I recently had a brand consultation call (via Clarity) with a fashion accessory startup from Singapore working on a convincing new product that perfectly fits into a niche yet also has the opportunity to take over it completely.
If they ever get that far.
The startup needs to go head-to-head with the largest players in the space in order to succeed; a space where big brand names are key to morphing indecisive shoppers into on-the-spot buyers. I saw their value proposition after talking with them for ten minutes, but how will they ensure to get noticed in split seconds? Are consumers willing to pay the same for a new no-name brand as they would for the time-tested brand names one wants to be seen sporting? Heading towards major competition, I had one advice for her going into a saturated B2C/Retail market:
The big players can be sexy, smooth, sophisticated, glamorous, heck…they can be anything money can buy. Bigger displays, more massive campaigns, bigger celebrity endorsements, stupendous photo shoots. There’s one thing only you can, and they can’t: You can be BOLD.
It is a 4-letter word, and you can own many more of those if you’d like – and not in the fabricated manner FCUK did. Words others can only hesitantly type, you can actually be. They may go bold on a marketing campaign, but your brand can launch being bold – with an immense amount of attitude and moxie. You can shout. You can be loud. It might be the only way you’ll get noticed.
Look at your product and examine your competitors. Analyze the single most important and unique attribute describing your brand; an attribute you can own in your segment. Is it empowering, motivating, strengthening, enriching? Then look at what outrageous thing you could do to make your audience love you, that is based on this single attribute.
T-Mobile, who you’d think of as being far removed from being a startup, had to switch gears in recent years and started looking at themselves as a rebellious startup in order to survive, and thrive. And boy did they go bold and are crushing it today. Re-establishing themselves as the ‘Un-carrier,’ T-Mobile is throwing around the words free, included and unlimited just as much as Rebel-CEO John Legere says ‘those fuckers,’ describing the other big players in the field. Those players are the ones that are now falling behind. A short story about a large corporation trying to be as bold as a startup. So, what stops you as a startup from going bold?
Fear is the only reason why most startup founders don’t take the most rewarding risk of their lifetime. You are scared to fail. You are afraid to use crazy names (yes, unpronounceable products), make everyone who buys a first edition a shareholder, give away your product for free, launch it double the price of your biggest competitor, and on goes the list of outrageousness to chose from. But you are scared to take (hold on, bonus 4-letter word magic coming up) risk.
Take a step back and analyze your situation: Only you can do it because you have very little to lose by going all-in, full-on bold. All you can gain is customers that not only like your stuff, but love it. They will build a small army of early brand ambassadors for you. For free. That is, in return of you going totally bold and having no fear. Modern consumers ache for brands like that, we all do.
When you analyze your competition, look at what bold steps they have taken lately that are not shallow campaigns, but actually built on true brand beliefs. You may notice that this is a weakness your startup can turn into its key strength. But first: Drop that fear.