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In 2019, many brands went head to head to see who would ultimately come out on top. From long-lasting ad wars between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to the intense rivalries between beer brands Miller Lite and Bud Light and fast food faves Chick-fil-A and Popeyes, this year’s brand wars were fun to watch and effective for brands. DMS looks back at the legendary brand wars of 2019 that wowed consumers.
The Cola Wars — The Century-Long History Between Coca-Cola And PepsiCo
One of the most polarizing and iconic battles among beverage brands is between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Over the years, the Cola Wars saw the two brands duke it out, each striving to become the ultimate champion in the soft drink industry. When the Cola Wars started to heat up in 1975, both brands made strong efforts to differentiate themselves, as both of their beverages are brown, sweetened, carbonated soft drinks. While Coca-Cola emphasized a sense of belonging and loyalty in the hearts and minds of consumers, PepsiCo focused on showcasing how their brand is up-to-date, fresh and youthful.
During the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta, the rivalry between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo became even more intense, as PepsiCo swarmed Atlanta, the home of Coca-Cola, with branded billboards, recycling bins and train station walls. Not only were PepsiCo’s ads gigantic, but they were snarky too. One ad read, “Pepsi in Atlanta. How Refreshing,” while another said, “Look Who’s In Town For Super Bowl LIII.” Coca-Cola responded to PepsiCo’s fiery ads by keeping it classy and welcoming PepsiCo with open arms by posting “Welcome To Our House” ads all around the city of Atlanta.
Since Coca-Cola took a break from advertising in the 2019 Super Bowl for the first time since 2006, Pepsi dominated the air space with commercials and a half-time show. Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl absence gave PepsiCo the opportunity to shine with its “Pepsi More Than Okay” commercial featuring Cardi B, Steve Carrell and Lil Jon. The brand’s #PepsiIsMoreThanOkay hashtag was generated more than 51,000 mentions on social media. However, even with the vast amount of mentions, Coca-Cola maintained a larger social media presence. Because their original products are almost functionally identical, it is important for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to stay top of mind for soda drinkers. Even after a century-long battle, which brand dominates the soft drink industry is still to be determined.
The Beer Wars — Miller Lite And Bud Light Banter Over The Use Of Corn Syrup
During the 2019 Super Bowl, Bud Light started a “war” with Miller Lite and Coors Lite by calling out the two brands’ usage of corn syrup in their brewing processes. Bud Light rolled out a compelling Game of Thrones themed commercial called “Special Delivery” that features the “Bud King” receiving an enormous cask of corn syrup. The King immediately concludes that the delivery must have been sent to the wrong castle as he exclaims, “We don’t brew Bud Light with corn syrup!” before setting out on a long quest to return the cask.
Miller Lite responded by taking a jab at Bud Light, by imagining what it is actually like behind the scenes of the Bud Light and Game of Thrones mashup. In Miller Lite’s “Snow” and “Aftermath” ads, Miller Lite reminds drinkers that, in the real world, taste is what really matters. The actors dressed in medieval costumes appear to be filming the Bud Light commercial. When the director yells cut, one of the actors goes into the service tent, passes up a Bud Light and, instead, grabs a Miller Lite. By using the hashtag #corntroversy, Twitter users could delve deeper into the controversy between Bud Light and Miller Lite and comment on which beer they prefer.
The Chicken Sandwich Wars — Chick-fil-A And Popeyes Hash It Out On Twitter
A week after Popeyes released their nationwide chicken sandwich in August, the fast-food chain started a Twitter feud with chicken competitor Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A tweeted: “Bun + Chicken + Pickles = all the (heart emoji) for the original.” Popeyes then retweeted the tweet and wrote, “…y’all good?” The Twitter feud was a flurry with some consumers saying they preferred Popeyes’ new chicken sandwich to Chick-fil-A’s, which is best known for its chicken sandwiches and has been voted America’s favorite fast-food chain, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Wendy’s also got into the action by tweeting, “Y’all out here fighting about which of these fools has the second best chicken sandwich.” While the chicken sandwich wars were the talk of the town, reports circulated that the New Orleans-style fried chicken on a bun was selling out at some locations, leading to long waits.
Although fans of the Popeyes chicken sandwiches may have been disappointed, Popeyes posted a YouTube video almost three months after the sell out, announcing the return of the chicken sandwiches, for good this time. In the ad, a highway sign showing Popeyes and Chick-fil-A is updated to add the words, “Open Sunday” under Popeyes, digging at its competitor Chick-fil-A, which is well-known for staying closed on Sundays. Chick-fil-A, however, does have a major fan of its schedule: Kanye West’s new “Jesus is King” album has a song called “Closed on Sunday” where he mentions Chick-fil-A with the lyrics, “Closed on Sunday, you my Chick-fil-A. You’re my number one, with the lemonade.” After the chicken sandwich wars started, Popeyes’ revenue increased from $2.3 billion in 2013 to $3.7 billion in 2019. It is estimated that Chick-fil-A’s annual revenue in 2019 will be about $9.6 billion, which is up 11.3% over the past five years.
Top brands brawled it out in 2019 to capture the attention and hearts of consumers. Through snarky ads and social posts, marketers did whatever it took to have their brands stay top of mind, driving sales and loyalty along the way.
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