Challenger Brand 101

Businessman is fighting against someone bigger

Businessman is fighting against someone bigger

Surrounded by category giants, a smaller company makes a huge leap forward.

No matter the industry, there is always a pecking order. At the very top are the Goliaths, those brands that have led their respective categories for years and spent millions if not billions in marketing to stay on top.

Below the Goliaths are everyone else, the small to mid-size brands that fight for market share and relevance while being overshadowed and significantly outspent by the big guys.

If you’re responsible for marketing one of these challenger brands, no one knows better than you what you’re up against. But perhaps you also know that having the right kind of fresh and aggressive “challenger” mentality can go a long way in setting you apart from everyone else in your category.

One challenger brand we helped do just that is Atlantic Broadband. They are a telecommunications company providing internet, TV and phone to customers in five regions along the East coast and have been a client of Full Contact for six years.

When we began working with them they had three distinct challenges:

  • Very limited brand awareness as the company could not cost effectively leverage traditional mass media.
  • A complicated story to tell due to the different services and value propositions they were trying to communicate.
  • Stiff regional competition from some of the biggest names and deepest marketing budgets in telecommunications: AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and DirecTV.

Given their challenges, the first thing we wanted to do was create a value proposition for Atlantic Broadband that strategically separated this nimble and innovative company from the pack. Some challenger brands feel they need to match all that the category leaders have to offer, but just don’t have the resources to keep up. We convinced Atlantic Broadband tosimplify and unify their value proposition behind the three pillars that really did set them apart:

  • *Crazy fast internet speeds
  • *Hyper local service
  • *More entertainment choices

We selected these pillars because knew they had the fastest internet speeds in most markets. We also knew none of the national carriers could compete with this regional brand for responsive “boots on the ground” customer service. Finally, Atlantic Broadband was way ahead of the innovation curve in providing more of the entertainment consumers were looking for by being the first provider in the US to integrate Netflix into their offering (even adding TiVo a few years later).

We summarized our three-pronged strategic focus into the simple outcome that it actually delivered for customers: instant gratification from both an internet, entertainment and local service standpoint. It’s what led us to create a brand platform that is still as compelling and relevant for Atlantic Broadband today: “What you want. Instantly.”

This brand platform became the cornerstone for all of our creative efforts moving forward, including a fully integrated campaign that leveraged the all-important digital channels as well as the traditional (TV, radio, OOH, print, DM). The campaign zeroed in on the clear advantages of having the fastest speeds, the most entertainment choices, and customer service right in your neighborhood. The worked looked and felt different from that of the category leaders simply because it had to be different to stand out.This is one of the real keys to success of having a challenger brand mentality: don’t try to be like the other guy, instead succeed at being like no one else but you.

And succeed they have. Atlantic Broadband has enjoyed phenomenal results since we began working with them six years ago:

  • They more than doubled their revenue from $350 million to $720 million
  • With revenue growth over 6% for each of the past 3 years, they have been recognized as one of the fastest growing operators of any size in the U.S.
  • They have, in a few short years, grown to become America’s 9thlargest cable operator.

Sure, it’s great to be the leader in the category. But at Full Contact, we feel it’s even greater to always have the challenger mentality, no matter how successful your brand becomes or how big it gets. That way you’re always hungrier, nimbler and thinking more differently than the rest of the pack. Oh, and it’s never boring.

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Come to Your Coffee Senses: Part Two

How did Full Contact follow up last year’s wildly successful campaign for Cumberland Farms Farmhouse Blend coffee? By tapping into the awesome and skyrocketing star power of comedian, writer and TV radio host Nikki Glaser. This fully integrated campaign continues to position the delicious 99¢ Farmhouse Blend as the Great No Brainer in the coffee world. Have a look…

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Putting the “New England” in New England Honda

NEHD Accord 2018 New Logo

There are a lot of megabrands who do a phenomenal job marketing themselves to a national, even global audience. The challenges occur when these same brands try to connect with consumers on a more local level. Anyone who lives in the Boston market has seen evidence of this: the baked bean references, Tea Party jokes, and of the course obligatory “pahk the cahh” headline. In some ways it is no different when you see a famous Hollywood actor butcher the local dialect. It is anything but genuine and fails to make a connection with the local audience. Not to mention it just sounds godawful.  Read more

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The Casual Conundrum: Diners Expect More from Fast Casual

Sidewalk Cafe Menu Blank for Writing

Sidewalk Cafe Menu Blank for Writing

Call me old fashioned (or just old), but I remember when I was growing up we had four options for dining out – a local pizza place, McDonald’s, the “fancy restaurant” with the real tablecloths and the diner. Being picky or having high expectations for the dining experience wasn’t really an option. You just went where you went and ate what you ate.

Good Lord have things changed.

My kids now have upwards of 40 dining options in a 10 mile radius – and I live deep in the suburbs. Last night, we literally had a fifteen minute debate over which Hibachi place we wanted to go to (of the 4 local options – FOUR. LOCAL. HIBACHI. OPTIONS!).

I provide the above as context for some research we conducted here at Full Contact on the fast casual restaurant space. As a working mom with two kids, fast casual is a frequent savior for me. It’s the go-to when there is no time to make a meal, when we need a break from the weekday meal monotony, or when we are running between errands and just need a quick bite. I think many people view fast casual as a savior for the reasons I note above, but according to our research, that does not mean that people don’t still have high expectations for what fast casual restaurants should provide.


According to our survey* of 751 adults, diners seek benefits more often associated with a sit-down restaurant experience from their fast casual counterparts. For example:

  • 58% of those surveyed want better customer service and 48% were looking for a “more comfortable restaurant experience.”
  • In addition, 39% said they are seeking seasonal menu items and 38% said they would like to see more “unique food offerings to try for a limited time.” So, while they value the reliability of your standard menu offerings, they want you to give them new and interesting options to consider when they visit.

In the coming weeks we will share further findings about the restaurant landscape but for now, if you manage any sort of restaurant brand in this hyper-competitive category (FOUR HIBACHI OPTIONS!), I suggest you consider not just the brands you compete against but also how the increase in competition has fueled the expectations of today’s diner.


[Note: Survey hosted by ProdegeMR. Responses gathered from 751 Adults age 18+; balanced to US Census on age, gender, region and household income]


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Real Talk with Cambridge Savings Bank.

Last spring, we sat down on a nice couch. It belonged to Lisa Rodericks, the CMO at Cambridge Savings Bank, and we were there to talk about the evolution of her brand campaign, Always You – an idea that’s all about treating every customer like they’re the only customer. Lisa is cool, very down-to-earth. She told us that she wanted a campaign that felt very real, while telling us in a way that felt, well… very real.

Her team at CSB was doing a lot of things that other banks weren’t. So one by one, Lisa listed them, arguing “Who does that?” And she was right. They had taken the time to develop products and practices that were unique – which, if you know the banking industry, is not easy.

So, we came back to her with an idea that stemmed from that first conversation:

Who does that? We do that.

It was a campaign that embraced the fact that people would be skeptical of a community bank making these claims, and used their disbelief to create simple conversations that helped us put those misconceptions to bed. Here’s a few of the new spots which started airing last month.

These were a lot of fun to make. And it’s always nice to hear that customers are writing in to tell the bank things like, “Great ad. Maybe the first bank ad I’ve ever liked.”

I give a lot of credit to Lisa and her entire team for sharing a vision for where their brand could and should go. And for trusting us to deliver on the idea – which really benefitted from some great casting, great producing and directing from Jonathan Bekemier & Red Tree, editing from Peel & Eat, and sonic landscaping from Mike Letourneau at Soundtrack.

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