The Perils of Market Leadership

September 22, 2010 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

cross hairsGrowing up, my younger siblings enjoyed the sorts of advantages that often accrue to the benefit of challenger brands. As the oldest kid, I was out front blazing the path and leaving a wake of examples for the two following me. As is true for market leaders, being the oldest child has real upside. My very thorough baby album attests to the large share of time and attention lauded on me as a kid. But on occasion, the spotlight worked against me. I was made an example of more than once, as is often the fate of market leaders. It’s the downside of market leadership, as the team managing the iconic McDonald’s brand understands all too well.

The latest attack on McDonald’s by Washington-based health lobby Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine(PCRM) is the kind of all-out corporate assault challenger brands generally don’t have to endure. In this instance, the attack on McDonald’s features a TV spot starring a cadaver clenching a hamburger in a morgue-like setting with a grieving wife looking on. The sign-off contorts McDonald’s well known tagline, “I’m lovin’ it” into, “I was lovin’ it.” Of course, the group that created the ad is taking a shot at the entire quick-service food industry, and the most effective way to garner the desired attention is to place the category giant in its crosshairs.

Toyota, General Motors, Walmart and countless other category leaders have had similar experiences in recent years, while lesser-known competitors have escaped unnoticed and unscathed. Challenger brand marketers who watch market leaders closely for insight served up through example can avoid peril and exploit opportunity. In this respect, following creates fantastic opportunities to lead.

Mike Sullivan

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


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