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08 November 2012

Mitt Romney, the brand disruptor


So Barack Obama finally did it - clinched the US presidential elections for the second time consecutively, after a sizzling fight to the finish with strong contender Mitt Romney. The title was not easily won, though.

Brand Obama, after reigning at the helm for four years, perhaps suffered from being perceived as complacent, a leader who was criticised for not having ‘lived up to his promises’, an easy target for those looking to further their own agenda. Or promise ‘something better’ to the United States public. Mitt Romney, in that sense, stepped in less as a messiah, and more as a challenger brand to Brand Obama.

In the branding world, the easiest gap for a challenger to identify in a market leader involves the concept of ‘complacency’.  And Mitt Romney may have lost the elections, but he caught that gap, moved in for the kill, and if nothing else, managed to shake things up for Brand Obama. That makes Romney a challenger brand, or more precisely, a brand disruptor; one that makes the leader realise he cannot take his position for granted, and that he needs to fight to protect his turf. No brand gets to secure a safe seat, and that is a realisation that Brand Obama had to deal with.

Brand disruptors exist in all shapes and forms. Brand names like Ryanair, Kingfisher Airlines, Jet Blue, Method or Skoda are known for disrupting market leaders in a bid to find their own sweet spot with target groups. Even a market leader like Google turned challenger to Facebook with its offering, Google Plus. The tablet category is full of challenger brands targeting features straight out of Apple’s iPad.

Take a look at National Australia Bank which publicly ‘broke up’ with the perception that it was just like its competitors – interested only in making money than caring for its customers. Examples don’t end there: New Zealand-based local craft brewery Tuatara took advantage of the outcry of Rugby fans in the country who felt cheated by NZ team sponsor Adidas offering jerseys at sky-high prices. Tuatara stepped in to offer fans a cheaper alternative to the Adidas jersey with the line ‘Cheaper jersey, more money for beer’, which helped the brand grow in popularity, and cause Adidas to issue a public apology.

Obama versus Romney

German airline Germanwings took disruption a step further when it had six of its executives board an Easyjet flight, and in the middle of the journey, ‘flash’ a mockery of Easyjet’s inability to provide allocated seats to passengers, promoting Germanwings’ similar facility, in the process. This was filmed and posted on YouTube.

Everyone loves a good underdog story – and ironically, Brand Obama was exactly that when he first won the elections. It is when you attain market leadership that the real story, the true test of one’s ability to hold on to the top spot, begins. 


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