A ‘real’ people brand in a faceless category.
Real people visible behind the brand.
Often accompanied by the perception of ‘small’ in stature.
What is it challenging?
The impersonality and facelessness of the market leader or category.
Why does its consumer respond to it?
‘At last some real people who understand what I am all about’.
Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos
One of the qualities that many challengers share is the ability of the consumer to get a sense of the people behind the brand. They appeal to us at a more personal level than the market leader partly because they are making a human-to-human connection, rather than a brand-to- consumer connection. And the tone of voice they adopt reflects that.
But with this particular challenger narrative the real, human presence of the people behind our challenger is made much more explicit, in its nature and implications; it becomes central, in fact, to what makes the challenger relevant and compelling in this market. As a group of people they are challenging impersonality, challenging the emotional distance a large company keeps between itself and its customers. And by being very explicit about the people behind their brand, about their often deeply emotional relationship with the creation of their product, and their commitment to product and service, this challenger looks to create a much more personal emotional connection. With its greater emphasis on an individual commitment to quality and service, one is given a sense that here is a small and idealistic group of people fighting to bring you something new and good and special, rather than a faceless production factory with a glossy brand front doing what it does to maximise shareholder profits.
As a result these brands become more than just products or services, but compelling characters in our lives. We trust them more, and thus allow them to reach us in ways that we reject from the distant corporate brand.
Historically one saw challengers typically taking this space who were artisanal makers of beer, chocolate ice cream (and the other handcrafted necessities of life). Our interview is with someone whose brand has shown that a challenger can adopt the narrative with an online brand as well, if you are really prepared to overcommit to its implications, and the right culture behind it.