When there's a clash between two titans of industry, the line between healthy capitalistic competition and all out war is a very fine one. Inevitably, due to either ingenuity or luck, there's a winner and loser even if the latter doesn't necessarily go belly up. From using Trojan horses in black plastic to penetrating a lucrative HD movement, to the bloody race in the American West that culminated in the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, here are the stories of 10 of the most interesting brand wars of all-time.
Blu-ray vs. HD DVD
While the PlayStation 3 certainly satisfied the hunger of gamers pining for next generation execution from the bright minds at Sony, little did they know that the device they were hooking up to their HD TV's was a potential Trojan horse in Blu-ray's attempt to solidify itself as the format of choice for HD media. Pitting Sony's aforementioned Blu-ray vs. Toshiba's HD DVD, the potential victor would secure billions of dollars not only from DVDs, but video games and the right to distribute materials from the major studios in Hollywood. On one hand, Sony promised more storage space, while Toshiba's plan included comparable storage for almost half the price. Ultimately, it was Hollywood that balked at Toshiba, earning Sony the whole pie as opposed to merely a slice of the $42 billion dollar global home entertainment market. By February 19, 2008, Toshiba officially announced that it would stop the development of the HD DVD players - thus ending the war.
adidas vs. PUMA
When you pair brothers and business, it can either end up strengthening a family bond, or become a Cain and Abel-like situation where one or both individuals want to shed the shared blood that is pumping through each other's veins. The latter could best describe what happened between Adi and Rudi Dossler just as World War II was starting.
Prior to the war, the brothers were in business together and operated under the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company banner - working out of their mother's laundry room in Herzogenaurach, Germany - and receiving their first taste of success when they managed to get Jesse Owens to wear their Waitzer model shoes as he competed and won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics. While it may seem a strange notion for the Germans to help out an American runner, the head coach of the German track team, Jo Waltzer, and friend of Adi, saw the Olympics as a "fair play" display of sportsmanship. Thus, despite risking being found out by the Nazis, he got the shoes to Owens who "wanted those shoes or none at all."
As the war escalated, there's one particular instance that many suggest was the root of the feud. According to Fortune, "when the Allies were bombing Herzogenaurach, Adi and his wife climbed into a bomb shelter already occupied by Rudi and his wife. [Adi] exclaimed, 'The dirty bastards are back again,' referring to the Allied forces. Rudi was convinced the remark was directed at him and his family." Continuing, "When Rudi got called up for service, he suspected Adi and his wife had schemed to get him sent to the front so they could have him out of the way at work. Later, Rudi was arrested first for deserting his post and then by the Allies on suspicion of working for the Gestapo. On both occasions, Rudi was convinced that Adi was the one ratting him out, his suspicions confirmed by a report filed by an American investigating officer. While Rudi languished in a prisoner of war camp, Adi rebuilt the business, selling shoes to American G.I.s."
By 1948, the companies had been split between Adi's "adidas" and Rudi's "Ruda" (which would later be changed to the more athletic sounding "PUMA") with the Aurach River separating the two factories. Since so many people's livelihoods were attached to who came out the victor, Herzogenaurach became known as the “the town of bent necks” because everyone would immediately look to see what kind of shoes you were wearing.
While there is ample room in the footwear world, even in death the two brothers couldn't stand each other as they were buried at opposite ends of the cemetery from one another.
Nintendo vs. Sega
When upstart Sega decided to go up against previously established Nintendo - who at the time controlled almost 90 percent of the gaming industry - those even vaguely interested in the "Console Wars" couldn't help but imagine a scenario where Sonic the Hedgehog took on Mario. What was particularly bold/ingenious about Sega's plan was that while gaming was viewed as a juvenile pastime, they looked to corner the market on gamers in their teens who thirsted for more realism - thus opening the door for games like Mortal Kombat which established gaming's first age ratings system. As chronicled in Blake Harris' book Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo and the Battle That Defined a Generation, there's a real sense that there was foresight that the industry could actually reach the 60 billion dollars of revenue it produces each year today. According to Wired, "[by] 1994, sales of the Sega Genesis console accounted for 55 percent of the 16-bit market, a huge turnaround from just a few years prior when Nintendo was the undisputed king of all games."
When each company released the Genesis and Super Nintendo, it was a near dead heat in terms of sales - as each churned out over $40 million USD worth of units - but the former muddied their own waters with missteps like Sega CD and 32X giving the general public the sense that Nintendo had come out the victor.
Apple vs. Samsung
When Apple and Samsung decided to lock horns in a legal battle over patent infringements pertaining to cell and tablet technology, many assumed it would not only be a lengthy fight, but one where each side was willing to pony up plenty of money for judicial victories given how lucrative the tech space was/is. As of June this year, over a billion dollars has been spent in court.
Focused heavily on the glaring similarities between Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S, Samsung and their executives denied any theft, but Apple steamed forward by claiming that 22 more Samsung products ripped off Apple. According to Vanity Fair, "Two juries have found that Samsung did indeed plot to steal the iPhone’s appearance and technology, which is why a California jury, in 2012, awarded Apple more than a billion dollars in damages from Samsung (reduced to $890 million in late 2013 after the judge found that some of the calculations were faulty). But, as the litigation drags on, Samsung has grabbed an increasing share of the market (currently 31 percent versus Apple’s 15.6 percent), not only by pumping out 'Apple-ish, only cheaper' technology but by creating its own innovative features and products."
Blockbuster vs. Netflix
While it may feel commonplace right now, the notion of bringing the video store to your doorstep and abandoning late fees was at the core of Netflix's original strategy to reinvent home entertainment. While we know that they've transitioned into original programming and are challenging the age-old Hollywood studio system, their earliest competitors were brick-and-mortar Blockbuster locations who had rendered the mom-and-pop video store practically extinct. At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster had up to 60,000 employees and more than 9,000 stores. When they were acquired by Dish in 2011, there were only 300. By 2013, every physical location was shutdown.
What's particularly interesting to note is that Blockbuster actually had an opportunity to purchase/acquire Netflix back in 2000 for $50 million USD. In a The New Yorker profile of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said, "“We offered to sell a forty-nine-percent stake and take the name Blockbuster.com. We’d be their online service.” Ultimately, Blockbuster passed and by the time they launched their own delivery service in 2004, Netflix's subscription base had jumped to 4.2 million subscribers and Blockbuster was behind the proverbial 8-ball.
Ferrari vs. Lamborghini
You know you have the foundation for a spicy rivalry when the dissatisfaction with one company results in the creation of another. Such is the case between Ferrari and Lamborghini. Founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1929 as Scuderia Ferrari, the Italian manufacturer thrived during the War despite having his factory bombed by the Allies in 1944. Twenty years later and Ferruccio Lamborghini would have something idling to challenge Ferrari's supercar supremacy.
Lamborghini was an Italian tractor magnate whose dissatisfaction with his own Ferrari birthed the brand. As legend has it, Ferruccio approached Enzo regarding a noisy clutch to which Ferrari proclaimed, "if you don't like it, go build your own!" While both companies have become synonymous with automotive luxury, they have achieved their successes by sticking to their initial guns. On one hand, Ferrari's racing roots are hard to ignore on beauties like the Ferrari 250 GTO, Ferrari Dino, Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer, Ferrari Testarossa, Ferrari F40 – the last Ferrari model Enzo Ferrari lived to see before his passing in the same year – and the Ferrari 550 Maranello. On the other hand, Lamborghini has relied on building a superior sports car like the Lamborghini Miura, Lamborghini Espada, Lamborghini Countach, Lamborghini Diablo, Lamborghini Murcielago and Lamborghini Gallardo.
In 2013 Ferrari earned €2.3 billion EUR, while Lamborghini raked in €508 million EUR.
Thomas Edison vs. Nikola Tesla
Dubbed the "War of Currents," the two master inventors faced off in the late 19th century to see who would illuminate the world and make electricity commonplace as opposed to merely a luxury amenity. In one corner, you had Edison who relied heavily on experimentation - resulting in trial and error - while Tesla's extensive engineering background made him capable to understand if things would work prior to entering the testing phase. Despite their differences, Tesla would go to work under Edison at the Continental Edison Company in 1882. Friction quickly formed as Edison deemed many if not all of Tesla's designs to be "impractical."
When it came time to finally map out a strategy to bring power to the people, Tesla was convinced that AC (alternating current) was the best route given that the flow of energy could periodically change direction which would allow vast quantities of energy which could power large cities and their industry.
Edison's DC (direct current) was definitely safer because it was a current that ran continually in a single direction like in a battery or a fuel cell, but it only allowed for a power grid with a one-mile radius from the power source so it potentially couldn't meet the power needs of factories.
According to Energy.gov, "Edison, not wanting to lose the royalties he was earning from his direct current patents, began a campaign to discredit alternating current. He spread misinformation saying that alternating current was more dangerous, even going so far as to publicly electrocute stray animals using alternating current to prove his point."
The Chicago World’s Fair took place in 1893 at the height of the Current War. General Electric bid to electrify the fair using Edison’s direct current for $554,000, but lost to George Westinghouse - who had purchased many of Tesla's patents - who said he could power the fair for only $399,000. Ultimately, he not only won that contract, but also the contract to generate power from Niagara Falls which many believed could power the entire Eastern United States. By this time, General Electric had switched over to AC.
While computers, LEDs, solar cells and electric vehicles all run on DC power, the infrastructure of what we deem "power" relies on Tesla's AC.
Coke vs. Pepsi
The Cola Wars looked to fight for beverage supremacy and the ability to lubricate your tastebuds with sugary goodness. While Coca-Cola has been around since 1886 and PepsiCo since 1893, things didn't really start to heat up until 1975 when the latter introduced the "Pepsi Challenge" which showed that most people favored the taste of Pepsi in a blind taste test. In a disastrous misstep by Coke based off a marketing ploy, they reformatted Coke's formula and launched "New Coke" in 1985.
Pepsi seemed to have Coke reeling, and also happened to have the support of some of the biggest stars in the world. Whether a cruel joke or some kind of divine intervention, the legendary mishap with Michael Jackson, David Bowie's sexual assault on the heels of a major ad campaign featuring him, and the usage of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" in a commercial whose song was deemed blasphemous, gave Coke their opening. Additionally, in 1993, consumers in more than 20 states began finding syringes in their cans of Pepsi.
In October 1996, the cover of Fortune read, "How Coke Is Kicking Pepsi's Can" who asserted, "Coca-Cola makes mistakes too (it will never live down New Coke). But in general, Coke devises strategies, oversees operations, and develops talent in ways virtually antithetical to PepsiCo's. Instead of a sprint, Coke opts for the long run." Many assume the official signal to the end of the Cola Wars was when Diet Coke surpassed Pepsi as the second most popular soft drink in 2011. That same year, Coke sold $28 billion USD worth of soda while Pepsi came in at $12 billion USD.
Union Pacific vs. Central Pacific
When the United States Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862 it was settled that Union Pacific would lay rails west from Omaha, and the Central Pacific would start in Sacramento and build east. Each company would receive $16,000 for each mile of track of flat prairie land, $32,000 per mile for hilly terrain, and $48,000 per mile in the mountains - while also receiving 20 alternate sections of land for each mile of track completed in order to increase the speed at which the companies would work. Above all, both companies aimed for Ogden and Salt Lake City, for the railroad that captured these Mormon cities would control the traffic of the Great Basin.
Aside from the lawlessness associated with the times, Pacific used Chinese immigrant labor, while Union was staffed by Irishmen. For every one Union Pacific worker who was killed on the job due to an accident, four would be murdered in the various Hell on Wheels towns.
On May 10, 1869, both companies met in Promontory, Utah having competed 690 track-miles from Sacramento and 1,086 from Omaha. Geographically speaking, Union Pacific had won.
Tubes Sites vs. The Adult Industry
You know 'em. You've seen 'em. You've used 'em to give yourself a low-five. Regardless of the particular site you fancy, anyone with a fleeting awareness of how the Internet works understands that pornography is basically free aside from a few high-profile releases each year that usually feature "celebrities." Whereas the music industry fought back against early music sharing sites that culminated in compromises like Pandora and Spotify, a loophole in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows tube sites to knowingly go after a piece of the $13 billion USD tied to adult entertainment. According to the way the Act is written, Section 512 declares that online service providers are protected from liability for information posted or transmitted by subscribers if they quickly remove or disable access to material identified in a copyright holder's complaint. "We're dealing with the perfect storm: declining DVD sales, rampant piracy, free content and a weak economy," Steven Hirsch, founder of porn heavyweight Vivid Entertainment told the USA Today. The newspaper goes on to assert, "Vivid's Hirsch likens the exercise to a digital version of Whac-A-Mole. His company must troll the Internet, looking for offenders. It issues a letter, asking the offending site to take down its content within the law's 72-hour deadline. But the pirated content often is resurrected on someone else's site after being taken down."
Reports suggest that 80 percent of porn companies are now dead or defunct.