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Electing A Challenger Brand

This was originally written before the 2016 Presidential election was final. Of course, we now know the Republican candidate was victorious, further supporting that Challenger Brands can indeed take on their larger competitors and win.

Since we are at the conclusion of an election season for the ages, we thought we’d take a look at the two front-runner campaigns from a Challenger Brand perspective. We can hear you out there whispering to yourselves, “These two candidates aren’t Challenger Brands, they’re political gorillas.” Although it may be true that the two party leaders come from substantial means, established backgrounds and are, themselves, globally recognized brand names, the elected nominee will be a true first-timer. This would be a case where a gorilla brand can also be a Challenger Brand. Imagine Nestlé launching a new soft drink brand and is forced to compete with Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Nestlé, one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies and by most accounts, a global gorilla brand, suddenly becomes the Challenger Brand when fighting for shelf space, promotional activity and brand awareness against the silverbacks of the industry.

So, let’s take a look at how each of the two major party nominees handled their business throughout the campaign using the Five Keys to Challenger Brand Success scorecard.

Know Your TargetStudy your audience, understand what drives decision-making and tailor your message to their pain points. Both candidates accomplished this with their core voter base, but had difficulty convincing undecideds or, less likely, followers of their opponent, to move into their camp.

Know Your CompetitorsUnderstand what drives your competitors, how they connect with their core customer and where the weaknesses lie in their approach. Safe to say, the candidates knew quite well which buttons to push with their opponents that would inspire a response. What seemed to be missing in both camps, and could possibly have cost one of the candidates the election, was understanding what it was that connected so viscerally and unapologetically with the opponent’s core audience. The ability to harness that and use it against the opponent could very well have swayed the election.

Create An Even Playing FieldSeek out battlegrounds that emphasize your strengths, exploit competitive advantages and give you the best chance to win. Both candidates did an adequate job of finding those arenas where the audience was sympathetic to their message and were able to create an army of advocates who spread the word on their behalf. There were plenty of examples of the Republican battling fruitlessly in blue states and the Democrat wasting valuable time convincing red state voters to see things differently. Save the money, save the energy, compete where you can win.

Stay Within Your ResourcesDo not try to accomplish more than your resources will allow. Both candidates had ample resources though neither seemed to rise above the other in any individual arena. By most accounts, the Democrat spent more on traditional media while the Republican took advantage of earned media via unrelenting publicity. Both relied heavily on daily news coverage, which gladly accommodated.

Find Your Niche and Own ItWhat do you want to be famous for? Discover the niche that is uniquely associated with you and can be defended from anyone. Once the dust has settled from the 2016 election and historians look back at this extraordinary race, what will they remember about the two candidates? One was going to Make America Great Again while the other was promoting Stronger Together. Those were the slogans. Were they promises? Goals? Hopes? Will the candidates be better known for their character flaws and poor word choices? History will dictate what their niche really was and whether or not they would be known for it.

Now that the polls have closed, who was the better Challenger Brand candidate? Perhaps the scoreboard has spoken by calling a winner. But, for the Challenger Brand candidate to stand the test of time, they must live up to the proven virtues of Challenger Brand Marketing: always be true to your brand’s essence, remain relevant, meaningful, credible and always be available to address your targets’ critical concerns. Being a respected politician and a successful Challenger Brand are really quite similar.

If your brand could use a little help at the polls this election season, please contact us at As the Champion of the Challenger Brand, we help brands get elected everyday.

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