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8 Ad Taglines that Sneakily Ding the Competition

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Companies naturally want to convince people that their products are better than the competition, but when it comes to advertisements, making direct comparisons between competing products can be tricky. Ad campaigns must step lightly around potential issues with the verifiability of claims, liability, and trademark laws. For example, while it’s OK to say your product is the “best,” it’s not OK to say it’s “better” than a specific competitor unless you have clear evidence on exactly what makes it better. Attempts to play on trademarked phrases can also backfire. McDonald’s once sued Burger King over an ad for the Whopper that read “It’s not just Big, Mac” and won by showing that some people were confused by the ad into thinking that they could get a Big Mac at Burger King. To get in a good jab at the competition, you’ve got to be indirect, but not so indirect that your audience won’t pick up on it at all. Here are eight ad taglines that found a way to sneakily ding the competition

1. Sweet’N Low: "For millions of people, there’s just no equal"

When artificial sweetener rival Equal came along, Sweet’N Low started using this subtle dig in their commercials. When Splenda entered the market and started gunning for the number 1 spot, they dropped it in favor of a tagline from the pre-Equal days, “Wherever you go, Sweet’N Low.”

2. DHL: "Yellow. It’s the new brown."

Ashby Parsons

No need to mention UPS directly. DHL is merely talking about the benefits of its vibrant banana color scheme and how much better it is than that muddier, blander other one. Right?

3. Dunkin’ Donuts: "Delicious lattes from Dunkin' Donuts. You order them in English."

Why wouldn’t you order them in English? That would be crazy. But according to this commercial, there do exist some places that do make you order your coffee in a bizarre, made-up language. Wonder who they could be talking about? (Side note: I guess this commercial marks the moment when “latte” acquired full English-word status.)

4. Virgin Atlantic: "Keep Discovering – Until You Find the Best."

When Virgin Atlantic started service from London to Dubai they advertised it with the slogan “Keep Discovering – Until You Find the Best.” That’s not sneaky at all—until you realize that “Keep Discovering” is the slogan for Emirates Airlines.

5. Samsung: "It doesn’t take a genius."

CNET

Samsung chose the indirect way to claim the Galaxy phone was better than an iPhone by turning Apple’s Genius Bar concept around on them.

6. Verizon: "There’s a map for that."

Verizon also took a swing at Apple, who has a trademark on “there’s an app for that,” back in the days when you could only get iPhone service through AT&T. In this commercial they tout the superior broad coverage of their network with a twist on one of Apple’s taglines.

7. Audi vs. BMW: "Your move/Checkmate/Your pawn is no match for our king/Game over."

When you do decide to take on your competitors by name, you’d better be ready to keep upping your game. When Audi erected a billboard in L.A. with the cheeky tagline “Your move, BMW,” BMW responded with a confident “Checkmate” on its own billboard. Not ready to give up yet, Audi replied with “Your pawn is no match for our king” over a picture of their most exotic model. BMW’s response was to attach a zeppelin to the billboard on which was printed a photo of one of their Formula 1 racecars and the words “Game Over,” which pretty much put the matter to bed, without them ever deigning to print the word “Audi.”

8. Nintendo: "Why did the hedgehog cross the road? To get to Super Mario Land 2."

Twitter

In the '90s ad battle between game companies Sega and Nintendo, Sega used the more aggressive approach, calling out its competitor by name with the inelegant “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.” Nintendo used the subtle approach here, not mentioning its competitor’s name or even the name of its game character (just a generic hedgehog…), but still getting the message across.

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The iMac Was Almost Called the MacMan
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After breaking out with its Macintosh line of personal computers in the 1980s, Apple was in a slump. Sales had flagged as Microsoft's Windows operating system made waves. In 1998, the company was set to unveil a product that it hoped would reinvigorate its brand.

And they almost blew it.

According to Ken Segall, the advertising genius behind their "Think Different" campaign, Apple founder Steve Jobs was expecting the iMac to reverse the company's ailing fortunes. Where older Macs had been boxy, beige, and bland, the iMac came in an assortment of colors and had a transparent chassis that showed off its circuitry. The problem, as Segall writes in his new book, Insanely Simple, was that Jobs didn't want to call it the iMac. He wanted to call it the MacMan.

"While that frightening name is banging around in your head, I'd like you to think for a moment about the art of product naming," Segall writes. "Because of all the things in this world that cry out for simplicity, product naming probably contains the most glaring examples of right and wrong. From some companies, you see names like 'iPhone.' From others you see names like ‘Casio G'zOne Commando' or the ‘Sony DVP SR200P/B' DVD player."

According to Segall, Jobs liked the fact that MacMan was slightly reminiscent of Sony's Walkman branding concept for its line of cassette players. (Later, Sony had a Discman, Pressman, and Talkman.) But Segall, who named products for a living, feared the name would take away from Apple's identity as being original. It was also gender-biased, and alienating an entire demographic of consumers was never a good thing.

Instead, Segall suggested "iMac," with the "i" for internet, because the unit was designed to connect easily to the web. Jobs "hated" the idea, along with other suggestions, even though Segall felt the iMac could provide a foundation to name other devices, just as Sony's Walkman had. Segall kept suggesting it, and Jobs eventually had it printed on a prototype model to see how it would look. After encouragement from his staff, he dropped MacMan. With this key contribution, Segall made sure no one would be lining up to buy a PhoneMan 10 years later. 

[h/t FastCoDesign]

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The Bizarre Reason Burger King Wants to Keep It Out of Russia
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For decades, Burger King and McDonald’s have been engaged in one of the most competitive corporate rivalries in fast food history. In the 1980s, the two actually went to court over accusations about Burger King's sourcing and preparation of meats. In 2016, a BK restaurant in Queens, New York, was draped in sheets and made to look like the ghost of McDonald’s.

The sniping continues, but this time McDonald’s isn’t really involved. According to The Hollywood Reporter and coming our way via Eater, the Russian branch of Burger King has filed a complaint with the country’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) over the recent horror blockbuster It. The reason? They claim the movie’s evil clown, Pennywise, is so reminiscent of Ronald McDonald that the release will constitute an unfair advertising opportunity for their competitor.

While this sounds like either a prank or publicity stunt hatched by Burger King’s marketing arm, the FAS confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the burger chain did indeed request the movie be banned. That doesn’t mean it’s not a marketing ploy—there must be economic advantages to comparing a chief competitor’s mascot to a child-murdering clown—but it does offer some substance to the claim. The FAS told the outlet that it “can’t be concerned” with a fictional character in a movie that has nothing to do with hamburgers, but hasn’t made any final decision.

Owing to the recent scary-clown hysteria, McDonald’s has actually dialed down Ronald’s appearances in public over the past two years, which does raise suspicion over what he’s been doing with his downtime. It: Chapter Two is scheduled to infuriate Burger King even more when it’s released in 2019.

[h/t Eater]  

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