As time continues to march the world towards new horizons, we get to see new brands pop up out of thin air and make news on social media. With so many brands competing to survive in this fast-moving world, desperate measures are sometimes warranted to attract the attention of the masses by throwing a direct jab at your competitors. And when your competitors respond with their unique comebacks, sparks are expected to fly as an all-out war breaks out between brands! Known as “brand wars,” this intense exchange of remarks for the sake of stealing the spotlight, masked as banter, is nothing new.
The Lipton vs. Tapal battle, Coke > All tea brands campaign, and many others are notable examples of such wars that Pakistan has witnessed in the past couple of years. The never-ending Samsung vs. Apple battle and Wendy’s brutal tweets against rival fast-food chains are good examples if you want to consider things on a global level. Businesses have used unusual strategies and unconventional ways to compete with each other for decades using different mediums to stay ahead in the race. But the internet and social media have opened up a new battleground for them to throw hits at one another with the help of sarcastic remarks, appealing graphics, and sometimes sending their brand ambassadors to the front lines to ridicule the opponents and make their own product(s) look good.
But, what is it really that pushes brands to use such unconventional methods? As far as Pakistan is concerned, which types of brands usually engage in wars? Do they really have any direct positive impact on them? This blog post will shed some light on these questions and hopefully provide satisfactory answers.
Why Do Brands Go to War with Each Other?
There’s nothing surprising about the fact that every brand wants to stay ahead of its competitors. If top-notch quality and successful differentiation are the main ingredients for making a brand stand out, is there really a need to resort to unprofessional (and sometimes even childish) strategies to bring your competitors down? This isn’t something that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
The simple answer to the question “why do brands engage in wars?” is consumer attention. While the main intention isn’t always to hurt the image of the competitors, it could be a motivating factor for a newbie trying to make it big in the market or a former giant making a dramatic return to create a negative image about their rivals in the minds of the public. But most of the time, brands stick with lighthearted humour to create a buzz in order to increase engagement, which is part of the reason why many people believe that most of these wars are pre-planned and “faked” with a mutual understanding between brands to get people to talk about them. However, no solid evidence has ever been found and no one has claimed to do that.
A Look at Some Memorable Brand Wars Beyond Pakistan
The world has witnessed some of the most intense brand wars in the past couple of decades. Especially after the advent of social media, brands started to come up with wittier jabs and comebacks. Twitter and Facebook are two of the most commonly used platforms where most of the battles take place.
Wendy’s celebrated National Frozen Food Day by insulting McDonald’s on Twitter
When it comes to throwing witty remarks, the first name that comes to mind is Wendy’s. Famous for throwing shade at their rival fast-food chains and replying to their customers with sarcastic remarks on social media, this American fast-food chain has etched its name in the history of brand wars!
A memorable exchange between the two German Automobile Giants
BMW and Audi are known for going on billboard wars against each other. The legendary rivalry between these two manufacturers of luxury automobiles and motorcycles goes a long way back, with both actively trying to outperform each other.
An old newspaper ad for the Samsung Galaxy S3, throwing shade at Apple’s iPhone 5
Samsung and Apple are natural enemies. With both competing with each other to dominate the global market of smartphones with their products and multiple incidents of lawsuits over patents, it does not come as a surprise that the two tech giants have a special hatred for each other.
Some of the Hottest Brand Wars in Pakistan
Pakistan is perhaps the hottest battleground for brands to vent out their frustrations and announce their animosities towards each other. With every brand fighting to make its way to the top, Pakistanis get to enjoy different battles from time to time across all mediums. Let’s take a look at some of the latest rivalries and battles that made news in the past couple of years:
1. Lipton vs. Tapal
Perhaps the most memorable of Pakistani brand wars was between the two tea giants, Lipton and Tapal, which enjoy the largest market shares in the Pakistani tea industry. A few years ago, Tapal initiated the battle by throwing the first punch at Lipton with their iconic ad featuring Alyy Khan with the message: “Chai ka label Yellow ho ya Orange, strong chai to Tapal Danedar hi hai” (It doesn’t matter if the tea label is yellow or orange. Tapal Danedar is the one true strong tea). Lipton didn’t back down either, sending their own champion, Hamza Ali Abbasi, to the front line with the message: “Lipton ek baar, bhool jaogay Danedar. Maza na aye toh paisay wapas” (Try Lipton once and you’ll forget Danedar. Get your money back if you are not satisfied).
Since tea is one of the most consumed drinks in Pakistan, this brand war sparked a sense of defensiveness among many Pakistanis who turned to social media to defend their favorite brand of tea. Other companies, from dry cleaners to furniture manufacturers, saw this as an opportunity to promote their own products and services, which goes to show that a war between two brands can inspire other, completely unrelated companies to promote themselves and their products.
Cleanry promoting their laundry and dry cleaning services using the Lipton vs. Tapal war
Interwood promoting their furniture in the context of the same brand war
2. Coca-Cola vs. Lipton (and other tea brands)
The year 2017 saw a unique conflict between two, somewhat unrelated products that caused an uproar on social media in Pakistan. The Coca-Cola vs. Lipton battle is yet another memorable war between brands that created a hype among Pakistanis. Coca-Cola, using its “Zaalima Coca-Cola Pila de” campaign, launched two TVCs showing tea as an inferior drink, not suitable for consumption during summers. Seeing this as an insult to all tea brands, Lipton was the first one to retaliate with this gem:
As mentioned above, Pakistanis, in general, tend to get a little defensive when it comes to tea. Hence, in this war, tea had the upper hand. The famous brand of tea-whitener, EveryDay, naturally sided with tea using this gem:
However, that did not stop Coca-Cola from continuing to stick with their campaign, as they launched yet another TVC in 2018 which ridiculed tea. As of yet, no response has been received from their rivals.
3. Waves vs. All Brands of Home Appliances
A notable feature of the Pakistani pop culture of the 90s and the era before that was Wave’s signature tagline “Waves, naam he kaafi hai” (Waves, the name is enough). There was a time when Waves dominated the market of refrigerators and deep freezers in Pakistan. However, over the past decade, the brand lost a significant market share to rival brands such as Dawlance, Haier, and PEL, and is no longer the leader. The factors responsible for this loss of market shares aren’t clear, but poor marketing could be one of the culprits. In the year 2017, however, Waves made a massive comeback with a bold TVC starring Fahad Mustafa, challenging all of its rivals and giving them a run for their money. Here’s the TVC, shared by Fahad Mustafa on his official YouTube channel:
In the iconic commercial, Waves mocked the taglines of rival brands. Starting from “sab se reliable fridge” (Dawlance) and ending with “Sab se thanda fridge” (PEL), Waves left no stone unturned in grilling the competition and ended flawlessly with the message that instead of going for one or two features such as powerful cooling, ample storage, extended cooling time, etc., why not choose the products offered by Waves which sport all of these features and more?
4. Yayvo vs. Daraz
The incredible eCommerce sphere in Pakistan has already positioned itself as an inseparable part of the Pakistani market. And the impressive thing is that it has just begun! Whenever the Pakistani eCommerce sphere comes under discussion, the first players that come to mind are Daraz.pk, Yayvo by TCS, and telemart.pk. With more and more competitors emerging each day, these websites now have to rely on unconventional methods to stay on top of the game and make the competition look bad.
A similar incident happened right before the Black Friday sales in 2017, when Daraz.pk used the words “Better deals than Yayvo” in their ad.
Yayvo management did not take this well and through Ali Gul Pir, their brand ambassador, publicly launched an attack on Daraz.pk on Twitter.
Yayvo had the competitive advantage over Daraz.pk in the Black Friday (or White Friday) sales last year by reserving its YouTube Masthead. Other than that, the brand promoted two trends on Twitter, which drove more sales.
5. PTCL vs. Djuice
Pakistan’s telecommunication sector has experienced massive growth in the last decade, especially with the introduction of 3G, 4G, and LTE mobile broadband services in Pakistan. The Telecom companies which top the list include Pakistan’s national telecom company, PTCL, Ufone, Warid, Zong, Mobilink, and Telenor. I-ME-WE is the underwater cable that provides an internet connection to all of Pakistan. If this submarine cable gets damaged or goes offline, the whole country can experience internet connectivity problems. Such an incident occurred in August of 2017 when I-ME-WE went offline and the whole country had to endure the torture of slow internet. One of PTCL’s spokespersons announced that the cable had been damaged near Saudi Arabia and would take some time to get repaired.
Shortly after the announcement, Djuice (owned by Telenor) tweeted this:
The witty tweet went viral immediately, with a lot of users joining the banter with their own unique comments. However, PTCL wasted no time in retaliating and came up with this gem of a reply:
“Thank you for the offer but we like sticking with packages that don’t run out.” PTCL took this opportunity to point out that they were still the Kings of unlimited data. Soon after, another punch was thrown by Djuice:
This hilarious exchange showed the lighter side of both the telecom giants, proving that generating multi-billion PKR in revenue doesn’t mean having to compromise on the humanization of brands.
Do Brand Wars Help in Any Way?
In a market that is overflowing with competitors, grabbing consumer attention by using all the tools available at your disposal is a must. Brands need to think of creative campaigns that help in product differentiation – publicly going to war with another brand is good, but not necessarily a great strategy. In the short run, it can help a brand to instantly boost engagement and recognition, but constant struggle and creative magic are required to keep things just the way they are. And a brand cannot expect to always rely on causing drama to get consumer attention as it might end up hurting its own image in the market.
The excess of anything is bad, and as mentioned above, too much aggression and banter could hurt a brand’s image in the long run. A good alternative is a CSR campaign which not only attracts the attention of consumers but also earns the goodwill of the people. It’s all about creativity and thinking out of the box, so spending some time brainstorming will help you win the race.