bombs, though, money is reserved for paid actors, copywriters and creative directors that have that mysterious magic they call ‘vision’.

But, if there’s anything the 21st Century has proven, it’s that there’s no better place to start an argument than online, and more specifically, on Twitter. We already talked about Coors’ Twitter response to Bud Light, but that hashtag was light work compared to reigning Twitter champ, Wendy’s. For brand on brand beef (yeah, we’ve been waiting 800 words to use that pun), Wendy’s has it covered. They go after any fast food joint that dares glance their way:

Wendy’s vs. the IHOb (Temporary) Rebrand Campaign

Wendy’s vs. McDonald’s:

Wendy’s vs. Hardee’s:

Wendy's vs. Hardee's

Wendy’s vs. us poor, naive gluttons for punishment:

wendys twitter beef

Which leads us to Lesson #4 of inter-brand beef: Don’t go after Wendy’s on Twitter. Not if you’re a brand, not if you’re a customer. They’re just too good.

How will inter-brand dialogue continue to play a role in the future? Will we see more big attacks like we saw from the brewers of Bud Light on the biggest day in sports – or did we all learn a lesson about taking something a step too far?

If history is any indication, the answer is definitively NO. And honestly, it’s for the better. Brands take their fair share of beatings on social media, and rightfully so. But you have to admit, this type of brand representation would be Dave Thomas approved.

Article Written By:

Connor Jaschen

Content Strategist/Writes Raps at His Desk When He Thinks No One is Watching