What’s in a sign? According to the advertising world, a lot. Signs have a way of capturing passerby and converting them to a product. Signs force people to ask questions and find solutions. Successful businesses rely on signs and advertising to keep their business afloat.
Unfortunately, the history of advertising and the evolution of signs is not without conflict. Some of the best advertising campaigns target their competition and make consumers take sides. The biggest names in American advertising fight to ensure their campaign comes out on top.
Read below to learn more about the biggest spats in advertising history and then ask yourself this: How far are you willing to go to keep business booming?
1. Koenig vs. Lois
How would it feel if someone tried to take credit for something you clearly did? Julian Koenig has the answer. As one of the greatest copywriters in the history of advertising, Koenig originated a number of incredibly famous and successful advertising campaigns, including:
- Timex’s “Timex: It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” campaign
- Volkswagen’s “Think Small” campaign
- Volkswagen’s “Lemon” campaign
He’s considered a genius-a legend-and copywriters still try to emulate him. Unfortunately, Koenig didn’t get all of the immediate credit he deserved. George Lois, another well-known and respected art director in the 1950s, took credit for much of Koenig’s work. As partners, Lois and Koenig worked on many of the same campaigns and, according to Koenig, Lois’s pride and greed often got in the way:
“Where it once would’ve been accepted that the word would be ‘we’ did it, regardless of who originated the work, the word ‘we’ evaporated from George’s vocabulary and it became ‘my.'”
After years of feeling disheartened and betrayed, Koenig and his colleagues publicly battled with Lois to ensure he didn’t get credit for campaigns he had little or no part in.
2. Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi
Do you remember the Pepsi Challenge in 1975? If not, here’s a refresher:
Pepsi held blind taste tests around the United States to determine whether the public liked Coca-Cola or Pepsi more. Two subjects would sit down with a blindfold on and sip two different colas, Coke and Pepsi. Since the subjects had no idea which product was which, they had to rely on taste buds alone. Pepsi triumphed and unleashed a biting campaign: “Let your taste decide. Take the Pepsi Challenge!”
Once a participant took the challenge, they would get a free “I Picked Pepsi (or Coke) in the Pepsi Challenge.” Participants would wear their buttons and soon everyone could see that Pepsi came out on top.
But Coca-Cola was willing to put up a fight.
The Coca-Cola Company retaliated with a new formula. This new formula angered consumers and spurred protests. People started to panic and fill up their storage rooms with cases of Coke-some spent over one thousand dollars on the original Coca-Cola products. The Coca-Cola Company had achieved exactly what it set out to do: remind consumers they didn’t want to live without Coke.
After 79 days, executives at the Coca-Cola Company pulled the new formula and replaced it with the original. The announcement of its return made the front page of every major newspaper and the Coca-Cola Company received over 30,000 calls from overjoyed consumers. America had demonstrated what the Coca-Cola Company knew all along: Coca-Cola was the preferred soft drink of the American public.
Since then, Pepsi and Coca-Cola have continued to launch advertising campaigns that deem their product tastier than the competition. There’s no saying when this long-standing spat will end.
3. Apple vs. Microsoft
For years, Microsoft and Apple have been in a race to be number one. Each company has taken shots at the other to gain more loyal customers. In years past, Apple released the Mac vs. PC ad campaign. This campaign made Windows seem like an ancient tool when compared to the state-of-the-art Mac.
Now Microsoft is having a heyday with a revenge campaign of their own. Just this past year, Microsoft released a Mac vs. PC ad campaign that makes the iPhone’s digital assistant, Siri, seem like a preschooler when compared to Cortana, the personal assistant of the Lumia 635 Windows Phone.
What sort of revenge do you think Apple has in store?
Although you probably haven’t been targeted in a local advertising war, you can still learn a lesson from past spats. Not only should you glean the importance of securing legal rights to your slogan and logo from the Koenig and Lois fight, you should also recognize how risk and comparison pay off in a big way, as evidenced by Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Apple, and Microsoft.
Before you rework your campaign or redesign your sign, ask yourself this: What does your sign say about your business? If you don’t know the answer, meet with your local sign shop to create a sign that sets your business apart.