Monday, March 9, 2009

I think we're all Bozos on this bus

A lot has been said about challenger brands. Books have been written, web sites launched and careers made.

Here at N+H (and, by extension, at JITD), we define a challenger brand as one that has greater aspirations than resources. Or something to prove. And we like 'em.

Of course, we're small, and usually a good fit for a challenger, but the better reason is that we really kind of get off on the fact that challenger brands are often People With an Attitude. People who want us to do something exciting. People who want to take a chance or two and make some noise while reaching for a big return.

Maybe they are new to the market or the category. Or their competitors all have more money or are part of a national chain. Everybody thinks your hotel is too expensive? Or your restaurant only serves old people? Or maybe nobody ever heard of you at all. Come on down. We want to work with you.

OK, yeah, we're fabulous and one-of-a-kind wonderful and everybody loves us, blah, blah, blah, yakety, yakety, yak and maybe it's true and maybe it's not. But this isn't a new-business blog. The point it has taken me five paragraphs to get to (and my Mother the newspaper editor would would be beat me for it if she was still alive) is that when you think about it, just about everybody in business these days is a challenger brand, you know?

I mean, name four companies with advertising or marketing budgets that are as big as they were two years ago. Hell, name two. And when you consider that "advertising", no matter what form it takes, can be so cost-efficient it's sick, you have to wonder about the wisdom of cutting or eliminating one of your best available tools for bringing in business because business is slow.

Call it a business necessity, call it short-sighted or call it conventional, garden-variety idiocy, I don't care. It's what's happening. And what it means is that everybody had oughta be thinking more like a challenger brand than they used to.

Do something a little scary. Put convention in a bucket and go throw it out in the yard. Get rid of it. Take some chances. Re-think everything. Jeeze, have some fun.

I've said it before. You can't do more with less, at least not in the traditional sense. That's why they call it less. But you sure can make a hell of a lot of noise with less. That might sound a little scary, but who among us couldn't use an adrenaline rush now and then?

(Headline explanation here if needed.)

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