4 Lessons From Challenger Brands Bumble, Flipboard and More on How They Usurped a Market

These leaders are all upstarts for a reason

Alexandra Williamson, chief brand officer, explaining what's led to Bumble's success in the online dating space.
Sean T. Smith for Adweek

Shoes, news, dating and shaving: these are just a few of the industries that disruptive brands like Bumble, Flipboard and M. Gemi are turning inside out.

At Brandweek in Palm Springs, Calif. last week, eight brands and their leaders took to the stage to explain how they found a space in the industry to deliver consumer-centric experiences that are making legacy companies rethink brand strategy.

Find the true value of a product

Flipboard faced a series of interlinked challenges: finding the value of the company’s product, connecting with its audience and understanding how (and what) resonates with them, according to CMO Marci McCue. In today’s world, it also meant cutting through the noise of notifications consumers receive on their phones.

“The question is: How do you bring people along?” McCue said. “We started talking to folks. Listening to the words they were using, listening to people on the different parts of the spectrum and different parts of the journey.”

Flipboard took a lot of that feedback and turned it into a campaign called “It’s Your Time” to inform readers that “this is your time to get involved.” Taking this feedback and finding out the brand’s value has energized Flipboard—and its user base.

“Once you connect with brand values, once you can find that meaning and communicate that to all of them, all of the people who use your products, you will inspire the support of the audience and the crowd when you need it and win their love,” McCue said.

At M. Gemi, a luxury Italian shoe ecommerce company, the company found its brand value through its supply chain, data capabilities and retail. Cheryl Kaplan, president and co-founder of M. Gemi, said the key to starting a new business is having an “unfair advantage,” which for M. Gemi was a head start in its supply chain.

The fast supply chain is vital for M. Gemi, considering the company launches new shoes every Monday. Kaplan said with every new launch, the company can determine within a few hours if the shoe is going to do well and whether it’s worth ordering more because they have access to customer data.

“We’re working in real time—30 to 60 days, for the most part—in terms of our production. So, when our customers are asking for things, we can act, and that creates a true brand loyalty.”
-Cheryl Kaplan, president and co-founder of M. Gemi

“We’re working in real time—30 to 60 days, for the most part—in terms of our production,” Kaplan said. “So, when our customers are asking for things, we can act, and that creates a true brand loyalty.”

However, the company always knew it had to expand into the physical retail space—no matter how great the online experience was. The bricks and clicks strategy led to M. Gemi creating a “super consumer,” with customers spending 26 percent more in store, Kaplan said. With the store, customers are more likely to shop online and and vice versa; consumers who were only shopping online are now coming into the store. It’s also led to a retention rate of consumers shopping four times a year, a data point that, according to Kaplan, is “unheard of” in the luxury industry.

Recognizing users as a community

For a long time, Nicholas Horbaczewski, founder and CEO of Drone Racing League (DRL), was busy finding “the road to cultural relevance” as he grew the company. However, Horbaczewski realized that “relevance” actually meant finding moments where consumers connect with the brand—and not necessarily milestones like receiving fan mail.

“We have created a sport for those people, and for those people, DRL is incredibly relevant,” Horbaczewski said. “There was a survey last year of sports fans, and it turned out that DRL fans are vastly more likely to recommend the sport than even other popular racing sports.”

Looking forward, Horbaczewski wants to keep the company relevant pushing towards future developments, like creating an AI robotic racing circuit, because he believes “AI is going to profoundly impact the way all of us live our lives.”

“What’s important to realize is we’re much more than users of the internet. We’re the products of the internet. We’re the internet’s employees.”
-Matt Sorum, head of communications at ARTBIT

Recommended articles