How To Think Like A Challenger Brand
Today’s market is fast-moving and it’s volatile. Covid-19 has shaken up industries across the board and no matter your company’s size, your survival is at risk if you fail to disrupt, excite, and prove your innovative edge. Big brands need to think more innovatively, nimbly and creatively if they want to stay top of mind for their customers once this is over.
Boston Consulting Group shared the time it took for inventions to reach 100 million users, and the findings were hugely telling.
Startups have been bringing new ideas and innovation to categories that we’re beginning to get stale. To stay relevant and inspire devotion in customers. large corporations need to start adopting some challenger behaviours.
Challenger brands are capitalising on their creativity and agility. Mature brands are winning when it comes to their longevity and experience. If mature brands can learn a few lessons from the new guys, they will be able to strengthen their businesses and create more value for their customers.
Why Is This Important?
EVERYONE is at risk of not surviving Covid-19 if we don’t think quick, take risks and innovate. These traits may come naturally to startups, but larger operations need to start learning (or un-learning) fast if they want to keep up.
Challenger brands are Davids, not Goliaths. They may be small, but they’re extremely ambitious. And successful ones can actually revolutionize entire industries. Mature brands, like Dove and T‑Mobile, have caught on to this fact. We’ve laid out how you can start thinking like a challenger brand below.
– Fast to react to the environment and pivot if needed
– Fast to see an opportunity
– Comfortable leveraging partnerships
– Aware of piggybacking opportunities
– Cost-savvy (spend don’t save, but spend wisely)
– Not scared to stand out (in fact they want to)
– Clear in their point of view (even if it offends)
– Managed risk-takers
– Incredibly passionate about their businesses
What Can We Learn From Challenger Brands?
Think like a startup, and your brand will stand out in today’s ultra-competitive environment.
Be Nimble, Be Quick
Startups have an entrepreneurial spirit at their core. Each team member feels as though they own the business; that it’s on them to scale and make the company famous. They will take risks and test new ideas. Their flexibility in production and design processes allow them to identify new trends and tap into them much quicker than a large corporation might be able to. “The typical product launch time is four months for DTC companies, compared to 22 months for CPG companies, as noted in data from IAB and McKinsey.” To think like a challenger, marketers will need to communicate with their audience quickly in order to test out their novel ideas and pivot as quickly as possible.
Zapier for example, lost $2.8 million in annual revenue, and survived. The bootstrapping startup was able to pivot through crisis and stay nimble. And it actually worked.
Build A Community
Challenger brands are so successful because they connect with their customers in a relatable and engaging way. Leverage the power of your digital channels and you’ve got a direct path to form a valuable relationship with them. Bullocks with the large traditional advertising campaigns. Get in there with smaller groups of passionate followers and cultivate loyalty with them.
People are emotionally invested in brands that actively listen to them. So, step away from the boardrooms and stakeholder meetings just for a second and listen. Free, unasked-for feedback is everywhere and just floating around for you to catch all over your social channels and across the internet. Use this feedback to create a highly personalised experience for your core audience.
Marketers in smaller brands wear many hats. It’s all hands on deck and as a result, there is more opportunity for collaboration across branding, strategy, and activation teams. If you have more ideas, you have more chances to innovate.
Mindset is important too…
Challengers are naturally curious. They ask questions, even bad ones. In doing so they come across as human. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, they are gaining exclusive insights that the brands who are too afraid to ask, won’t get.
Why? Why not? What if?
Find your hunger for understanding the world, we all have it. Default to thinking that there is always a better way, and you might actually find it.
Use Your Imagination
Don’t clam up and hold on to the past, this will make your brand stale. Explore new possibilities and keep your mind open to change.
Entrepreneurial thinking has a lot to do with repurposing fear as a motivational tool. Disregard the status quo and think fearlessly. Fear is natural to all of us; be sure to use it to motivate you rather than hold you and your team back. Be bold, be brave, and try new tactics.
What Are Mature Brands Doing Right?
We’ve been touting a lot about the benefits of thinking like challenger brands, but don’t lose sight of what makes your mature brand tick. Combine a fresh, brave type of thinking with mature company learnings and you’ll be in a frighteningly strong position.
Engage Customers from the Get-Go
By ‘get-go’ we mean the research phase. Mature brands have a knack with creating editorial content that targets their audience in the research phase. Before customers even know they are interested in a product, take your opportunity to engage them. Offer help, give valuable insights, answer FAQs. Identify your customers’ problems and then nudge toward the solution. By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you’re able to make highly informed consumer-based marketing decisions.
Scale Your Digital
Social channels have huge marketing potential, we all understand that. Mature brands stay a step ahead by tracking their social media growth and then translating it into best practices for multi-channel marketing. By diversifying your marketing, you can connect with different demographics.
Understand the Rules, Then Break Them
The most loved challenger brands are well aware of the rules, and they actively choose to break them. Method, for example, doesn’t try to compete on how powerful their cleaning products are. They are well-positioned as an eco-friendly option and they spend their time communicating that design, smell, and overall aesthetic is really important too. Their the dish soap brand that actually looks good sitting on your kitchen counter.
Take a Stand
Put your brand values front and centre. Your values should be ones that you genuinely believe in as a company. People want to support brands that take a stand because they are more relevant in today’s culture. Read more on taking a stand here.
Mature brands, like Gillette, who have been brave enough to break the rules too have shown that it does pay off. A legacy of alpha male positioning was blown to bits in their commercial that rejects toxic masculinity and celebrates a new kind of manhood. It shook things up, and it worked.
Make People Feel Something
Be emotive in your branding and marketing campaigns. People connect strongly to stories because we are such emotional beings. Tap into that. A good place to always start is with your brand values. What does your brand feel strongly about? Tune into your audience. What gets them ohing and awwing? What gets them feeling happy, sad, or angry?
Swim Against The Tide
See those sector norms? Mess them up a bit. Mix them up and even be so bold as to chuck them out the window.
Monzo came out of nowhere and offered an unbeatable customer experience. No long drawn-out calls to the bank, no waiting on hold, no lengthy process to change your card or pin. And also has anyone noticed, no backhanded fees… ever. They completely transformed the world of banking for their customers and they kept a refreshingly upbeat, young and colloquial tone of voice through it all.
Make Them Love You
We love Ben Keene’s ‘Five R’s of Tribe Building’: Reason, Ritual, Rhythm, Respect, and Reward. Online communities are one of the major factors that set challenger brands apart. Employees and even team leaders and founders are easily accessible, entertaining, and highly tuned into their company.
Put Customers In The Centre
Startups are really good at making customers feel like they are at the centre of their world. And they should be. Put your customers at the heart of your business model. Get obsessed with customer experience as much as you are with the product. Be relevant, personal, and easy to use.
Have you seen how Pampers gives their customers an online treasure trove of parenting and pregnancy resources? The whole website acts as one seamless platform that brings the expecting parent on a journey and holds their hand while diving into parenthood.
Commit To Digital, Completely
A major lesson we seem to have all learned from lockdown, is when all else fails digital is still accessible to most people. A half-hearted digital strategy won’t keep you top of mind. Try to refrain from thinking of it as a separate channel, with a separate team. Digital should be integrated across all channels and in every area of your company. CMO’s need to up their digital learning and support their teams learning new digital skills as well. Don’t outsource, don’t create a digital role. You are digital now. Que the robots taking over the world.
Get Everyone Client-Side Onboard
From a brand manager point of view, making sure feedback to a design agency is consistent and from one voice is crucial in running a successful creative project. Make sure you get everyone client-side onboard before delivering feedback to a creative team. This will keep clarity over design execution and allow you to act more like an entrepreneur than a committee.
Get Stakeholder Buy-In From The Beginning
Getting stakeholders to buy in at the beginning is also key. Make them feel they have input in the initial strategy. If they are on the journey with you from the start, you’ll find it much easier later on when you want to be brave with design with disruption. Getting them to see the value in your new ideas at the beginning, and agreeing on the new positioning you are taking will help underpin your efforts, should you come up against challenges during the creative journey post strategy.
Be True To Your Brand
One size will never fit all. Especially when it comes to global, innovative companies. Key stakeholders, including employees, partners and investors, all have their own priorities and personalities. But by inspiring each individual to think disruptively, you’ll begin to see how traditional learnings can blend with challenger brand thinking in your own unique way. Underpinning everything with marketing insight and clear knowledge of your customer will allow you to truly resonate and make waves.
Combine the best attributes of a challenger culture with the scalability of a big corporate and you’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Regardless of region, rank, or role, everyone in the company needs to be inspired to innovate. Nurture this thinking and bring some really original ideas to market.
Still curious? Check out our upcoming online festival ‘The Disruptors Vs. The Disrupted’ here.
To be a Future Unicorn, you need to think like a challenger brand. We can help your big corporation think small. Book in time to strategize with our team here.