It's all in your head

It’s All in Your Head

The Brilliant Psychology of Challenger Brands

You’re a Coca-Cola big wig. You step off your coke-red jet, replete with a 4,000pt logo that raps its flowy lines around the cabin.

After your successful acquisition of Costa Coffee, every step tingles like the microscopic explosions of carbonation, and it’s making you thirsty.

You waste no time in your quest for a self-indulgent sip of your own product and drag your luggage up to the hotel bar… “I’ll have a Coke.”

The bartender smirks, seeing the Coca-Cola pin on your lapel… “We only have Olipop…”

A Challenger Approaches

A challenger brand’s dream! And you better believe it’ll become a reality.

A lot goes into creating a popular challenger brand that can make the established, mainstream giants feel the heat. To gain the undying support of consumers seeking a differentiated and authentic product or service is no easy feat. Among the paramount characteristics of these brands are genuine and bottomless enthusiasm for their product, awe-inspiring boldness in every decision, and a steadfast purpose.

But the true success of challenger brands isn’t on the business side. It all resides within the beautifully complex pink ball of wrinkles behind our eyes.

In other words, it’s all about psychology, and Olipop is a great example of a company that has it down pat.

Consumer Distrust of Big Brands

Over the years consumers have stopped trusting big brand names, and they have reason enough. Brands like Coca Cola and Nestlè have proven that despite the beautiful image they portray, they still put profit over consumer desires and environmental wellbeing.

This is where challenger brands bring the challenge. For one, they provide a solution to consumers’ “I want to solve a problem, but not with a big-box solution” conundrum.

In Olipop’s case, their competitor, Coca-Cola (who they not-so-covertly challenged in their very first ad campaign) struggles to seem less-unhealthy with products like Coke Zero® and Diet Coke®. Olipop® comes out with messaging that is geared towards healthy claims, going head on against the less-healthy soda brands.  If you’re someone who loves soda, but wants to give it up for health reasons, then Olipop® offers a solution to your problem.  The brand focuses on every growing priority of digestive health.  They’ve identified a growing trend and need in the market and clearly articulate how they’re changing the soda category by prioritizing health.

And it is often perceived that, “smaller” companies (as many challenger brands are perceived) make better products due to their ability to stay close to the consumer and continuous innovate to solve their needs.

Inequity Aversion

Not only do challenger brands have an opportunity to make better products more ethically and environmentally purposeful, but they also have the power of story on their side.

What makes a challenger a challenger is the open invitation to compare them to competition.

This makes their position as underdog abundantly clear. When that clarity arrives, an innate human reaction starts to turn its wheels: Inequity Aversion.

We want fairness to come out on top, and we’re willing to take action to make that happen. It happens on the playground, in politics, and it’s just as visceral in consumers.

Having a human instinct encourage consumers to buy your product? That’s powerful. Olipop may even be creating lifelong fans with a single message or experience, so long as they feel like Olipop® is taking on a big bully and needs their help.

The Smallest Viable Market

There’s one more advantage Olipop has in the psychological sector… a more condensed target audience.

Marketing guru Seth Godin calls this the smallest viable market. By targeting on the minimum amount of people that could sustain your business, you redirect focus to only the people who value your product the most, and whom you can get to know more intimately than any other audience.

Big brands can be so focused on profits and managing shareholder prices that they can lose sight of the consumer and why they exist (brand purpose).  This is where challenger brands strive; they can disrupt the market with a laser focus on what matters most to their target consumer (clear brand purpose) and the opportunity to build loyalty.

Open Letter to Big Brands

Dear big brands,

We feel you. Being so big, it can feel like people pay too much attention to your stinky feet instead of trying to get a good view of your friendly smile. It can feel like these challenger brands are taking advantage of that. Like you’re going to be toppled over, or maybe get an eye poked out.

Here’s where you’re wrong. You can be a challenger brand too. Challenger brands aren’t inherently small. Would you consider Uber a small company? How about Airbnb?

The qualifications to become a challenger brand aren’t weighed on a scale, they’re discovered in the personality of a brand. That means you can become a challenger brand, and there’s a chance you need to consider that redirection.


Concerned Marketer

Make Your Own Challenger Brand

Interested in learning more about the psychology of challenger brands and how you can implement their tactics into your own marketing plan? Contact Shelly Hoffman.


phone: (678) 735 5220 x 102

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