March 18, 2021

Challenger brands are customer-obsessed

Lauren Rader

Director of Strategy

A few weeks ago, a team from Curiosity had the opportunity to attend AdWeek’s virtual Challenger Brand Conference. As part of our series on the conference, this post focuses on how Challenger Brands intimately know their customers. Challenger brands know that when it comes to marketing, we can push messaging all we want, but to create loyal customers, a consumer needs to know that you care about them and that their voice is being heard. 


Here are four key things challenger brands do to stay highly engaged with their customers. 


(1) Every interaction is a way to build trust.

Since challenger brands are building new customer bases, they know that they cannot just shove a message down their consumers’ throats and expect that they will immediately convert. They also know that these engagements need to be extremely positive. Thus, the customer always comes first and the brand must always seek ways to do more for their customers. Challenger brands know where and when to insert themselves into the conversation with consumers to build up these moments of trust one touchpoint at a time. Take Tushy (the DTC bidet company that has taken off), for example. Their strategy is to do lots of listening, slowly adding value over time in a multitude of conversations. They engage with consumers like they are writing to their best friend, taking care to be their real, authentic selves and respond quickly even if it’s not perfect. 


(2) Data is great, but focus on the HUMAN datapoint.

Challenger brands (and Plato) know that “a good decision is based on knowledge not on numbers.” To truly be meaningful to a real person, you have to connect with them through one-on-one conversations. Pearl Vision learned this the hard way, but when they got it right, they benefited tremendously! Over eight years, they went through five different brand propositions and decided to look at their data through a different, more human-centric lens. Since taking that approach, Pearl Vision has experienced double digit online growth, had the highest number of exams in their brand’s history, and received Effie and Clio award recognition.  


(3) Customer feedback is imperative to better understanding your business and innovation opportunities.

Challenger brands engage with their customers one-on-one whenever possible in multiple channels. And they are willing and ready to innovate based on their consumer feedback. One shining example is  Daily Harvest, a company that builds good food from a foundation of fruits and vegetables delivered straight to your door with minimal prep, and makes the customer central to everything they do. They are in constant communication with millions of people on a daily basis, understanding their needs, pain points, and frustrations. They gather insights as they emerge and turn them into action when they are most relevant to customers. Gaining insights sooner directly from customers turns these customers into influencers and advocates. It also opens up huge opportunities for innovation. Most recently, they used their strategy to learn that plant-based milk was a massive area of frustration for their customers, so they innovated and launched a new form of almond milk that fixed the issue. 


(4) They create communities. 

Challenger brands know the value of good, engaging content and the difference between sales pieces and content pieces. They use content pieces to get to know their customers and provide them with something meaningful. Take for example the non-toxic cleaning products company, Branch Basics. They create content that has nothing to do with cleaning products, but instead, their mission of health and wellness. This content focuses on topics that are helpful to their customers, and in return, they get all kinds of questions that create a community, and ultimately, brand advocates for life. 


Challenger brands teach us that as marketers we need to obsess over our customers. Engaging with them creates a community of loyal followers, but they can also be real eye-openers regarding what is going on with your company and the opportunities that are right in front of you. Kiran Smith, CMO of iRobot, said it best when she told us that “consumer- obsessed marketers should never be satisfied with how much they have done for their customers. Constant paranoia, anxiety and focus can be a powerful and healthy driver to success.”


Feel that? That’s curiosity.

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