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Struggling with content strategy? Challenger thinking may be your friend.


Jul 2019

Julian Tedstone

Managing Director

When Coherence needed help defining our messaging, Ape Creative lent a hand and put us through a challenger workshop. The experience was transformative.

When we are engaged on a new website project, we have a single overriding mantra which we present to clients: 

"Effective website performance is closely linked to an organisation's ability to demonstrate how its products/services differentiate themselves from the competition."

And this needs to be told quickly, not in a page long monologue (analytics show people don't read it!)

A common response we receive, and by 'common' I mean nearly everyone, is that their organisation 'has genuinely really nice people to work with.'  We include ourselves in this bucket of nothingness. And, of course, we all ignore the fact that our competitors don't market themselves as 'unpleasant people to work with' thereby diminishing any value in our proposition. 

When formulating a content design and engagement strategy, this lack of differentiation can manifest itself in several ways.  These include:

Weak, unremarkable articles 
Of course, by unremarkable I mean your audience doesn't engage and remark on them.  The result is less shares, minimal reach and little emotional brand engagement.  With the web full of filler content, this is not good. Without a strong sense of positioning, opinion and single minded purpose, these articles just become...filler.

Product/service pages that don't convert  
You find yourself simply describing the product/service detail rather than why the user should want to buy them.  Engagement with your offering is often as a result of an emotional response rather than a purely logical choice.  Just think of many brands where their fans' loyalty goes far beyond that of the item itself.  The Book of Why presents this point well (despite it being stretched over a few hundred pages). 

Bland company 'about us' pages 
What does your organisation stand for, and why should your clients care? It is often easier to simply talk about your history and team members, ignoring the fact that most of your potential customers don’t care.  Really, they don’t.  

Challenger thinking, in an oversimplified nutshell, will allow your business to:

  • define how you differentiate yourself against your competitor
  • create the 'stance' your company will adopt.  This is your personality, your DNA, how you make people feel about you
  • define your ‘lighthouse’ point of view.  A single overriding belief which will form a personality that your business will inspire your customers with
  • define ambition for your organisation, what it is going to achieve, and how it is going to get there.

Challenger isn't a silver bullet - there is a considerable effort for your organisation as a whole.  Every part of who you are, how you behave, how you present yourselves has to evolve. However, if done successfully, the rewards can be significant and ongoing. 

This is a great article talking in more detail about the role of the challenger thinking and how it can fit into your brand.  It includes some great examples including Ikea, Apple, Innocent and Virgin (all of whom achieved their greatness by following the challenger methodology).

Some great more recent examples of challenger brands include Norwegian Air, Monzo, Purple Bricks and Impossible Foods.  Sat there thinking they don't float your boat?  That doesn't matter because being a Challenger, you don't want to please all the people all the time.  Its worth exploring some great examples of challenger brands.

The Workshop

The workshop with Ape comprised of 3 non-consecutive days each constructed of mini-sessions combining creative thought, introspective analysis, light-hearted debate and heated 'discussion.' Our senior management team joined these sessions.

Without going into too much detail (for your own sanity), each of the workshops allowed us as a team to rise to varying challenges ranging from a retrospective 'what would I do on my first day if I hired myself as my replacement' through to '15 mins to conceive a show-stopping exhibition stand telling the world how great you are'.  

Each of these exercises helped us as a group to discuss our current situation candidly, explore ideas on where our unique strengths lay and start the journey to identify and solidify a coherent challenger strategy. 

The final output was absolute clarity on how our current 'slightly generic' positioning was hurting us and where our focus should lie to maximise our competitive differences.  Secondary to that was closely aligning us as a team, motivated to take on the world. 

So over the coming months, we'll start the journey we have now defined.  This will involve many changes both to the way we work, the way we communicate internally but most importantly, the way we present and message ourselves externally.   

It's only by doing this that we will begin to genuinely differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We have ambitious growth targets which will be difficult to achieve simply trying to convince our market on what a thoroughly nice bunch of people we are to work with.

Recommended Reading:  Content Design by Sarah Richards 
Ape Creative: B2C Website
Workshop details: Download PDF Brochure

Julian Tedstone

By Julian Tedstone
Managing Director

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