Is it better for your brand to be a leader or a follower?

There’s a lot to be said about what it takes for a brand to succeed online or offline, and it certainly comes down to much more than just a captivating logo or a snappy slogan.

That’s because your organisation will also need to think carefully about how it positions itself in its market, relative to other brands. In other words, how do you want audiences to perceive your brand, compared to rivals in your industry?

This isn’t necessarily as straightforward a question for your organisation as it might initially seem. So, let’s take a look at the potential advantages and disadvantages of just two positions that you may choose from for your brand: being a leader, or a follower.

Surely everyone wants to be the leader?

You might imagine this to be the case, and being perceived as the leader in your industry would certainly give you a lot of power as an organisation. It’s no accident that so many firms aim for this status, or describe themselves as such; it is a very desirable position to be in.

Having said that, it can also be most difficult position to get into… and the trickiest to keep hold of. Being genuinely perceived as the leading brand in your industry places a large target on your back. There will almost always be a brand out there that is on the rise, and determined to knock you into second place.

But on the other hand, one could say that being the leader being chased isn’t exactly the worst problem to have. If you’re going to be pursued by rivals anyway, so the argument goes, you might as well aim to become – or to remain – the very best in your sector.

So, how can you entrench yourself as an industry leader? Of course, being the first to enter a category – and then defending your position against incomers – is one way to do it. The same goes for being the aforementioned ‘chaser’ who successfully ousts the incumbent leader by providing greater value to the customer – or at least, being perceived to provide greater value.

And “perceived” is a key word there, as so much about brand positioning is about skilfully managing perceptions. If you can claim to be the industry leader and actually back that up in your target customers’ minds, you will probably already be well on the way to becoming the industry leader.

Sometimes it’s not the worst thing to be a follower

The notion of a brand being a follower in its industry hasn’t always had the most favourable connotations. But the fact remains that not all brands can be the leader in their sector – and in any case, ‘follower’ status isn’t necessarily the worst position to be in, although you probably wouldn’t describe your brand using that word.

In any case, not all ‘followers’ are the same… or even doing much ‘following’ at all. For example, you might choose to adopt ‘contrarian’ positioning for your brand. This would mean presenting yourself as the complete opposite of the leader in your field.

Let’s imagine, for instance, that your brand specialises in fitness clothing and gym accessories. The likelihood of surpassing Nike or Sports Direct in your industry might seem… remote, at best. But your fitness wear might be cheaper than Nike’s, thereby potentially appealing to more budget-conscious shoppers. You may also choose to emphasise in your branding and marketing that you are a local, independent brand of relevance to local people, rather than a distant global colossus.

Alternatively, you might position your brand as being so niche, that it is effectively isolated, existing in its own small field. If, for example, your brand is the only dog or cat café in its small town, you won’t exactly be competing with Costa Coffee or Starbucks – or certainly not directly. That’s because the respective audiences you are targeting will have rather different expectations of the experience they will receive.

You probably get the idea by now. Not every potential customer of businesses in your field is actually looking for the industry-leading company, or is a great fan of them. They might not like the leading brand’s presentation or prices – which opens up an opportunity for ‘following’ brands to suitably differentiate themselves.

Why not contact our digital marketing specialists for help and advice?

With our in-depth expertise in graphic design and branding, our team here at PENNInk Productions is well-placed to assist you with the positioning of your own brand for success in its sector. Give us a call on 020 8144 7931 now, or send us an email, and as a trusted online marketing agency in the UK, we will be pleased to provide you with the very best tailored advice and guidance.

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