If you’re not the leader, you’re a follower. There can only be one company at the top. Everyone else is a challenger. So how does a challenger brand compete against a brand that can significantly outspend them and already has brand awareness and market share?
Dallas advertising veterans Mike Sullivan of Coppell and Michael Tuggle of Flower Mound tackle that question in their newly released book, The Voice of the Underdog®: How Challenger Brands Create Distinction by Thinking Culture First.
“There’s something energizing about being discounted,” explained Mike Sullivan, president & CEO of The LOOMIS Agency, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency. “True challengers don’t follow the norm. They’re disruptors. Company culture is the most fundamental advantage challenger brands possess. And it doesn’t matter how large or small the company is in their market. Putting culture first is actually transformative.”
Company culture is the sum total of an organization’s behaviors, beliefs, values and expression. Culture is communicated through countless exchanges and in a number of ways, most of which are unspoken. Individual and organizational behavior are driven by company culture.
“Using the power of company culture to drive brand performance requires a shift in thinking starting at the top,” continues Sullivan. “In the book, we explore the way leaders can intentionally cultivate cultures that support their outward brand expression. It starts with an honest assessment of the current environment, exposing gaps that need to be closed, and a plan for making important and sometimes difficult changes. The book concludes with a seven-step process for building the kind of culture that challenger brands can use to create the kind of authentic differentiation that drives brand success.”
Challenger brands can’t always spend their way to success with big ad campaigns like category leaders. Instead, they start with business strategy and identify opportunities for disruption. Challenger strategies are born of unique differences fueled by an organic power to attract an audience.
Challengers can wreak havoc on competitors by showing up in a way that’s anything but expected. Challengers take consumers and competitors by surprise, which in turn provokes something every marketer desperately wants and needs—a response. Love them or hate them, challengers will not be ignored.
In addition to the book, the charismatic duo of Sullivan and Tuggle have launched a monthly podcast series. The first episode features David Emerald, author of The Power of TED: The Empowerment Dynamic and 3 Vital Questions. Guests include First United Bank CEO Greg Massey; and Publishing Concepts CEO Drew Clancy.
In each podcast, the hosts and guests discuss culture and talk about relevant case studies, share entertaining stories from Sullivan and Tuggle’s 30 years in advertising, and offer engaging insights into how successful challenger brands use culture to create extraordinary brand distinction.
“A brand is what people think it’s like to do business with you,” Sullivan shared on the inaugural podcast. “Think about Chick-fil-A. How they treat their employees directly affects how the employees treat their customers. How the customer feels about the brand keeps them coming back. The culture drives the brand experience at the point of impact. This link between culture and brand performance is the reason a company like Chick-fil-A dramatically outperforms its nearest competitor across all metrics that matter, from service to brand perception to sales.”
Download a free copy of the book’s first chapter at theloomisagency.com. The Voice of the Underdog: How Challenger Brands Create Distinction by Thinking Culture First is available online and in bookstores, including Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and Audible.com. The Voice of the Underdog podcast is available on all outlets.