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10 Interesting Stories of Brand Rivalries

6. When the Camaro name was unveiled by General Motors in 1966, 200 journalists present asked Chevrolet managers what it meant. They replied, “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.”

1968 Camaro
1968 Chevrolet Camaro RS 327. Image credit: carsaroundadelaide.com

When Ford released the Mustang in 1964, people were speculating that Chevrolet would soon release a competitor. The press initially called the Chevy car “Panther” before an official announcement was made.

Chevrolet had a tradition of a kind to name all its cars with a word that began with a “C”—Corvair, Chevelle, Corvette, etc. On June 21st, 1966, Chevrolet invited 200 journalists from the United States to a press conference. The telegram read:

“……….Please save noon of June 28 for an important SEPAW meeting. Hope you can be on hand to help scratch a cat. Details will follow……………….(signed) John L. Cutter – Chevrolet Public Relations – SEPAW Secretary.”

What did “SEPAW” mean? The telegram made them curious. Next day another telegram was sent that said, “SEPAW stands for Society for Eradication of Panthers from the Automobile World.” The president of Chevrolet, Pete Estes, was to host this press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Detroit.

Conference calls were linked to 14 different Hilton Hotels in the country so the journalists need not be physically present. Amidst a lot of fanfare with five good-looking girls holding the five letters of the name while the Estes held the sixth, the name “Camaro” was revealed.

When its meaning was asked, the journalists were told that it meant: “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.” (source)

7. In 1979, programmers from Atari went to meet their CEO asking for their names to be included in the game boxes and royalties. The CEO called them “towel designers” and turned them down. The programmers left and formed their own company, Activision.

Image credit: Wikimedia, InfoWorld Media Group, Inc.

We all know the names “Atari” and “Activision” today, but the latter did not always exist. The programmers David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller, and Bob Whitehead worked at Atari and were the brain behind a lot of video games. Demanding to be treated how musicians are treated by record labels, the four programmers went to meet the CEO of Atari, Ray Kassar, in May 1979. They wanted royalties and their names to be put the boxes.

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Unhappy with the idea, the CEO called them “towel designers” and claimed that “anybody can do a cartridge.” Crane, Miller, and Whitehead left their jobs to start “Activision,” a company that promoted the names of the creators of the games along with the games themselves.

Kaplan joined them sometime later. The resignation of four of these programmers who were responsible for more than half of Atari’s cartridge sales led to a lawsuit between the two companies that was settled only in 1982. (source)

8. When Apple’s Steve Jobs accused Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates of stealing his idea of Mac to build Windows, Gates replied, “Well, Steve, … I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox, and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates
Image credit: Joi Ito/Flickr

The war between Apple and Microsoft is known to all. The daughters of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are equestrian rivals too. It is also true that Microsoft once helped Apple from going bankrupt.

But when Microsoft released its first new version of Windows in 1985, Steve Jobs accused Bill Gates of copying it from Macintosh. During a “Reddit Ask Me Anything” in 2017, a person asked Bill Gates, “Did you copy Steve Jobs or did he copy you?” This was Gates’ reply:

“The main “copying” that went on relative to Steve and me is that we both benefited from the work that Xerox Parc did in creating the graphical interface. It wasn’t just them, but they did the best work. Steve hired Bob Belville; I hired Charles Simonyi. We didn’t violate any IP rights Xerox had, but their work showed the way that led to the Mac and Windows.”

Decades ago when Steve Jobs had met Bill Gates in a conference room he had yelled at him and accused him of stealing from Apple. In Jobs’ biography, Walter Isaacson writes what Gates’ reply was to the accusation: “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox, and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.” (source)

9. When PepsiCo released “Crystal Pepsi,” Coca-Cola released a similar product called “Tab Clear” and intentionally marketed it poorly to hurt Crystal Pepsi’s image by association. Coca-Cola’s “kamikaze” strategy was successful, and both the campaigns were taken off the market six months later.

Crystal Pepsi and Tab clear
Image credit: Smuckola/Wikimedia, TeemPlayer/Wikimedia

There is a reason why we don’t often hear of “Crystal Pepsi,” a clear Pepsi drink. When PepsiCo introduced the drink on April 13, 1992, it had a good response in test markets. In December of the same year, Pepsi began to sell the drink across the United States.

A large-scale marketing campaign was launched. In the same month, Coca-Cola launched “Tab Clear,” a similar product. Coca-Cola had made a clear coke before at the behest of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower for the Soviet Union to disguise it as vodka.

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A year later, Pepsi had to pull its product off the market. Why? Because Coca-Cola had intended just that. Coca-Cola’s chief marketing officer, Sergio Zyman, had said that they had marketed their product poorly to kill both the products.

Coca-Cola used a “born to die” negative slogan in their campaign, calling Tab Clear a sugar-free coke and marketed it as “medicinal” making people think that PepsiCo’s Crystal Pepsi was the same. Zyman said “Pepsi spent an enormous amount of money on the brand and, regardless, we killed it. Both of them were dead within six months.” (source)

10. Microsoft staged a mock funeral for Apple’s iPhone and Blackberry when it completed Windows Phone 7. Two symbolic hearses were a part of a parade where people wore crazy costumes at Redmond in 2010.

Microsoft staged a mock funeral for Apple’s iPhone and Blackberry
Image credit: Trioculus/Flickr

In a yet another story of the rivalry between Apple and Microsoft, to celebrate the completion of its Windows Phone 7, Microsoft conducted a mock funeral. Two hearses were present, one for Apple’s iPhone and the second for the BlackBerry phones at this celebration at Redmond in 2010. Their slogan read that the Windows Phone 7 will “bury” the competition.

The celebration parade had people dressed up in crazy costumes, floats, a marching band, and roller skaters. It was much like a Mardi Gras in September. When Microsoft’s PR was asked about the parade, they responded by saying, “It’s a great way for teams that have worked overtime to create a kick-ass product blow off steam and have a little fun… It was all in good fun, and no actual competitors were harmed in the course of the celebration.” (1, 2)

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