Competitive brand battles can be drawn out affairs, outlasting the tenures of several management teams. They can also be very expensive, often requiring outlays in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In some cases, billions of dollars are involved. It’s not just Coke versus Pepsi. These battles occur in every industry and practically every product category. Visa versus Mastercard. Nike versus Adidas. Colgate versus Crest. Airbus versus Boeing. Caterpillar versus Komatsu. Dell versus Lenovo versus Acer versus HP. Viagra versus Levitra versus Cialis. The list goes on and on.

Brand battles consist of far more than just marketing tactics and consume significant managerial attention. They can define the dynamics of their respective industries for years (or even decades), pushing market segmentation and technological boundaries, driving product innovation, catalyzing mergers and instigating corporate growth and rationalization. Combatants need to arm themselves with a clear understanding of the battlefield and their own competitive objectives and strategy, as well as a thorough grasp of the most important competitive levers, and, for good measure, a gauge of the yardsticks by which success will be defined. But that’s not enough to win.

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