When Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard appeared at the US Association of National Advertisers in October, his comments on the concept of "constructive disruption" grabbed headlines. As one of the world’s most established businesses, having launched 182 years ago, P&G’s chief brand officer is taking newcomer competitors head on. He believes that the best way to deal with disruption is to disrupt and to adopt the mindset more inherent to start-ups than multinationals.
Easier said than done when you are a multinational. Indeed, in the decade since Adam Morgan coined the term "challenger brand" in Eating the Big Fish, setting a brand apart from the competition through disruptive thinking and action has never been far from the top of most marketers' to-do lists. And yet the false belief of many that challengers can only be start-ups has meant that many have fallen at the first hurdle.
Being a challenger is about a mindset, not your shape or size
We live in an ever-evolving and increasingly competitive environment – no matter the industry. Whether it’s banking with Monzo and Starling Bank, insurance with Lemonade and Green Flag, or FMCG with Halo Top and Veganz, every industry is being challenged in multiple ways. So it’s no wonder that legacy brands are actively monitoring disruptive brands and their behaviours.
Overthrow II – 10 Strategies from the New Wave of Challengers – authored by Morgan, a partner at Eatbigfish (and of whom I’ve been a massive fan since his first book), and Malcolm Devoy, EMEA chief strategy officer at PHD – looks to directly address this by setting out a new stall for challengers.
Positioning a challenger as a brand that challenges something they feel the need to change, not just a more established brand, Morgan and Devoy explain why and how anyone and any business can be a challenger. They go on to detail the 10 most powerful narratives used by some of the most successful "challenger" brands of the past decade, including Oatly, Mailchimp and Copa90.
The case studies show how, by adhering to and following one of 10 distinct archetypes, these brands are harnessing their sense of purpose to provide much-needed strategic clarity and focus.
This strategic clarity also acts as a critical antidote to the tendency among agencies and marketers to respond to disruption by zeroing in on the wrong things: the shiny new technology or capability, the latest buzzword or even a slavish adherence to the all-pervasive brand purpose. This tendency to focus on the latest shiny object is dangerous for a market leader and fatal to a challenger.
A very human and easily digestible read
From the categorisation of challenger types – such as the "democratiser" (who brings access to things previously only available to an elite) and the "enlightened zagger" (who swims against a cultural or category tide) – to the adeptly summarised media behaviours, Morgan and Devoy artfully break down the notion of challenger into easily digestible bites that enable readers to get a grip on what it involves.
With its easy-to-read style and advice, Overthrow II provides a road map that should help brands identify what challenger type they are (or should be) and how they should behave as a result. Its practical advice means that rather than just "ape" being a challenger, brands can adopt the characteristics and media behaviours of their specific challenger type from the moment they read the book and make better use of technology, data, culture and creativity to set themselves apart from their competition.
There is something for every brand
In addition to drilling down into each of the narratives, the book provides several overarching lessons for brands looking to pivot to drive growth and transformation, including:
- Be clearer than ever on what your challenger story is
- Be creative in how you tell that story
- Inject passion and quality into every aspect of the business to be more attractive to customers, staff and venture capital groups
- Focus on driving effectiveness over efficiency
- Focus on being creative over being relevant
- Break rules, but follow the rule-breakers' rule book when you do
With the pace of change faster than ever before, being more challenger will undoubtedly be key for brands looking to outperform the market today and well into the future. Brands looking for a cheat sheet to demystify the notion of challenger and help them be more of a challenger faster would be well-advised to read Overthrow II.
Kerry Glazer is executive chair of the AAR. Overthrow II is available now