Need to get your brand noticed but don’t think you have the resources to get the word out? Then read on as we look at 5 ways brands today are getting high awareness with just ambition, imagination and little else. (Ok maybe a little bit of marketing spend…)
1. Be interesting on the inside
Rather than advertise, we can instead create a brand world to be discovered, enticing our audience through the stories we communicate on the inside, i.e. our owned media.
Be it the product, the design or packaging, everything we put out will have to be interesting and engaging enough for our audience to share and talk about us on our behalf.
Seedlip and discovery
Launched in 2015, the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip has quickly been adopted by many of the UK’s top bartenders and some of the top bars in the world including The Savoy.
The Seedlip name comes from the word for an agricultural basket used for holding seeds. The logo is a visual arrangement of the six botanicals used in the distilling process. The origins story is that founder Ben Branson was inspired by the non-alcoholic herbal recipes found in a book from 1651 called 'The Art of Distillation'. All these component parts are good stories, providing interest and curiosity, and importantly ensuring the press and customers have material to write about.
“I can see the impact of word of mouth and that is of far more value than a billboard. I much prefer this under the radar discovery, people talking about us in a tangible, real world way” said founder Ben Branson.
Propercorn and proper-cases
Propercorn are the UK’s fastest growing snack brand, reaching £15M in sales in 2015. The brand’s ethos is to do things properly, reflected in their ‘Done Properly’ tagline, but also applied to media other brands often choose to ignore.
Like many food companies, Propercorn transport their product in cardboard boxes. Rather than settle for a box with a logo printed on however, Propercorn effectively use the case as a billboard, illustrating the cases as bright, colourful and eye-catching travel cases as a way to project the brand's 'Done Properly' ethos.
Not only are they seen by the store managers and people unloading the lorries, but these are also sent out to customers and food bloggers to sample.
By turning media that was once a necessity into something interesting and engaging, the likelihood of recipients sharing and talking about the brand increase, and help promote the brand and at a near negligible cost.
The key as seen with these brands is to make every aspect of what you offer interesting and engaging enough to be shared – both inside and out.
2. Leverage the cachet of larger brands
One way challenger brands can get awareness quickly is to develop alliances with larger brands, utilising their networks, audience or kudos.
Lewis Road Creamery and Whittaker's
Lewis Road Creamery, the premium dairy company from New Zealand, launched a Chocolate milk with the nation’s most-loved family owned chocolate brand, Whittaker’s.
The collaboration resulted in a product that caused a milk-chocolate craze across New Zealand and Lewis Road Creamery became market leader in the flavoured milk category just six weeks after the launch.
The partnership is widely credited as turning Lewis Road Creamery from a small brand to a household name.
Casper and Uber
In the US, emerging challenger in mattresses, Casper, agreed a partnership with transportation giant Uber, for their joint marketing campaign UberSLEEP.
For four days, New Yorkers could type “UBERSLEEP” into the Uber app, browse and order a casper mattress and have delivered to their door within an hour.
The story broke across several news agencies and went viral on social media, earning fledging start-up Casper Mattresses a huge amount of awareness and kudos just three months after launching.
Partnering with a larger brand is a short-cut to greater awareness, as the challenger brand benefits from the channels and reach that the bigger player has at its disposal.
3. Provoke conversation
As challengers, we can't afford to get lost in the commotion of consumers hectic everyday lives so another strategy for making more from less is to generate greater impact when and where we do communicate.
MoneySuperMarket and #Epic ads
Hold on you say, this is a TV ad? What challenger can afford that luxury? Whilst true, these ads make headlines, how many ads regularly do that?
Love them or hate them, MoneySuperMarket’s 'Epic' campaign has been hugely successful in generating awareness and conversation far beyond the TV ad-breaks they first appear in.
These are TV ads designed for the internet and the shorter attention span. In order to cut through the clutter and ensure the brand travels beyond a Saturday night TV audience they need to illicit a visceral and emotional response.
The ads are ludicrous, surprising and frankly a bit weird. Annoying yet compelling, they split opinion and provoke conversation, and for a brand looking to maximise impact that must be the aim.
The ad that first caught the nation’s attention was #EpicStrut, featuring business man ‘Dave’ in hot pants and high heels gyrating down the high-street, it became the most complained about ad in 2015 for an ‘overtly sexual nature’ and was famously appropriated for the Sun newspaper's front page.
Since then, #EpicWolf and #EpicDanceOff have hit our screens, each creating dozens of free press, thousands of mentions and views in the millions.
The strategy is benefiting sales too, with MoneySuperMarket reporting a 12 per cent increase to £76m in the first quarter of 2016 according to the Financial Times.
MoneySuperMarket may have paid for an ad, but the ripples of conversation continue across the press and social media because, love it or hate it, they’ve created something that cannot be ignored.
4. Leverage an existing news story
If your brand can’t be the news, maybe there's opportunity for you to respond to it instead, a tactic often known as news-jacking.
Lyst and 'Dad-bod-Ken'
The launch of Mattel’s ‘curvy Barbie’, a Barbie created to apparently closer reflect the body shape of the average young woman, made headlines internationally at the start of the year, with opinion split as to whether this was a smart move from Mattel.
Less than 48 hours after the story broke, Lyst, the online fashion retailer, revealed their impression of ‘Dad-bod Ken’ amongst other re-imagined male characters via a press release.
The response was picked up by The Guardian, Mashable and The Evening Standard amongst others and got the brand coverage worth tens of thousands of pounds in advertising, according to estimates.
Paddy Power and #FanDenial
Another example is irreverent betting company Paddy Power, who consistently look to current affairs and sporting events for opportunities to entertain.
Responding to the furore over Protein World’s Beach Body ready campaign last year, Paddy Power responded on Twitter with their own adaption, which also tapped into the upcoming UK general election.
This year they’ve taken news-jacking to another level, with #FanDenial, a regular video series which looks at the week's top football news and affairs through the lens of their commentators on social media.
Produced in-house, at low cost, and published on Twitter, Paddy Power are able to quickly repackage and splice the funny (often creepy) social media comments on the week’s football news with devastating and rapid effect.
The fan responses provide Paddy Power with a steady stream of topical content to repurpose and with #FanDenial videos receiving an average of 200k views each week, it's a clever initiative that ensures Paddy Power the brand, remain the bookie with the best banter, with little financial investment or time spent.
5. Publicise your battle with Goliath
If you’re getting in to trouble with the big hairy Goliaths of your category you’ve got to be doing something right, and you could do a lot worse than publicising any run-ins you have with them.
BrewDog vs Diageo
Punk beer brand BrewDog’s name was engraved on the ‘Bar Operator of the Year’ award at the 2012 BII Scotland Annual Awards, an award ceremony celebrating the successes of the licence trade in Scotland.
At the last moment however, the award winner was swapped to another bar on the shortlist. It transpired that Diageo, the drinks giant and main sponsors of the event had threatened to pull their sponsorship if the award went BrewDog’s way.
BrewDog published the turn of events on their blog and a twitter storm erupted, with fans of BrewDog vowing to boycott Diageo products.
Diageo issued an apology to BrewDog and the own goal was complete. BrewDog meanwhile generated a huge amount of press and enthusiastic support for themselves whilst birthing a brand-war that rumbles on today.
Hampton Creek vs Unilever
Hampton Creek, the San Francisco based food-tech company, also know a thing or two about people power. A lawsuit was filed against the start-up for false advertising by multi-billion dollar food giant Unilever in 2014.
Unilever claimed that Hampton Creek were illegally calling their mayonnaise product ‘Just Mayo’ when it didn’t contain any egg - an essential ingredient of mayonnaise according to the regulatory labelling authorities.
“By calling its vegan sandwich spread ‘Just Mayo,’ Hampton Creek falsely communicates to consumers that Just Mayo is mayonnaise, when it in fact, it is not” said the document filed by Unilever.
In a court room, Unilever would have a case, but here was a $60BN global corporation trying to squash a young start-up on a mission to make healthy and sustainable food, and leave the world in a better place. It didn't make Unilever look good.
A change.org petition called “Stop bullying sustainable food companies” was published and quickly reached 112,415 signatures. The story made The Guardian, Bloomberg and CNN amongst other news agencies and brought little Hampton Creek to an international audience.
Unilever soon dropped the lawsuit and offered an olive branch to Hampton Creek, praising their “commitment to innovation and inspired corporate purpose” in a statement.
Studies show that people react strongly to unfairness and we are predisposed, in Western cultures at least, to favour the underdog.
If your brand has been on the receiving end of unfairness by the establishment brand, then taking your battle with Goliath online and into the public domain will usually leave them with a bloody nose and you smelling of positive press.
Be interesting on the inside
Leverage the cachet of larger brands
Leverage a news story
Publicise your battle with Goliath
Thank you to evermade.com and Chris Piascik for kindly providing the cover image for this article.
Editor of The Challenger Project, marketing at eatbigfish. Champion of the underdog. West Ham fan. All adds up really.