Take On the Big Boys

Take On the Big Boys


As I look at the successful challenger brands fighting against the status quo, I feel reassured about the state of competition in South Africa. While this is not true of all industries, brands like Capitec Bank, Cell C and Checkers have demonstrated how ready South Africans are to adopt a fresh approach.

While these examples all represent large corporates that have adopted a challenger brand approach to tackle South Africa’s largest industries, being big is not a prerequisite for challenging the incumbent. It may be the one single factor that is likely to trip you up when taking on the Goliath in your industry.

Be quick and agile

Sadly, too many young entrepreneurs see big brands with even bigger market budgets and shelve their business aspirations, chosing to work for the beast rather than take it on.

As MD of Hiring Bounty, a newly launched business that intends to disrupt the outdated recruitment industry, I’ve identified four key factors that will set you on the right path to building a strong challenger brand that can disrupt even the most established of industries.

1. Don’t fight head to head

The incumbent market leaders will invariably have greater resources than your start-up. They’ve been milking the industry for so long they are bound to have deep pockets. Fortunately, the lack of a competitor also means they are likely to be inefficient and slow to react.

Use this to your advantage. Leverage a key story in the newspaper and quickly run a clever marketing campaign. These are the types of campaigns you are able to run that the Goliaths can’t. For them it takes too long to approve and everyone is too scared of denting their brand image. When you start out you have no brand, so what do you have to lose?

2. Become famous for something

Efficient distribution channels, large bargaining power with suppliers and massive R&D budgets all mean big brands can offer multiple products to cater for the masses. As a smaller business you have none of these resources and this is good. It forces you to find a niche, a group of disgruntled individuals who are not receiving exactly what they want.

A niche may be for a particular product, but often there is a group of customers willing to pay more for better service, speed or other intangibles like your brand’s ‘cool’ factor. Build your brand on servicing these customers perfectly. Once you’re famous, then diversify.

3. You are the plucky upstart

Everyone loves the underdog, so use it. Position yourself as a challenger brand, call out the competition on the areas where they are failing their customers and improve on these weaknesses. It’s no secret that people don’t like your competitor because they are expensive, slow or offer poor customer service. Challenge them on this and customers will rally behind you.

4. Be honest

Review your service and product honestly. Challenge yourself to always be better. I guarantee you that most monopolies within our country aren’t honestly evaluating themselves.

Also be honest with your customer. Admit your shortcomings, apologise and encourage them to come along for the journey. You are new and even if things are going well there will be growing pains. These are good, but to avoid losing customers, share the struggles you are facing.

Every business with a vision of disrupting a stale industry offers more competition, better customer experience and keeps our economy moving forward. Don’t be scared to build your own challenger brand. South Africa still has far too many Goliaths and not enough Davids.

Outwit Your Competition. Here’s What You Need to Know