Many big brands are feeling the heat from a new kind of competitor: the smaller, younger, quicker upstart brand. But big brands can hold their position by being sober about the threat, being consistent and confident in their fame, and by being inspired by new competitors in the category, new research finds.

This is according to research the brandgym carried out in May and June of 2018, via a global quantitative survey of over 100 senior marketing professionals alongside research with 800 consumers in France, the UK, India, and the US. Brandgynm’s founder and group managing partner, David Taylor, has written about the findings in a new article for WARC.

In it, he charts the new course that insurgent brands across the world have created. “Insurgent brands play by different rules to big established brand leaders, as shown by our research with marketing directors.

“First, smaller brands are more agile (64%), with simpler structures allowing faster response to emerging trends. Second, smart use of social media (56%) helps them at launch, although many later move into traditional media to get reach.”

This is not lost on the marketing directors who the brandgym spoke to. The overwhelming majority (88%) said that insurgents pose a threat. Though the threat to all brands in all categories may be exaggerated, Taylor writes, FMCG brands are the most threatened.

Meanwhile, categories with low threat levels are important to consider. For instance, in more complex categories where trust is key – such as OTC medicine or financial services – being big is an advantage. Somewhere in the middle are cosmetics and sportswear brands.

So what can brands do? “First and most fundamentally,” Taylor says, “big brands need to sharpen their positioning and use this to inspire and guide a revitalised mix. They need to renovate the core to respond to new needs. In order to maintain and build the ‘trust advantage’ that should come from being a large, well-known brand.”

Other changes require big, often publicly listed, companies to emulate the investment focus of small brands in the name of long-term returns. “Marketing leaders need to re-focus on championing the consumer and creating ‘demand-led growth’, like successful small brand companies do.”

On the other hand, big brands should leverage their scale and stick with proven thinking about how brands grow. Notably, big brands are at an advantage in terms of media reach, garnering mental availability, and across retailers and retail platforms for physical availability.

Finally, Taylor observes, big brands need to focus investment and concentrate on the product in order to protect brand integrity. Quoting from a senior Coca-Cola marketing director, Taylor adds: “Don’t be tactical and expand your range. Be strategic and expand presence in people’s lives.”

Sourced from WARC