HS Thought Piece: Know your Enemy

We believe brands have the power (and responsibility) to change the world. And, for many of the smartest brands, this means figuring out who or what their enemy is and going for the jugular.

To be clear, we’re not talking about rival brands or Big Corp here; for many ‘the enemy’ is an entrenched system or behaviour that needs to be fought – a mindset, trend or category truth. And, contrary to the negative connotations of the word, understanding your enemy as a brand can actually be the catalyst for positive change. It allows you to question the norm, challenge societal conventions and identify how to set yourself apart. It should inspire and create action. By offering consumers a better alternative, brands like these offer a sense of optimism and vitality at a time when we need it more than ever.

As an agency, we’ve helped countless clients to identify their enemy and put it front and centre of their brand narrative. For Connected Kerb, that enemy is the petrol car; for another, Allbirds, it’s the fossil fuels on which the fashion industry is so dangerously reliant; for the United Alliance Against Malnutrition & Hunger, it’s a government that’s worryingly apathetic about welfare. Keeping their enemy at the heart of all they do, these brands are risk takers, happy to put their head above the parapet and use their voice, loudly, to positively affect the world around them.

A great example of a brand that has always been clear on who they are and who their enemy is is Tony’s Chocolonely. Two years ago, it made a series of lookalike bars to call out some of the world’s most iconic chocolate brands and challenge them to tackle illegal labour within the industry. It was a ballsy stunt, and one which would undoubtedly have had internal stakeholders and corporate legal teams flapping had it been carried out by Nestlé or Mars. But, for a relative newcomer in the industry such as Tony’s, it was a huge success on many levels – it raised awareness among consumers and retailers of an important issue, it pushed the industry for change, and it consolidated the brand’s activist positioning. And that’s before we even touch on the amount of love the campaign got from consumers (66,000 of whom went on to sign their associated petition against illegal labour). 

If, as a brand, you’re similarly committed to effecting change in a world that so desperately needs it but don’t know where to start, we can help. At HarrimanSteel, we work closely with clients of all shapes and sizes to help them define (or re-define) their enemy and translate it into bold and actionable guiding principles. For young brands, we can use it to help craft memorable, impactful narratives that will grab the attention of consumers and peers alike. For longer-established brands who might feel like they’ve lost their way, we can use it to get them back to the front of the pack, with a sharper brand story that will both reconnect them to previous audiences and introduce them to new ones in one fell swoop.   

As society continues to navigate unprecedented rates of change, it’s more important than ever before for brands to be clear on why they exist and what future they hope to create. And while it’s no secret that knowing what you stand for as a brand is key to its success, it’s equally important to know what you stand against. If you’re struggling to define exactly what that is, let us help, and we can take on the enemy together.