May 18, 2015

Thinking big

In many industries, being the driver behind a brand with strong ideas or an innovative new technology can mean your business ambitions are greater than your marketing budget. Being the biggest fish in the ocean may not be an option, so it’s time to change the rules of the game. It’s time to make your size irrelevant.

Being a Challenger brand means you can bring continued innovation to the industry, keeping a competitive edge over the market leaders and their bigger budgets. The following eight principles are the key factors that allow the little fish to threaten the big ones. 

1. Embrace intelligent naivety

The game-changers in any market space are often those who are new to it. In order to discover new opportunities, it is important to release yourself from the knowledge, experience and cultural norms that guide mainstream established players’ strategic thinking. Intelligent naivety defines a state of mind that balances your years of experience with vital creative innocence. You may have an in-depth knowledge of your market space, your competition and the technologies needed to address the issues faced now and in the future. The challenge is being able to take a step back, to see things differently by questioning the basics. 

Why are things done the way they are? Can’t we do them differently?

As a global leader in grown diamonds, IIa Technologies has single-handedly revolutionised the technique for artificial diamond seeding. With a strong heritage in gems and jewellery, the company took a step back from the mainstream, understanding the pressures of traditional diamond mining, and the reputation of ‘synthetic’ diamonds.

IIa Technologies invested in six years of research and development before commencing commercial production of the purest diamonds, addressing the global challenge of catching the imagination of consumers and focusing on their desired needs of sustainability, authenticity and value for money. 

2. Build a lighthouse identity

In order to succeed you need to have a defined sense of who you are and where you want to be in your marketplace. Are you clear on the real challenges? Has your singular focus delivered a new technology for deepwater, subsea processing or HP/HT? Is it built on an irrefutable idea?

By projecting your offer with intensity and consistency, it becomes the guiding light that your stakeholders will take notice of and follow, even if they are looking elsewhere.

Ascend Performance Materials wanted to define and develop a culture of communication that would create a sense of purpose within the organisation and ultimately deliver increased brand value. Through development of the ‘inspiring everyday’ campaign, Ascend has leveraged a concept into practice by aligning words and deeds with their vision, mission and values. They have reinforced their beliefs through a comprehensive process of empowering employees to engage fellow team members and the communities in which they live, work and play. Whether it is through volunteer activities, supporting employee CSR initiatives or organising direct support for community organisations, Ascend brings people together to make a difference outside of work hours.

For the employees, the company is able to express itself in a different, inspiring way.

3. Become the thought leader

You might think each market has only one leader, the one with the largest market share. In fact, there are two, the other being the thought leader. This may not be the one with the largest share, but it’s the one everyone is talking about. They get the best media coverage and their people and technologies form the topics for discussion at the world’s many oil & gas seminars. Their ideas have momentum and hold promise for the future of the energy sector.

These are the Challengers.

Many companies have positioned themselves in the thought leadership arena in the energy sector – but Lloyd’s Register Energy wanted to take it further, to be seen as an agent for action. The international engineering, technical and business services organisation created a series of events to bring top-level executives from leading operators and major service companies together for an exclusive dinner briefing.

Critical to this series of events is the establishment of a group in each region to lead decision and action, and to position both the company – and president of the Energy Division, John Wishart – as conduits for change, leaders and advocates in industry collaboration. The events would be more than just a discussion, they would be an agenda for change.

The first briefing was held in Aberdeen with plans for others to be replicated culturally and contextually in Abu Dhabi, London, Houston, Singapore and Perth. The main aim of the Aberdeen evening was to discuss and explore the opportunity which still exists in the UKCS, in the context of Sir Ian Wood’s ‘UKCS Maximising Recovery Review’, and how the industry could respond.

This event generated a white paper, infographic, blog and a press release on the issues worrying oil executives in the North Sea, which has driven further exposure in the media for the organisation. 

4. Create a symbol of re-evaluation

Challengers need to work fast. They need to put a spanner in the spokes of their stakeholders’ perceptions.

The Challenger brand will cause a reappraisal of expectations and market demands by articulating a clear differential. This must be reflected in their communications. In an industry like oil & gas that is awash with marketing clichés and red, white and blue colour schemes, a Challenger brand can navigate a course carefully designed to get its offer noticed. Using big, attention-grabbing campaigns that capture and engage not just your customers’, but also your employees’ imagination with impact and brevity will make them rethink the way they do things.

Be different and be the symbol for a new way of doing things.

With a new leadership team in place, Viking Moorings had a vision to expand their offer to include a more comprehensive service, including a higher value consultancy for their customers. In order to change industry perceptions, they created a new term, SeaTech services, which provided a platform on which to tell a new brand story. The company was rebranded as Viking SeaTech and their story was articulated in a multi- channel campaign designed to make people see familiar ideas from a new perspective. Following significant growth, the Actuant Corporation acquired the company for US $225million as part of their expanding oil & gas portfolio.

5. Sacrifice

Not everyone has the resources of Halliburton, Schlumberger or any of the leaders in each of the energy market segments. They may have multitudes of product and service lines to talk about, but you can focus on one. As a Challenger, you have the advantage of being able to sacrifice and concentrate your business focus, communications and actions. You can adapt and respond quickly to the ever-changing needs of your customers.

Success for a Challenger comes not from prioritising but by sacrifice and absolute focus.

Completions company, Tendeka, formed from five specialist organisations, competed in a market space dominated by the major oil & gas service companies. With a fraction of their available marketing budgets they focused on being seen as a viable alternative. They invested in a global exhibition programme with an emphasis on being seen alongside the majors. They developed a unique booth design giving them immediate visibility, with a well-articulated offer centred around the idea that completions were their sole focus and how this provided the customer with flexible solutions to optimise their well flow. They are now firmly positioned as a major player in the completions market space. 

6. Overcommit

Following on from sacrifice and a clear focus on what key activity to drive forward, the Challenger must overcome the problems of resistance and stagnation. In a risk-averse industry, everyone wants to be second. You need to be able to assure customers and push them to be pioneers, potentially foregoing some shorter-term gains. This will come from a determination to overcome the barriers by managing risk, demonstrating the proof points and making your offer irresistible.

This doesn’t come from commitment – it comes from overcommitment.

It is widely accepted that the oil & gas industry needs innovative ideas and technologies to increase the amount of accessible hydrocarbon reserves around the globe. This is counter to the culture of the industry that has a risk-averse attitude to new technologies.

One energy services company, Proserv, has taken a different approach in order to challenge accepted practices and pioneer new ways of doing things. This was succinctly articulated in their tagline – ‘ingenious simplicity’ – based on the premise that they used tried-and-tested technologies in new and ingenious ways. This was a testament to the ingenuity of their engineers and their approach to problem-solving. The company has enjoyed impressive growth and expansion and, from its formation in 2011, is now established as a major force in oil & gas, responsible for some game-changing technologies in subsea production systems.

7. Enter popular culture

A challenger needs to do more with less. Orthodox communications are not enough; they must capture the imagination of the audience. Campaign ideas, integrated with the right publicity that gets people talking about the brand, are the most powerful ideas a challenger has at its disposal, not just for their marketing communications but as a brand asset.

Be disruptive. Don’t play by the same rules as your competitors. Change the game by engaging your customers with the content they want. If your customers start relaying your brand story across social media platforms they become your brand ambassadors.

In the world of marketing communications – this is gold dust.

With significant brand recognition in the Latin American sector, our client – a leading supplier of tubes and piping – wanted to gain greater engagement through already established social media channels, to build awareness and reputation levels in the USA. We worked on a new content strategy to capitalise on the uniqueness of each channel and its audiences. Localised content, specifically targeted to the oil & gas market, proved successful and delivered tremendous results. In the first three months of the campaign, we saw a 51.7% increase in followers on facebook. This significant growth can be attributed to the new content strategy as well as the quality of the content.

Working closely with the client to share their brand story has been successful and in partnership, we continually look for ways to creatively share their product innovation across the most culturally relevant channels.

8. Be ideas–centred

The danger of success is that it can inhibit those behaviours that brought success in the first place. The Challenger can maintain the momentum of its business and its brand by retaining a focus on generating and implementing new ideas. Continuous development of new products, new technologies and new ways of doing things will bring critical innovations and solutions to problems that established market leaders are not addressing. Instead of your business being customer dependent, constantly renew your brand experience and make the customer dependent on your ideas. They look to Challenger brands for what comes next.

Do you have an answer?

When Drum Property Group embarked on a plan to create a new business park for oil & gas companies in Aberdeen it was critical to differentiate the project from the current landscape of industrial and office complexes in the region. In order to achieve this, it had to be centred on a core idea that was new and fundamentally different.

By looking at the existing office space in Aberdeen and its surrounding environments, it became clear what was lacking and where Drum Property Group could change the paradigm. The essence of their proposition focused on a managed and serviced environment, using sympathetic architecture in natural landscapes with people-orientated layouts. The design stimulated social interaction. It introduced the concept of an international-class business park as a serviced community of amenities and office space and ultimately provided a better work-life balance that suited modern busy lifestyles.

From this, the core-concept of ‘bringing life to work’ was born.

Prime Four was launched in phases and is now established as a major global hub for the energy industry. It has raised the bar for business parks and working environments across the country and set a new standard for the expectations of employees across the region. Read on. 

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