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Can Creating An Enemy Help Your Brand Succeed?

Author: Amanda Hosking

We all know the essential parts of creating a great brand: name, logo, sound, persona, values etc. However, there is another important part if you want to really engage with your audience…find an enemy!

While this may seem negative and a bad move, it can help your brand to grow and become recognised. An enemy can push your brand to new heights and encourage you to be more creative. It gives customers someone to ‘dislike’ and re-enforces their loyalty to your brand. So how does an enemy do this?

A prime example comes from Apple and their 1984 advertisement promoting the release of the Macintosh. In the advert, Apple represents PC users as boring and obedient with no originality of their own. The Apple Mac user, on the other hand, is presented as cool and rebellious. By making this comparison Apple creates an enemy and encourages people to join one of the two groups. It is asking ‘do you want to be outgoing and rebellious or conform like everyone else?’.

Consumers who choose Apple Macs will feel a stronger connection to the brand as they have a joint dislike of PC’s users. This encourages people to develop an emotional bond to the brand. By creating an enemy people may go from just liking Apple products to loving them. We can see this in the modern day with the devoted Apple users who only use Apple products.  They have built a strong following and an ability to keep their customers engaged.

This shows that enemies can create emotional responses in consumers and can further build on their brand loyalty. Customers become part of the story (Mac vs PC) and stay intrigued and excited by it. They will also feel a sense of belonging to the group they choose. Again, we see this now with dedicated Apple or Microsoft users poking fun at the opposite side and criticising their products.

There are many other brands that have run with the enemy idea. Coke and Pepsi are one of the most notable with competition going back for decades. In 1983 Pepsi targeted Coke in their ‘Pepsi Challenge’ advertisements which showed that most people preferred Pepsi in blind taste tests. This aimed to encourage people to become Pepsi drinkers and made the taste of Coke seem substandard. However, Coke fought back in terms of branding and marketing which they excel at, making the brand look ‘fun’ and ‘cool’ to consumers. For example, the Share a Coke campaign and the nostalgic Christmas advertisements. This competition thus inspires users to choose a side and become Coke or Pepsi drinkers.

This evidence shows how creating an enemy can be beneficial for your brand. If you can identify a brand that goes against your brand's values and beliefs (as Apple did), they may be the perfect enemy for you to choose. You could also look for a strong competitor in the same area that you can challenge just like Pepsi does.