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What will it take Challenger brands to succeed in India ?

By Vinod Vijaykumar

Being a young challenger creative communications company ourselves, we have always found synergy and traction with young start-up brands. And over a meeting with yet another challenger brand planning to challenge the likes of Cafe Coffee day and Starbucks we posed the question to ourselves - what will it take to succeed in India if you are a challenger brand. It just seems like the right question in India given the number of start-ups launching this year in India: almost 800 start-ups in 2015 with more than 41% in Bangalore.

We all know what a challenger looks like - ambitious with limited resources and an appetite to do whatever it takes. The spirit of the challenger finds its way into product development, channel strategies,HR etc. Yet when it comes to communication most play it safe. Here is what we think the Challenger should do when it comes to communication:

  • Break Logic. Find Magic.
    Challenger is not a state of the market but a state of the mind and the challenger mindset has to be all about messing normal order. Logic, the things that you say have to be done to succeed in your category, is a sort of conditioning, Logic is the order of how things are done - cultivated by none other than the leading brands in the category. Logic defines the rules by which everyone is expected to play the game. The challenger succeeds when he changes the rules of the game and not by mastering the rules laid out by the leader.
  • Don't make an ad. Make stuff
    An ad can only send a message and this kind of one way traffic depends on how loud and how far you can shout, sometimes making it necessary that you shout for several months in the hope that at least your brand comes up in a brand recall study. 'Stuff' is not advertising. 'Stuff' will never find its way into any traditional media. Stuff is an idea that has the potential to establish a challenging purpose beyond the category, or reshape the consumer paradigm or drive socio-economic change or provide the spark for a movement. Whatever it does - there is one thing that will always happen. Stuff gets two people to talk about your brand. Stuff drives conversation.
    Ex: Pedigree created dog shelters in Australia to get across their message 'We are for Dogs'
  • Everything communicates
    Understanding this paradigm could reap rich dividends for almost every brand out there, but it becomes critical for a new brand given their limited ability to use traditional expensive media options. Give your agency a brief to turn the sales boy into a great ad or turn your suppliers into advocates. Can the letter head and visiting card talk, can your delivery van do more than just carry your logo, can you, the CEO, turn into the best advertising piece that the agency made. Take everything you do seriously and get your agency involved in calibrating each step to deliver a big bang.
  • Become useful
    Well, we can make brand communication work interesting, memorable and at its best, talked about by its customers. But the real question is: how do you make a brand's work useful?
    We don't know yet, but this is the next big topic for discussion for both Windowseat and its clients.

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