Growing challenger brands in challenging times

As a brand geek, I’ve been trying to find the positives in the current political maelstrom. With the masses turned into media butterflies, filling our minds with saucy speculation and secretive revelations, our newspaper moguls can finish the month smiling as newspaper sales spiked by 20%. It’s great to see the newly-found compulsion to read, digest and regurgitate political views. I hope that consumers will soon switch their discretionary spend towards uncertainty-overload-escapism through old-fashioned consumerism – research shows that consumers of all ages are least willing to sacrifice holidays when scrimping.
Primarily, I’ve been trying to untangle what turned the Leave campaign into such a disruptive force. Amongst all the palms in face moments over the last few weeks, what struck me above all else is the ability of Leavia over Remainia (Daniel Finkelstein’s terminology not mine) to clearly articulate their target tribe. Amidst this, what surprised me most was Londoners’ shock (myself included) at the result. No doubt, mixing in homogenous tribes where people like us think like us breeds complacency and apathy. Like with many retail and hospitality brands, Remainia did not think about how their proposition would work outside London.

Above all else, by ripping up the rulebook, Leavia acted like a challenger brand. It fervently understood its target market and communicated a consistent message built on two powerful emotional drivers of hope and nostalgia, both intangibly unprovable and yet passionately alluring. These emotions are commonly employed by brands when selling to us – after all we all love to buy into the yesteryear glamour of vintage or to download a new app that we hope will severely improve our daily lives. The alternative was an uninspiring message of maintaining the status quo.

In light of this, I wanted to leave you with a hopeful cheer. With a constant dialogue with entrepreneurs in the consumer space, what struck us here at Piper is entrepreneurs penchant for cutting out the noise and inspiring those around them to stay confident and motivated. For a strong multi-channel, multi-market consumer brand turning over sub £20m the growth opportunities remain undiminished and most will be well insulated from the macro-economic storm higher up.

Whilst big retailers such as M&S and Sports Direct post gloomy results and consumer confidence stumbles (ironically most in Leavia), innovative retailers and challenger brands will continue to win market share as consumers become fussier with their discretionary spend.

The modern entrepreneurial brand is naturally hedged by appealing to their loyal global customer base via social media and with products that tap into the experiential, affordable self-purchase and gifting markets. These entrepreneurs understand that consumers will increasingly want to socialise, and treat themselves and others around them. Infinite plug-ins via Shopify, global advocate nurturing via Instagram, target audience reaching via Facebook advertising, and simple international selling and fulfilment via Amazon make scaling a brand these days both easier and more competitive.

We here at Piper are very proud of the UK’s SME entrepreneurs who are increasingly the powerhouses of innovation, growth and employment, providing 33% of the UK turnover and 48% of private sector employment. In Piper’s current fund alone, our investee entrepreneurs have hired an extra 3,500 people since we invested. Cheers!

For more information, please contact:
Yasha Estraikh, Customer Research & Insight lead at Piper
Phone +44 (0)207 727 3842