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Zag - Last edition of the year! Three of our top challenger trends of 2022

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A big thank you to those of you who came out for our very first Zag Out in London last week (and for those who missed it, you can see the highlight video here). What a special night for us! It was amazing to see so many of you in person and see this community we’ve all been building over the last year finally come together and come to life in person. We’ll be doing more Zag Outs (and in more cities!) in 2023. Can’t wait to meet and hear from more of you.

This is our final Zag for the year, as we’ll be taking a break to rest and recharge over the holidays. So, we thought we’d do a bit of a special edition…

At Zag Out on Tuesday, we recorded a special edition of Scratch looking back on the the key challenger trends of 2022, some of the brands that executed on them well, and takeaways for any marketer to apply to their own business. The episode will be published on Wednesday, but we thought we’d share the script here with you. Hope you enjoy! And thank you again for all the support and feedback in this first year of Rival and Zag. We can’t wait to see what 2023 brings.

-Team Rival


Trend 1: Building Cultural Relevance

Building a brand people care about has to do with what you offer (both functionally and emotionally) as a brand, but also the cultural context around your brand and within the lives of the consumer audience you’re trying to reach.

Brands that did this well:

Crocs: This stirred up more controversy than we thought…but say what you will about your personal preference on clogs becoming cool again, you can’t deny Crocs are making a comeback! And much of their recent success has to do with the cultural relevance they’ve been building through partnerships and JV activations with individuals and trends that have cultural cache right now. We covered Crocs recently, so we won’t go into too much detail, but if you missed the edition from a few weeks ago, here are a few of the things Crocs has done recently

Oh, and all of this has resulted in a 110% rise in their stock price over the last five months…

EoS: One of our favourite challenger brands of the year is EoS. They’ve done a ton of amazing (and effective) marketing work. We’d recommend going back and listening to Eric’s interview with CMO Soyoung Kong on Scratch (one of the best of the year, in our humble opinion). But the specific cultural activation we wanted to call out is how they jumped on a TikTok trend to drive a 2500% increase in sales of one product…Read more about what it was and how they did it here.

Three takeaways for you

  • Understand the drivers of culture within your audience
  • Find ways to contribute to them in valuable ways
  • Make it a habit, not a hack

Trend 2: Being Purpose-Driven

Consumers increasingly want brands to take a stand and contribute to positive change in the world, but only if they can actually back it up. They need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Edelman’s Trust Barometer report found that  81 percent of people expect brands to ‘do the right thing.’ But…not all purpose is equal, and purpose is certainly not the marketing silver bullet many in our industry purport it to be. Our data shows that price and product still rank higher than purpose in importance for influencing purchase behavior. Or put another way - everybody wants to save themselves money, THEN save the world.  Still, even if that means brand purpose is more of a value multiplier for a good, well-priced product (vs a value creator in itself), it’s still a big opportunity for brands to build equity with consumers - as long as they do it the right way…

Brands that did this well:

Starface: Starface is a fast-growing challenger in the acne treatment personal care space. The interesting thing about Starface isn’t just the brand and product, it’s the conversation and cultural shift they’re looking to drive. Starface wants to promote “acne positivity”.  The want to change the perception that people and society in general have about acne. Sure, it’s not exactly saving the world, but it’s claiming and owning an authentic, sharp point of difference in their industry. Read more about how they’re claiming and showcasing their purpose here.

Chewy: Chewy is an online retailer for pet food and supplies. They launched over 10 years ago and are now publicly traded with over $450M in funding, so they’d fit more into the “rival brand” category rather than the “challenger brand” category at this point. But they are still doing challenger-type things with purpose…One of those things is so simple and easy, we’re always amazed more companies don’t do it. They show they care about your pets. Check out this coverage on in the US about how Chewy sends flowers to their customers when their pet dies. The story surfaced when a woman tweeted about her experience and it went viral. You can’t buy that kind of exposure (not to mention getting on Supporting someone when they lose a pet isn’t saving the world, but it’s owning and delivering on a clear purpose for Chewy that really resonates with people.

Three takeaways for you

  • Aim to Outperform the Moral Average in your category. Not the World,
  • A Good Purpose Doesn’t Fix a Bad Product, But a Good Product Makes a Stronger Purpose
  • Start small with something that’s own able, then Incrementally Expand Your Impact

Trend 3: Building a community around your brand

We live in a world of increasing openness when it comes to brands and content. Brands, especially challengers, are moving from the traditional storyteller dynamic, where communities exist to consume branded content, to a facilitator dynamic, where brands can create communities and spaces around shared values or interests. Academic research has further shown the power of community, finding that when consumers feel they are part of a branded community it increases their brand love (the degree of emotional and passionate affection that consumers have towards particular brands) as well as word-of-mouth and loyalty.

Brands that did this well:

Corteiz: We covered Corteiz only a few weeks ago, so feel free to skip this recap if you’d like. But we’d encourage to really think about and focus in on how Corteiz has build community around their brand. For those who didn’t see the edition with Corteiz, they are a high-end challenger streetwear brand out of the UK. They’re purpose-led and authentic, but also have been incredibly successful at building a tight community that drives advocacy and buzz. They produces a limited run of each product they sell, and sell it only via a private e-comm site - you need to be selected and given a password to be able to access it. Sometimes they’ll do “drops” in-person, but always in surprise, pop-up ways that build the buzz even further. Read more about what they're doing here.

Pickleball: Another controversial one with the Zaggers from Tuesday…A few months ago we talked about Gary Vaynerchuk buying a Pickleball team on Punchy, and it has only blow-up from here! The sport is now attracting celebrity investors/owners hand-over-fist who are creating a massive buzz and community around the sport. Lebron James, Bill Gates, Kevin Durant, Drew Breez and the Kardashians - all Pickleball team owners and/or fans. Pickleball is expected to have 40 million players by 2030.

Three takeaways for you

  • Plan for Collaboration, Not Just Recall
  • Scale through Partnership
  • Learn About Your Audience & Adapt


That's all for this week AND this year! As always, hit that reply button if anything pops to mind. Otherwise, we'll see you in 2023!

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