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The Leading Voice in Challenger Advertising

challenger advertising hero image

There’s nothing like an underdog. We love ‘em. And let’s be honest – who doesn’t? As both people and the country’s leading challenger advertising agency, we feel driven to our core to fight for the underdog.  As it turns out, there are some very good reasons why. To quote from our book, The Voice of the Underdog: How Challenger Brands Create Distinction By Thinking Culture First:

“As human beings, our love for the underdog and our desire to cheer for the challenger against overwhelming odds isn’t simply a learned social convention or the pull to join the crowd. It’s a primal evolutionary trigger. A mix of sympathy, empathy, competition, a sense of fairness, and in some cases, a healthy dash of schadenfreude thrown in for good measure. 

Why do we care so much about underdogs and challengers? On the surface, it could stem from our cultural intolerance of bullies, the notion that it’s unfair to pick on someone or something smaller than yourself, coupled with our competitive nature. But if you dig a little deeper, there are four other integral reasons we love to cheer for the underdog. 

One, we love a great story. From early cave dwellers to the ancient Greeks, and from Shakespeare to modern man, every civilization the world has ever known has had and revered people who could tell a great story, and we are no different. Stories help us see our place in the world. They frame light and dark, right and wrong, life and death. Underdog stories give us something to cheer for and, often, something to aspire to. There are no stories more heartwarming or more inspirational than those of challengers overcoming unbeatable odds. That’s why they are so good at informing challenger advertising.

Two, underdogs are universal. Every culture has “haves” and “have nots.” Those who are blessed and those who are less fortunate. And whether an underdog is defined by their physical size, race, gender, nationality, orientation, political views, or religious affiliation, we can all recognize them. We know how the underdog’s story ends most of the time. But we’ve also seen them pull the upset. To win against every conceivable odd. That’s what we cheer for.

Three, when we look at challengers, we see ourselves. No matter how our personal stories have unfolded, at one time or another, we’ve all found ourselves in the role of the underdog. On any given day, any one of us could be the underdog. Fighting against the odds. Battling the unfair. Because of that, it’s easier for us to empathize with others fighting uphill battles.

Four, underdogs prove anything is possible. Just as the night is always darkest before the dawn, the moment when the odds seem the most impossible are often when those with bigger hearts remind us that miracles can happen. On an ice rink in Lake Placid. In a boxing ring in Tokyo. On an NCAA basketball court in March. In retail stores, restaurants, and homes across the country. Underdogs give us hope. Not just for their futures, but for our own.”

Challenger advertising is all about helping underdogs win. At LOOMIS, that’s what we do. Challenger advertising is more than a set of tactics, or a bunch of traps to be run. It’s a mindset. It’s a disciplined process that requires challenger brands to understand who they are, where they stand in the market, and how ready they are to go to battle. Challenger advertising that works starts with consumer insight, flows into innovative strategy, and emerges with creative work and media executions that inspire, disrupt, and refuse to be ignored. Creating advertising like that is why we get up every morning.

 

HERE’S TO THE CRAZY ONES

In 1997, legendary agency Chiat/Day created a commercial for Apple called “Think Different” that beautifully frames the challenger advertising mindset. Against a stream of images showing many of history’s most renowned geniuses including Picasso, Gandhi, Jim Henson, MLK, Buckminster Fuller, Einstein, Lennon, Dylan, and Edison, we hear Richard Dreyfuss deliver this extraordinary copy

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.

The round pegs in the square holes. 

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules and have no respect for the status quo.

You can quote them. Disagree with them. Glorify or vilify them. 

About the only thing you can’t do, is ignore them. 

Because they change things.

They push the human race forward.

While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who think they are crazy enough to change the world,

Are the ones who do. 

Challenger advertising is about giving a voice to the misfits. The rebels. And the troublemakers. Our mission is to help underdogs without the resources of a category leader fight them and win anyway. That starts with building trust. If I’m a consumer looking for a brand, if I don’t trust you, there’s no way I’ll ever like you. And if I don’t like you, I’ll never get to the point where I love you. Where I can’t live without you. Where I’ll tell everyone I know all about you. It’s true with our friends, our partners, and our favorite brands. So, what is it that makes us trust? The answer is congruence. How closely what we say and what we do matches up. Our mission as a challenger advertising and marketing agency is to work with our clients to bring those two things into perfect convergence in a way that cannot be ignored. Nobody roots for Goliath. There is extraordinary power in being the underdog – in being small but thinking BIG. That’s what challenger advertising is all about. 

 

FIRST KNOW THYSELF

For challenger brands to succeed, they must first have a crystal-clear understanding of who they are for and who they are not for. That goes double for their challenger advertising agency. There’s not an agency in America that wouldn’t be honored to have Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Nike, and McDonald’s on their rosters. LOOMIS included. But as a challenger brand ourselves, that’s not who we’re for. We’re for Texas Dairy Queen. We’re for Golden Chick. We’re for Texas Oncology, Fitness Connection, Susser Bank, Stanley Steemer, Papa John’s, and the United Methodist Church. We’re for Sun Tan City, Rug Doctor, The Maids, Murphy USA, Rib Crib, and Black Bear Diner. We fight for the second place, third place, seventh place brands looking for new ways to compete. We can’t buy their relevance. We have to earn it. And there’s nothing we love more than jumping hip deep into the trenches to fight right beside them. 

At LOOMIS, that starts with taking our clients through a rigorous challenger advertising blueprint – our systematic guide for building an underdog that wins. All in, there are 17 steps that help us determine how best to position a challenger brand and then what their challenger advertising should look and feel like. It’s a process we’ve spent two decades perfecting and it works. Here are just a few of the key steps in our challenger advertising blueprint:

Start with Intelligent Naivety. In his challenger brand primer “Eating The Big Fish,” 

Adam Morgan’s first Challenger Brand Credo is something he calls “intelligent naivety.” Basically, looking at the brand as though you know nothing and making fresh observations. Morgan starts here and so do we.

Design the Lighthouse. Successful challenger brands do not attempt to navigate by the consumer. They invite the consumer to navigate by them. That requires building and curating a “lighthouse identity.” Determining the brand’s beacon, their truth that’s so bright, consumers will see it even when they’re not looking for it.

Map out Thought Leadership. In every category, there are two leaders – the Market Leader, usually the biggest… and the Thought Leader. The brand making waves. The one everyone is talking about. The one grabbing all the attention. Part of challenger advertising success is mapping out where and how the brand can best engage, disrupt, and get people talking.

Find the Insight. What is the one point of leverage about the consumer that is most engaging? Every successful campaign starts with an intriguing consumer insight. It’s the difference between delivering a message and capturing the imagination.

Think Broader Than The Assignment. The solution to most challenges isn’t a single medium. It’s an idea. For us (and our clients), the greatest moments in challenger advertising come when we solve for the media in question, but also think about where else we might be able to express the brand. Disruption can emerge in many ways and allowing ideas to spark without limits is what gives those embers oxygen.

 

THE CHALLENGER ADVERTISING EXPERTS

Understandably, for decades brands have sought out agencies that specialize in what they do. At LOOMIS, we start with who they are. There are dozens of companies that make cookies, cars, and fast food. Dozens of companies that provide healthcare, financial assistance, and carpet cleaning. But not one of those brands is just like the other. Not one delivers the exact same product or service as its competitor. Each brand has its own origin. Its own story. Its own attributes. And most of all, its own purpose. LOOMIS isn’t the country’s leading challenger advertising agency because we’re the biggest. We’re the country’s leading challenger advertising agency because we understand challenger brands and we know how to bring them to life. We know how to get to the heart of who they are and how to connect them with the customers they want. Most of all, we know how to take them into battle with their best chance to win. Challenger advertising, challenger marketing, and brand transformation is what we do. It’s all we’ve done for more than 20 years. If you’re a challenger, we’d love to show you more.

 
GET IN TOUCH

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.

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