Your Challenger Brand Doesn’t Need a Celebrity

July 21, 2017 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

A flashy celeb or athlete can add some panache to your brand, but at what cost? Between the talent fee, travel expenses, scheduling issues, and the potential for a crisis in character, a challenger brand needs to carefully weigh the pros and cons before aligning with a celebrity.

A tried and true alternative is to create your own household name. Lower cost and free from controversial opinions or behaviors that could send your brand into crisis mode, you can create a unique, made-for-your-brand personality that is perfectly on-message.

Take these examples as proof that you don’t need a celebrity to push your product.

Flo from Progressive
Since 2008, the perky character, Flo for Progressive has become one of the world’s most recognizable faces in advertising. With more than 100 commercials under her belt (or should we say “apron”), Stephanie Courtney incorporated a bit of ad lib and natural charm that resonated with consumers and made the dry topic of insurance a bit more joyful. As a proof of her popularity, Flo has 4.8 million Facebook likes compared with Progressive at only has 406,000 Facebook likes.

The Most Interesting Man in the World
For those “who don’t always drink beer, but when they do …” Dos Equis could have chosen any number of movie stars or athletes. Instead, the brand held a big, cattle-call casting and made an unexpected choice that went viral, penetrated pop culture, and delivered bottom-line sucess. From the beginning of the campaign in 2007, lager sales increased up to 34 percent in 2016. The brand has since replaced the original Most Interesting Man, but the actor, Jonathan Goldsmith has switched to Astral Tequila. Hey, he said himself he doesn’t always drink beer.

Verizon … now Sprint
Can you hear me now? Good. Another spokesperson to switch teams is Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” guy. The 2002-2010 campaign transformed a common question cellular users bemoaned into an in an international catchphrase. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery—and a sign of a smashing campaign—Sprint and Deutsch recently embarked on a bold ad burn by hiring the spokesperson, Paul Marcarelli as their pitchman and launching the campaign during the NBA finals. As for the switch, here’s what Verizon had to say, “They’re using our 2002 pitchman because they’re finally catching up to our 2002 network.”

Mayhem with Allstate
Mayhem exploded on to the scene in 2010 for Allstate. When he wasn’t regularly replying irreverently to Facebook comments and questions, he wreaked havoc in a continual, six-year campaign created by Leo Burnett. Mayhem was set up to go head to head with Flo, or as an ad exec explained, “We wanted to kick Flo’s ass.” He certainly came close as he also is ranked as one of the most recognizable faces of advertising. A consumer survey validated the campaign’s effectiveness with 63 percent of consumers correctly matching Mayhem with Allstate. For the social media score, Allstate has 573,000 likes and Mayhem has 1.9 million likes. It seems people basically do appreciate a little mayhem in their lives.

Rug Doctor’s Director of Clean
LOOMIS has taken our own aforementioned advice by creating the D.O.C. for challenger brand, Rug Doctor. Grounded in fact, the D.O.C. is a fictional take on Rug Doctor’s actual research and development facility in Fenton, Mo. As comically depicted in the ad, dedicated chemists and mechanical engineers collaborate daily to test and enhance the machines. The campaign began in the spring of 2017 and has the potential to serve as a ten-year brand voice for the DIY deep carpet cleaning system.

Introducing an original, spokesperson-turned-celebrity gives you the opportunity to craft and refine your challenger brand persona with less money and risk and still keeps you in the game with your competitors.

For more information on challenger brands check out some of our recent blog posts:

You May Be Killing Your Brand (and Not Even Know It)

Swapping Paid Talent for True Authenticity

Mike Sullivan

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


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.