Marketing TechnologyDigital AdvertisingThree trends challenger brand marketers need to know

Three trends challenger brand marketers need to know

Top-of-mind action points that will be valuable to challenger brand marketing for the rest of 2021 and 2022

30-second summary:

  • Breaking the status quo while intriguing and interesting, takes some serious marketing chops if you’re a challenger brand
  • Senior marketers from challenger brands Yazzo and Vital Farms outline three trends that will pack a punch for your 2022 digital strategy

If challenger brands went to high school, they’d be the ‘John Benders’ for you Breakfast Club aficionados, the ones who rock a metal t-shirt while their peers roll the cuffs on their khakis, who sit care-free on the lawn rather than jostle for a seat at the cool-kids table. You always knew they would do something enviable because they see the world differently and embrace the risk of being unique.

When you get your start by breaking with the status quo, it often becomes a defining aspect of your nature. And that’s what makes challenger brands so intriguing for the rest of us to watch, and yes, follow. These brands take bold, smart risks to innovate and break through.

Non-conformity with ‘what is’ permeates every fiber of their culture, including how they approach marketing planning and strategy.

Here are three trends that are top-of-mind with challenger brand marketers and offer valuable food for thought to your own 2022 marketing strategy.

Content created in partnership with Keen Decision Systems.

1. Media effectiveness

Small brands have smaller marketing budgets relative to the category giants they’re out to topple. So what does it take to make every dollar count?

The trend this year is to go back to basics, with an increased focus on organic growth and equal attention to owned and earned media to complement their paid strategy, according to Jon Akerman, blogging for V&V.

How do you strike the right balance? The answer, according to some challenger-brand leaders we talked with, is triangulation.

“Our dollars are disproportionately smaller. We have to be really thoughtful about where we spend and the creative we use,” says Andy Judd, CMO of Yasso Greek Frozen Yogurt.

“Yasso invests heavily and ‘ahead of the curve’ on people.”

And then, according to Judd, they guide strategic decision-making by those internal experts, with support from their media partners and the future-focused modeling they do on Keen’s predictive-analytics platform.

“We run a much more high-touch ecosystem of analytics and creative than I would run for larger budgets and brands,” Judd explains.

“Because every dollar is so important, there tends to be an even deeper belief that every dollar has to be working, when in reality, a little higher non-working spend, especially when it comes to analytics or creative mix, will net better results.”

2. Leverage community and influencers

“Every interaction is a way to build trust,” writes Lauren Rader for Dead Cats Society.

“Since challenger brands are building new customer bases, they know that they cannot just shove a message down their consumers’ throats and expect that they will immediately convert. They also know that these engagements need to be extremely positive.”

Vital Farms understands this down to its very core. The ethical egg producers have built a loyal and engaged community that they warmly refer to as their ‘raving fans’.

Building community and cultivating influencers is still a healthy mix of art and science. Heather Fitzpatrick, senior brand manager with Vital Farms, explains it like this –

“Our strategy is much more holistic than focusing purely on ROI or profits. We have an elaborate consumer journey with many touchpoints that includes educating consumers about our brand and engaging them through stories about our stakeholders. We strive to exercise empathy, it’s one of our company’s core values.

One example is the “Vital Thanks” campaign we launched last year where we asked consumers to write handwritten thank you notes to our frontline crew members and farmers, and we had it on the cartons. We received more than 3,000 handwritten notes of gratitude!”

Real community requires patience and intentionality, according to both Judd and Fitzpatrick. It’s not the “really efficient stuff” that builds community. It takes a lot of patience and effort.

“Every interaction is a way to build trust,” writes Rader.

“Since challenger brands are building new customer bases, they know that they cannot just shove a message down their consumers’ throats and expect that they will immediately convert. They also know that these engagements need to be extremely positive.”

3. Balance data with humanity

Data is great, but the focus for challenger brands is always on the human datapoint. Challenger brands (and Plato) know that “a good decision is based on knowledge not on numbers,” Rader writes.

A consistent theme among challenger brands is the focus, benefit, and commitment to knowing and engaging their customers in a personal, authentic way. Perhaps one of the most compelling examples of living at the crossroads of data and humanity comes from Vital Farms and how they animate the marketing personas they call Abby and Abe.

“We talk about them,” Heather says.

“Is this something they’d be doing? This is what they do on the weekend. What kind of car do they drive and where do they go? It really helps bring a level of personification.”

Everyone on the marketing team knows Abby and Abe,” Kathryn adds.

“It’s a good shortcut to making good marketing decisions every day. We’ve gotten to know these people through data, yet we also talk about them as real people. In this way we don’t have to analyze every decision, and we’re able to move quickly.”

In challenger brand marketing, agility and innovation are the names of the game. It’s important to make smart, savvy, and often unconventional decisions in order to breakthrough.

Balancing working dollars with investment in insights can help avoid unforced errors especially when you’re moving at high speed. Success requires a quantitative, outcomes-driven mindset, grounded in the immutable truth that challenger brands live or die by consumer love and loyalty, so personalizing the bond between brand and buyer is a must.

To dig deeper on these topics, join ClickZ’s upcoming Challenger Brand Roundtable, featuring Yasso’s Andy Judd and Vital Farms’ Kathryn McKeon, for a lively, interactive discussion on Thursday, September 9 at 11 am ET.

Register now to be one of just 10 exclusive challenger brand leaders in attendance.

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