as a junior strategist I’m intrigued by challenger brands, or as we call them at clarkmcdowall, ankle biters. these brands are the game changers, defying their category’s current mindset and emerging as disruptive thought leaders. I think what shines through the most is that everything they do is driven by their credo or philosophy. they don’t just sell a product or service, they build a connection. this goes to show that even in the face of the technology revolution, values are what ultimately set brands apart – reinforcing what us young millennial already know to be true.
ankle biters’ beliefs influence everything they do from product and design to even their business model. their beliefs are built upon a disruptive point of view about their category, but they can also disrupt in the functional sense – the key distinction being they focus their disruption in accordance with their credo.
one example of an ankle biter that spoke to me is Walker and Co, the parent company of two CPG brands, Bevel and Form. they are direct-to-consumer (following the trend to bypass the traditional retail model) but are also, and more importantly, on a mission to innovate simple and elevated solutions for people of color. it’s the second point that differentiates these brands in the CPG category and drives their innovation.
another ankle biter, The Jackfruit Company, is a mission driven brand founded by a young female entrepreneur. built on the tenets of sustainability, healthy eating, and farmers’ livelihood, The Jackfruit Company wants to change the way people think about meat holistically. even though they are a client of ours, they really connect with me personally because they don’t just sell products, they reflect values of doing something positive, with purpose and thoughtfulness.
there are some brands that enter the market through disruption alone, often times through technical innovation. the problem with this is that functionality can easily be imitated and can turn into cost of entry – as we saw with Form and Bevel and the direct-to-consumer business model. another example of this is Uber, which digitally disrupted the transportation industry, but failed to develop a strong value system. what makes Uber a better choice than Lyft, Juno, Via, or one of the other many competitors that imitated their technology? I honestly couldn’t tell you. in fact, Uber’s lack of values resulted in multiple public scandals making it my least likely choice from the brands that I listed above. without a strong set of beliefs to rally behind, the company lost its way and had a falling out with many stakeholders including employees, government officials and consumers. this shows how important foundational beliefs truly are, without them a company could face not just external consequences, but internal ones as well. when it comes down to it people (and I speak for myself here) connect with brands based on values and how they run their business not just based on technology or business model. it’s the foundational beliefs that set a brand apart and create staying power.
working in an industry that champions the rebellious ankle biter reinforces why I decided to pursue a career in branding. it’s an exciting time to be working in brand architecture when we recognize the potential and worth of a brand that’s willing to challenge the status quo, allowing us to craft unique and meaningful human narratives that get at the heart of what a brand stands for – especially at clarkmcdowall where driving connections with consumers’ values and beliefs is something we get to do every single day.