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The Challengers' Challenge

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The Challengers' Challenge

PUBLISHED: 15 October 2015



Your brand doesn’t seem to exist without a challenge
Ever since the huge success of the icebucket challenge that raised over 100M for the ALS organisation and glued people from your neighbour to Leonardo di Caprio to the brand, throwing a challenge is key in marketing – whether you’re a charity or corporate organisation.

Oxfam followed by the 100 KM challenge, there was the Pepsi Challenge, the Levis Commuter Challenge, the Bupa Family Challenge, the Mc Donalds Happy Meal Challenge… it looks like your brand doesn’t exist without a challenge. I even saw my local pub advertise the ‘1kg rump steak challenge. Are you man or mouse?’

Throwing a challenge is not just a trend to increase the level of engagement with the audience; there is a paradigm shift visible too. Back in the 90’s brands would just show how great their products were, the quality, the exclusivity, the service or if in a price war, how cheap they could offer it. Tag lines would appeal to your self-worth, as in L’Oreal’s famous line: ‘because you’re worth it’. Now all that counts is brand engagement, pushing proof of quality, exclusivity, service or price to a secondary point if the level of engagement is high enough.

Challenges make products de-facto worth buying
When I was a teenager, a pair of Levi’s was considered to be cool to wear, and buying the product would enhance acceptance and establishment within a group of peers. The brand acts as a ticket to be admitted to a selection of cool kids, and all the brand had to do, was to show to their target audience that they have valuable products that sets them apart from the ordinary. With throwing challenges, the game changes: it is no longer the cool kids to challenge your inclusion to the group by buying a certain product; it is the brand itself to challenge you whether you are worth their product. This places the brand in a unique and powerful position: the brand no longer needs approval from the cool kids to be considered desirable; by throwing the challenge the products are de-facto desirable and thus worth buying.

Challenges bring a 1-on-1 relationship with the brand
Another interesting shift is that in old-school marketing competitions, consumers would compete amongst each other for a certain prize that the brand would award, like a new car, a holiday or just a set of their products. Now it is the brand competing directly with the consumer in their challenge. In other words, throwing a challenge means a 1-on-1 relationship of the brand with the consumer, instead of aiming for the favours of a panel or lucky draw to win some grand prize.

Not every brand is necessarily suited for a challenge. If we would translate L’Oreal’s line to a challenge, ‘Are you worth it?’ would probably not work (though I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of 5-min make-up contest or national skin purifying week for a brand like that. I did notice though they threw a challenge to refurbish an airport store, so there you go…) the number of ways to translate a marketing goal into an audience challenge is endless. But there is a caveat.

The challenge after the challenges
Looking towards the future, with every brand throwing a challenge, it is getting increasingly, well, challenging for marketeers to come up with another challenge that fits the brand and catches the consumer’s interest. After all, each new challenge needs to be more engaging, wowing, exciting than the previous challenges other brands have already executed.

I wonder what the next big thing after the challenge-trend will be. After all, all that the brand wants is to engage with their audience and increase their brand perception by being fun, exciting, personal and cool. We’ve seen this can be done by another challenge, but maybe the next thing after all those consumer challenges is being pampered, seduced, entertained, tricked or simply delighted…