Super Bowl 50: 7 Lessons for Challenger Brands

Super Bowl Ads Challenger Brands
(Reading Time: 5 minutes)

About five million dollars. That’s the cost for one of this year’s 30-second Super Bowl ads.

For most of us who lead challenger brands, that kind of outlay simply isn’t in the realm of possibility. As underdogs, we’re used to doing more with less.

The Super Bowl – and, in particular, the hype surrounding its ads – is perhaps the greatest example in business of flawed thinking on a grand scale. Though attention is heightened during the big game, viewers are primarily looking to be entertained. (This is how we get a Bud Light ad with “caucus” jokes. Oof, you are so ribald!)

Of course, ads that entertain don’t necessarily sell. And challenger brands know that it’s all about selling.

So let’s talk about what the rest of us can learn from this year’s Super Bowl ads. Continue reading “Super Bowl 50: 7 Lessons for Challenger Brands”

“The Perfect Beer for (Insert Anything Here)”: Bud Light and Empty Claims

(Reading Time: 3 minutes)

to thisWhile visiting Northeastern Ohio over the holidays, I came across cans of Bud Light that were customized in Cleveland Browns colors. The cans featured the following slogan:

“The Perfect Beer for Being Dawg Pound Proud”

Bud Light loves the Browns!
Bud Light loves the Browns!

(For those that may not know, the Dawg Pound is the nickname for the bleacher seats behind the east end zone of FirstEnergy Stadium, where the most fervent Browns fans congregate.)

My first reaction to this slogan was that it couldn’t have been written by anyone familiar with the team. I’ve been a Browns fan all my life, and “proud” is not a word we’re using these days. “Justifiably outraged” is more like it; the Browns have just one winning season in the last 13, and have lost 18 of their last 21 games.

My second reaction was: Continue reading ““The Perfect Beer for (Insert Anything Here)”: Bud Light and Empty Claims”

Two Rules for Winning for Challenger Brands

Two rules for winning for challenger brands
(Reading Time: 4 minutes)

Most brands are challenger brands. Probably yours.

It’s not just a matter of share. If you have fewer resources than your competitors, you’re a challenger brand. You might have a smaller budget. Lower awareness. A short-handed sales team. Or all of these, plus a few things I haven’t listed, you lucky devil.

I’ve been fortunate to work on challenger brands for my entire career, in both brand management and consulting. I say “fortunate” because victory is sweeter when you come from behind, or when you achieve more with less.

Around 20 years ago, I was the brand manager of Airheads candy. At the time, our two largest competitors, Skittles and Starburst, outspent us by about 20 to 1. Despite this, we tripled our sales in less than five years. And we launched what became the fastest-selling non-chocolate single in the country. (The Airheads 6-bar package can still be found near cash registers today.)

The lesson I learned early: Continue reading “Two Rules for Winning for Challenger Brands”

Personal Trainers, Walmart and Differentiation

Walmart Target Logos Differentiation
(Reading Time: 3 minutes)

At the gym I frequent, there’s a personal trainer I don’t think very highly of.  Let’s call him Duff.

My issue with Duff is that he doesn’t push his clients to work out very hard.  In fact, I’ve never seen one sweat.  Instead, it’s more like Social Hour. Sometimes, Duff and his client are chatting it up during an exercise, which suggests a pretty low level of exertion.  I wish his clients would stop wasting their time and money, and I want Duff to do better training on their behalf.

On a seemingly unrelated note, yesterday I visited a Walmart in Chicago’s west suburbs.  At this store, merchandising took a back seat to other priorities; “cluttered” is a fair term to use.

Continue reading “Personal Trainers, Walmart and Differentiation”

Target Market Definition: How to Create Yours

Target Market Definition Brand Strategy
(Reading Time: 5 minutes)

In a previous post, we met Beth and Andy, two fictitious (but reality-based) designers who take very different approaches to their target market definition.

Andy’s approach is “I can do it all, and all sales are good sales.” Beth is more deliberate and precise.  By defining her ideal client and project, she also defines the kind of business she doesn’t want. Hers is a much more effective approach, particularly for challenger brands.

Today, I’ll show you how to create your ideal target market definition. The framework is meant to be broad enough to apply to everything from a solo consultant to a major consumer brand, so it will need to be tweaked as appropriate to your particular situation. (Also, for the rest of this post, I’ll use the word “consumers” to include clients and customers as well.) Continue reading “Target Market Definition: How to Create Yours”

Who’s Your Ideal Client?

ideal client or customer
(Reading Time: 3 minutes)

At two different coffee meetings, I ask two designers to tell me who their ideal client is. Both answer confidently.

Andy tells me this: “I can do it all – logos, print, graphic design, web – and in all kinds of industries.”

Beth tells me this: “I excel at serving clients who either need to build a visual identity from the ground up or completely overhaul an existing one, and then apply it across multiple media. My expertise is particularly deep in B2B. And my minimum for an integrated project is $20,000.” Continue reading “Who’s Your Ideal Client?”

Quick Fix or Long Haul?

(Reading Time: 3 minutes)

When it comes to building your company or brand, are you in it for the long haul?  Or do you seek the quick fix?

Recently, I came across a website offering a $77 paperback book that claims to teach small business owners how to draft a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). I won’t dignify this book by linking to it, but I will share a few of its sales claims, because they’re among the most ridiculous I’ve ever heard. According to the author, after reading his book, you will be able to: Continue reading “Quick Fix or Long Haul?”

Make a Real Brand Guarantee

Holiday Inn Brand Guarantee
(Reading Time: 4 minutes)

A few weeks ago in this space, we discussed “Reasons to Believe.” We defined RTBs as persuasive facts that support the promise you make or the difference you claim.

Reasons to Believe are particularly critical in this era of eroding consumer trust. These days, you should assume distrust. That’s because consumers have been disappointed so many times in the past – lousy customer service, bait-n-switch, golden parachutes for incompetent execs, you name it. Continue reading “Make a Real Brand Guarantee”

Want better results? Dig deep.

(Reading Time: 4 minutes)

Looking for better results from your marketing and branding efforts? The answer may be as simple as digging a little deeper.

Too often, we opt for the fast, easy or cheap choice, when it’s really the accurate choice that we need. As budgets are reduced, this pressure increases. When this happens, we sacrifice long-term benefits for short-term convenience. Continue reading “Want better results? Dig deep.”