IMAGINE THE TOP FOUR BRANDS IN A CATEGORY
Starting in the middle, brands in positions two and three often see their marketing efforts caught in a tug-of-war between the fight against the pure power of the leader in the traditional channels and the challenger’s dynamism in the new media channels. Their straddle often causes them to have me-too follower strategies that hinder true differentiation in the category.
The leading brand has established distribution and has healthy enough budgets to allow it to ‘win’ with traditional media dollars. They also invest in new media strategies like content marketing and influencer marketing, but often fail to gain the tacit understanding needed to activate the ‘grassroots’ when they approach the work from their top-down perch. The chances are good that if you’re the company spending the most on advertising in your category, you also might be the one who’s in the most trouble.
By contrast, the fourth position challenger brand often generates its Brand Action out of necessity and has built their platforms during the rise of these new methods. They typically aren’t hampered by historical distribution or marketing paradigms, and most don’t yet have big enough budgets for large traditional media reach. These brands have generated huge online and offline audiences of loyalists who will advocate for the brand endlessly because they know the brand understands them in a way that other brands in the category don’t.
Sparked by mobile tech and accelerated by the arrival of the iPhone, the advertising world saw a shift toward the breakdown of traditional media. Curated “best of” lists, reviews, and one-click buys put consumers ever-closer to products by condensing the awareness and consideration steps of the consumer journey into a streamlined purchasing experience. These new challenger brands have relied on an entirely new marketing mix with more unique engagement for their modern consumer to interact with online and offline—often blurring the lines between the two.
The brands that are doing it right understand that consumers’ dollars are being spent more on brands that show up authentically in the spaces their audiences consume content. Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, Google Search, live, experiential, advocacy, word of mouth, and influencers have allowed brands to bridge the ocean between their products and consumers. Brands like Tesla, YETI Coolers, Dollar Shave Club, and Sitka Gear overtook the mindshare of their competitors and accomplished it largely without spending a dime on traditional advertising. Chances are you have a challenger brand in your category, or one is being born now, that will unseat your lead brands.