Challenger Brands: What It Really Means to Stand Out

Challenger Brands: What It Really Means to Stand Out

The summer blockbuster season is upon us and Disney-Pixar’s Incredibles 2 movie tells another tale of distrusted superheroes forced to live full-time lives of normalcy. Capes, masks, and heroics are still replaced with commuting, homemaking, and monotonous desk jobs as our key protagonists, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, set out to prove that their extraordinary abilities make them much more than faces in the crowd.

If you’re responsible for leading the marketing/advertising charge for a challenger brand, you may recognize the heroes’ situation. Challenger brands share their ambition: in their own quest to stand out, they’re hungry to convey what’s authentically special about their product or service.

But knowing what sets you apart and making people notice, believe in, and respond to those special traits are very different things.
“Challenger brands generally know they must reach the world differently, and that’s a good start,” says Jacqueline Lieberman, Chief Strategy Officer at Story Worldwide. “But most are stuck there. In their efforts to convey uniqueness, they may be trying out innovative campaigns to get people’s attention, but so is everyone else, which just leads to continual sameness. Today’s challenge is to find your unique brand story and then make it contextual to people’s lives.”

In other words, it’s not enough to be seen as different; your story needs to actually matter to people on a personal level, to have a natural, welcome place within their personal joys, aspirations, interests, and escapes. 
A tall order? Absolutely. But it’s necessary in a world where your brand message competes with a sea of movie trailers, playlists, and social feeds, as well as the buzz of traditional ads that we’ve all learned to tune out). And then there’s the rise of copycat brands attempting to confuse target consumers: fashion, hygiene, food, and beverage brands have been dealing with this phenomenon for years, while innovator brands (think Uber) and rapid-rise challengers (like Casper mattresses) are also finding themselves especially susceptible.
But here’s the good news: beating the noise by differentiating and contextualizing is completely accomplishable. The first step is to uncover what makes your brand story unique and then articulate it in-market.

Your distinct story serves as the foundation for all campaigns, so there’s no need to keep redefining your brand with each initiative. After all, if your creative teams can’t consistently—or accurately—convey what makes your brand story different from your competitors’, it’s going to tough to stand out, let alone matter to people  

At Story, we help challenger brands reach this place through a systematic process where we find, test, and define a brand story. Quickly.

We start with fast immersion and stakeholder interviews to dig into the brand DNA to uncover a distinct and modern story to inspire audiences. The brand story we uncover serves as the basis to inspire and connect all future communications. Nailing that connective thread seems to be the biggest marketing challenge brands face.