Building Authenticity and Trust As A Challenger Brand

July 24, 2023 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

In today’s highly competitive market, establishing credibility and building trust is crucial for brands, especially for those that are challenging established names in their industry. Challenger brands are defined by their tenacity to disrupt the status quo and provide innovative solutions affecting a significant change in the market. But how do these challengers build and maintain trust with customers, especially when they are perceived as the underdog?

Creating authentic engagement.

Interacting with customers on a personal level is one of the best ways to build trust. In fact, according to Salesforce, 56% of customers expect offers to be personalized. But when only 68% of those customers trust companies to tell the truth, the way you engage with them can make or break your brand in their eyes. Whether it’s on social media, through live chat, or via customer service platforms, listening and responding promptly to feedback, questions, and concerns demonstrates commitment. And with 95% of customers saying they’re more likely to remain loyal to a brand that they trust, their trust is something worth earning.

One challenger brand that has done this extremely well is Liquid Death. The rebellious, canned water positioned itself in a way so different from its competitors that it doesn’t even seem to be in the same category.

With a heavy metal aesthetic, bold message, and careful targeting, LD became a cult brand by being authentically different. It’s not hydration, it’s the deadliest stuff on earth.

Forging meaningful connections.

Challenger brands often use user-generated content (UGC) as a powerful tool to establish trust and forge meaningful connections with their customers. Using UGC, particularly photos on social media, offers a window into the life and experiences of real customers, which can then influence other real customers in their purchasing decisions.

By showcasing unfiltered moments, genuine reactions, and personal stories of individuals who have embraced their products or services, challenger brands position themselves as relatable and trustworthy alternatives to established industry players. Trust also comes from the sense of community developed through active customer engagement. While featuring UGC allows brands to celebrate and appreciate their customers, it’s essential that it be done in a distinctive, genuine way. You want them to become brand advocates, not call out your brand for the wrong reasons.

Maintaining a strong brand purpose.

Authenticity and transparency are crucial for building trust but can only be sustained if they are rooted in a strong brand purpose. Challenger brands often have bold missions that go beyond profit, such as reimagining a service, promoting sustainability, or equality. These brands leverage their mission to create a powerful brand story, compelling customers to believe in them, and putting their needs before profits.

Effectively communicating your brand purpose to customers is essential. Conveying your mission, values, and societal impact helps customers understand how your purpose addresses their needs, desires, and concerns. The goal is to foster a deeper emotional connection, build trust, and establish a loyal customer base. To do that, you have to demonstrate transparency in actions and in communications. Sharing information openly about your operations, sourcing practices, and social impact initiatives builds credibility and reinforces the brand’s commitment to its purpose. By being transparent about successes, challenges, and ongoing improvements, challenger brands can strengthen trust and reinforce their dedication to making a positive difference.

A goosebump-raising example of this is Dove’s Self-Esteem Project for #KidsOnlineSafety. Tying back to their 20-year-long message of Real Beauty, the campaign not only wants to raise the esteem of women and young girls but showcases the brand’s commitment to making social media a more positive place by taking a stand against its harmful design. In short, making platforms safer for kids.

By leaning into its purpose and standing against the typical imagery and message of a beauty product Dove has created brand advocates.

It all comes down to this: Building trust with customers is about establishing an emotional connection with them that is grounded in authenticity, transparency, strong engagement, and purpose. By keeping these essential practices in mind and leveraging relevant platforms, challenger brands can establish credibility, build trust with customers, and carve out a space in highly competitive industries.

MIKE SULLIVAN is president and CEO at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising, and marketing, leadership, culture, and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

For more about LOOMIS, or to discuss how we can help your company succeed, CLICK HERE

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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