Lessons From Launching A Challenger Brand In A Crowded Marketplace

Lessons From Launching A Challenger Brand In A Crowded Marketplace
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Libby Minogue (pictured below) is the Chief Revenue Officer at flexigroup. Prior to that she was executive general manager of media, content and marketing at REA Group and was MCN’s national director of content and partnerships. In this guest post, Minogue offers her first-hand tips for when you’re a battling challenger brand…

Think of a challenger brand, and you’re probably imagining a young start-up with big dreams and little experience. You’re almost definitely not thinking about an ASX-listed company with offices around the world. But that’s exactly the position my company found itself in earlier this year, when we launched a new buy now, pay later offering, humm.

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Launching a challenger BNPL brand was a gamble, because we were entering a cluttered and competitive market filled with popular, millennial-focused offerings. But while consumers were already familiar with our competitors, we knew that there was room for someone to stand up and challenge the status quo. So what have we learned from our shift from an established brand to challenger brand?

Understand the competition

First of all, any challenger brand should have a full understanding of what they’re up against. Thoroughly investigate the competition, so that you have a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

Launching in a competitive environment had its advantages, too. Often, existing brands will have done a lot of the hard work for you, especially if your offering is new or unusual. Our competitors, for example, have succeeded in teaching the world about how buy now pay later works via millennial-centric influencers and smart partner selections. We have been able to leverage the consumer education that they’ve achieved, but reframe it for a wider market and with a different approach to the solution.

Don’t copy others

In order to stand out from the crowd, it’s essential that your challenger brand fulfils a need that’s not currently being met. While it might look similar to existing brands, your offering needs to include at least some point of difference. Take a long, hard look at the current market, and ask yourself what you can do differently. Your point of difference can be more than the product itself, and could include anything from your logo to your language, marketing, sales approach or customer experience design.

While many of our competitors have found success offering small loans to their younger-skewed audiences, for example, we knew that our 35+ target market would require a flexible offering that allowed for both big and small purchases. We wanted to offer the same ease of use to a broader range of customers, who might want to purchase anything from dental work to solar panels.

We majored on the responsibility in our product design and sales approach, and we also knew that this didn’t need to make us boring. So we have steered clear of financial terms in our product names and avoided branding (and any business practices!) that resembles the star players in the Financial Services Royal Commission. In other words: a responsible lifestyle brand (yes, those words can belong together).

Customer experience is king

In order to stand out in a competitive retail environment, getting your customer experience design right is essential. Your competitors are going to be continuously iterating their CX, so you should be too.

Never discount the people and the businesses in-between your end product and the customer: these layers are the key to a seamless customer experience. By putting in the hard work throughout those layers, the end customer experience will be a whole lot healthier.

Remember, not every challenger brand lasts long enough to become a mature mainstay. You must look after people and focus on experience if you want to be more than a flash in the pan.

For example, in order to make sure that our customer experience is on the right track, we speak to our more elderly customers with every big purchase to ensure that they fully understand what they’ve signed up for.

Dig into your data

The most reliable way to succeed as a challenger brand is to ensure you’re always testing, learning and adapting. Constantly assess your internal data points to figure out what your customer is doing, what they’re interested in and help us plan our next move. This is where being an established brand can help, because you already have a world of insights to draw on.

At the same time, it’s essential that legacy brands are able to clearly see what’s not working, and try not to let any bad habits bleed into their new, challenger mindset. Be hard on yourself. Challenger brands should be constantly questioning if their next step is really the best move, and using hard data to back up their convictions. Anything from website analytics to EDM reports can hold the key to what you should be doing next.

Over the years, we’ve collected a bunch of insights around what type of content works, and why. Our challenger brand might be new, but our decades in the industry mean we’ve got a whole world of knowledge behind us. Flexigroup was actually the first company to bring BNPL to Australia, with a B2B offering two decades ago. Unsurprisingly, this knowledge was incredibly useful when launching our new challenger brand.

Being a challenger doesn’t have to mean being a young, naive cowboy. In fact, established brands are in the best position to take the leap, because their past experience will put them ahead of their shinier, newer competitors. So if you’re thinking about adding a challenger brand to your existing offering, embrace your hard-earned experience. And even if you’re not ready to launch a fully-fledged brand, these lessons can still be used to implement the challenger mentality into everything you do.

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