Five Ways To Make Advertising Work Harder For Your Challenger Brand

March 18, 2014 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Unless your company dominates its category, it’s a challenger brand. It may or may not be a strong challenger brand, and the difference often comes down to marketing. Unfortunately, one hallmark of challenger brands is that their marketing ambitions generally outstrip their resources. They don’t enjoy the benefits of big ad budgets, so challengers have to outthink rather than outspend competitors. Here are five ways to do that.

1. Take the “So What?” test. If your advertising doesn’t make it immediately apparent why your product or service is relevant and compelling, you’ve failed the “So What?” test. Consumers have too many options and there’s too much noise for half-hearted advertising messages. Passing the “So What?” test requires an unflinching look in the mirror and the discipline to make the necessary changes.

2. Don’t follow the leader. Too often, challenger brands look to the leader for direction. But the strategies and tactics that work at the front of the pack are often a disaster for followers. There is no safety in numbers when it comes to brand differentiation. Your advertising can’t do a good job distinguishing your brand if you’re following the rules from a competitor’s playbook.

3. Make it memorable. There’s nothing more expensive for a marketer than forgettable advertising. Whether it’s a bold concept, a catchy song, an innovative media strategy, or all of the above, your advertising should create conversation.

4. Be big somewhere. Narrow your marketing to match your means. Identify your highest probability prospects and select fewer and better channels for reaching them. Don’t be confused by the tactics of category leaders. They can afford to canvass the marketplace, but that will never work for challengers. Focus is your friend.

5. Be consistent. Consistency creates familiarity, and familiarity builds fondness. It’s a marketing truth long known, but it’s still violated regularly by advertisers who seem to prefer change for the sake of change. A consistent look, tone, and brand feel make it easy for customers to spot you in a crowded marketplace. Think of your advertising as an investment that builds value over time through message consistency. Making dramatic changes to the messaging reduces the value of your investment.

Challenger brands generally don’t enjoy the resources of the category killers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t compete. It simply means they must compete more skillfully.

Mike Sullivan is President of The Loomis Agency in Dallas.



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Mike Sullivan

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


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