For Challenger Brands, It’s Time!

October 13, 2020 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

On paper, nobody in their right mind would look at this moment in history and think “now is the perfect time to launch a new brand.” The coronavirus is resurging around the country. A highly contentious presidential election is just weeks away and promises to drive us apart, no matter the outcome. The Senate is warring over a new Supreme Court nominee, the country is roiling with racial angst and frustration and, every time we turn around, 2020 is determined to show us just how devastating a year can be. We can’t get to January 1 fast enough.

And, with all that said, I’m not sure there’s ever been a better time for challenger brands to grab the reins and go after the category leaders.

• COVID-19 is changing the language and the state of marketing.
• New creative startups are emerging as the nature of advertising changes.
Gen C is showing us (the pandemic is) changing the way entire generations function as consumers.
• In just three months, the coronavirus has permanently changed marketing.
• More and more brands are adopting purpose-driven advertising.
• “Acts, not ads” drive burgeoning campaigns.
• The bar has been permanently raised for purpose-driven brands.
• Since the pandemic started, 45% of consumers have changed their brand preferences.

For months, people have wondered aloud when life will finally get back to normal and be like it was. The short answer is … never.

When the coronavirus spread from shore to shore, shut down our country, threw commerce and education into a tailspin, infected more than seven million Americans and killed more than 215,000 people, the world as we knew it ended. But not in an apocalyptic kind of way.

Just as a forest comes back greener and healthier after a fire, the American brandscape has a rich, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset and emerge better post-COVID; more in tune with what consumers say they want from the companies they support. Look at the last article above — since the pandemic started, nearly half of all consumers have changed their brand preferences. What does that tell you? It tells me people are ready for something new. Something different. Something better. That’s what challenger branding is all about and where meaningful opportunity truly lies.

Consider CEO Angelo D’Alessandro and his new brand BELLA Loves Me. At first glance, you might think the new company is a clothing brand, a line of children’s furniture, or maybe something to do with cooking. It’s none of those things. It’s a bank set to open this month in California.

Last week, D’Alessandro dropped a video on LinkedIn to introduce people to BELLA for the first time. This is what he said and, keep in mind, this is a bank:

“I want to share a little secret I have. I want to talk about daydreaming. I believe it’s very important to dream also during the day and not only at night. And to visualize where you want to be in three years, five years. Ten years ago I wanted to be exactly where I am today. I’m in Los Angeles, this is Malibu, launching a powerful brand called BELLA… BELLA Loves Me. We have this crazy dream to inject love, beauty and tenderness into the banking industry.”

Go a step further to bellaloves.me to sign up for the waiting list and these are the messages that greet you:

• “We don’t need customers. We need people who care about each other.”
• “Have you ever heard of a banking service powered by love? Hint: it’s us.
• “F**k the process! We are sharing our money with our members. People before profits.”
• “We are injecting love, beauty and empathy into the banking industry.”

Will BELLA resonate with California banking customers? I’m betting it will and loudly. It’s certainly an intriguing approach to banking and, without question, BELLA Loves Me is a challenger brand to watch.

We are in the New Normal. And for challenger brands willing to embrace that opportunity, the future is theirs for the taking.

MIKE SULLIVAN  is president and CEO of 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

ad agencyadvertisingadvertising agencychallenger brandchallenger brand marketingchallenger brandingchallenger brandsCMOCOVID-19creativecreative teamcreativescultureThe Voice of The Underdogtop 10 Dallas Ad Agencyunderdogvoice of the underdog

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.