Thursday, May 13, 2010

Future Midwest Conference: The Challenger Brand - David vs Goliath

Me at the Future Midwest Conference in front of the cool space cow ice sculpture
Success means never letting the competition define you. Instead you have to define yourself based on a point of view you care deeply about.” Tom Chappell, Tom’s of Maine
In April, I attended the Future Midwest Conference in Royal Oak, MI. This two day conference focused on how businesses within our region can use Social Media and technology to positively impact their bottom line.

One of the best presentations of the conference was by Scott Hauman, the Director of Brand Strategy at Daggerfin. His presentation called "Brand Up and Be Counted" focused on the Challenger Brand. The Challenger Brand is any brand that is up against a much larger or dominate brand leader.

I am able to relate to the concept of the Challenger Brand in creating the Free Is My Life website. There are literally thousands of frugal blogs in the marketplace and new ones find it very hard to compete in this space. So I have to be very creative and clear in my message in order to position FREEISMYLIFE in the bloggersphere.

I think that most of us find ourselves in the position of the challenger as we go through life. When I started FREEISMYLIFE, my goal was to just find a place to post all the links to free stuff that I had accumulated over the years. Then my goal was to see if I could find at least one new great freebie or deal to post each day. As my followers increased, I wanted to see if I could really compete with the established blogs. But after doing this for a while, I know that numbers and stats can drive you to drink because they go up and down seemingly for no reason. Now my goal is to blog about what I love and care about from my own point of view. Scott's presentation on the Challenger Brand showed me that I am now on the right track with my goals.

Here are a few highlights from "The Challenger Brand" presentation -

Challenger Brands believe in their product.
What's that saying about if you don't believe it, no one else will either. Enough said.

Challenger Brands have experienced significant growth through their marketing, but they are not the number one brand
These brands know they are a David against a Goliath, but that does not limit their expectations. Think about Ford vs Toyota, Apple vs Microsoft, or Verizon's Android vs Apple's iPhone. These companies are increasing market share monthly even in the face of competing with very well thought of competitors.

Market Leaders maintain the status quo - Challenger Brands are agents of change. Challenger Brands know that if they don't shake things up, they will not grow. After all, why bother to be in business if you are just going to follow the pack and do the "same old same old". To me, this is where listening to your own voice becomes very important.

Challenger Brands study brands outside of their category.
Don't just study the leaders in your category, study the leaders and challengers in other categories. How are those Challenger Brands shaking things up? What creative things are they doing with their marketing dollars to reach the consumer?

Challenger Brands build a Lighthouse Identity
The Lighthouse Identity is about the brand telling the consumer about itself - where it stands and what it believes. The Challenger Brand is not trying to be a brand for everyone. One of the quotes that I remember for Scott's presentation is "a brand for everyone is a brand for no one".

Challenger Brands have ambitions that far exceed their marketing budgets.
Challenger Brands know they have to use these marketing dollars creatively to get the biggest bang for the buck. Have you seen Ford's new viral Zombie video that was created on a shoestring budget by one of the Fiesta Movement participants? The video was shown at the conference and everyone loved it which heightened Ford's brand image among the conference goers.

One of the funniest slides in the Challenger Brand presentation was a very creative advertisement for the Mini Cooper. This slide shows that a little creativity can go a long way -

Putting the Challenger Brand concepts into action

After learning about the Challenger Brand, we were asked to put what we learned into action by helping to shape the marketing for a Ann Arbor based company called Current Motor Company that just manufactured their first customer bike (yes, that's me on one of the very cool bikes).

We were asked to answer 6 questions on how this new bike could be marketed using the Challenger Brand concepts. The great thing is that these concepts can be used for any business in the Challenger Brand space. So take a look at the questions and apply them to your business or enterprise. After all, David did beat Goliath in the end.


  1. Great post, Jackie! I'm glad you were able to take so much away from FutureMidwest. You've done an awesome job with this blog!

  2. Thanks Nikki. I appreciate your wonderful comments :)

  3. Scott Hauman (via twitter)May 14, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    ScottHauman (via Twitter): I am honored to featured in your blog - thank you for your kind words. Great post - keep up the good fight! Best, Scott

  4. To learn more about Challenger brands and hear some of the latest thinking on challengers, visit the Challenger Project -- a free online resource offered by eatbigfish. -- at www. That's where all the material in Scott's presentation was sourced.