Feral Differentiation:
The Brand Enemy Positioning Strategy

Remember the Cola wars? The brand enemy is a positioning concept that many major players famously exploited.

So what is a brand enemy, and how do you choose it?

Simply put, the brand enemy defines who or what you want to fight against. Every brand needs an enemy and can use it to position itself in antithesis to what that enemy embodies.

The enemy is pictured as wrong, outdated, or problematic, and the brand is automatically seen as not that. But your brand enemy can be many things: a competitor brand, an idea, or a person. So what’s the difference, and is one approach better?


you position your brand by creating an association with the competing brand.

This invites comparison in the mind of your target audience and consumers. But when you compare, you can lose. Especially if the differentiator you propose isn’t as well-received as you hoped.

💡 WHEN YOUR BRAND ENEMY IS AN IDEA, or a way of doing things, you position your brand in antithesis with that idea or way of doing things, and you show the world that you are forward-thinking.

This does not invite direct comparison, so there's less risk. But you need to use an idea that’s thoroughly disliked by your target audience, and that stirs up an emotional response in them. Otherwise, it may not be that helpful.

🧍WHEN YOUR BRAND ENEMY IS A PERSON, you position your brand in antithesis with that person/group. That means you come against what that person embodies and what they stand for. Against the ideas that are publicly associated with them.

This can be used especially if you want to take a more nuanced, possibly political stance. While this used to be a no-no for brands, the current divisive climate created the need for brands to disassociate from harmful and hateful ideas. As a result, we now see many brands taking a stance against people who publicly express hateful rhetoric. A few recent examples are Nike and Adidas.

This, in fact, is a different form of using an idea as the enemy but personifying it through the people who embrace it. Please tread carefully here. Sometimes there's a fine line between standing up for what's right and falling on the side of “cancel culture”.

🧠 So here you have it! Three ways to think about the brand enemy. There are more ways to deconstruct and delve into the brand enemy concept, but this is a blog article, not my university master's course, so deal with it. 🤓