Hitting the mainstream without losing your edge

Hitting the mainstream without losing your edge

26 October 2020

Many brands are born and grow in a niche environment.  When brands are new, small, homemade, crafty, local and personal, they are easily loved and even actively supported.  There is often low hanging fruit for any new product or brand to target, who are right in their sweet spot, so gaining a loyal consumer following is often a key first step.

But the best brands are ambitious.  They don’t just want local or niche success.  They want global fame and fortune.

So how do brands explode from their niche into the mainstream without losing what made them special in the first place?

It’s a challenge we know well at isobel.  And the key for us is for brands to stay true to themselves, to stay true to their product, and not to ditch the clothes that they’ve been wearing for a new set of uncomfortable ones.  And wearing these genuine clothes, communicate a message that will resonate with a wider mainstream audience, but still in a personal, insightful way.

A great example of this transition is our campaign for Kettle Chips (their first ever), taking them from niche to mainstream.  They’d developed a passionate loyal following, had never advertised before, and wanted to increase their awareness and trial.  We needed to talk to a mass audience, but in a way that stayed true to Kettle, which was to embrace the brands homemade feel. The result was our ‘Simple is better’ campaign, which drove a household penetration increase of 22% and overall sales by 24%.

BrewDog is another brand that started with a passionate and loyal following, who were eager to seek out and experiment with exciting new craft beer flavours.  But to really go mainstream, BrewDog needed to convert habitual big brand lager drinkers into craft experimenters.  And this is what our Rate Beer campaign was all about.  We went after the beer big guns – Budweiser, Stella, Carling and Fosters – and used their own advertising against them.  According to YouGov, after seeing the campaign, 25% of Stella drinkers would consider buying BrewDog.

MAOAM has a similar story.  In the UK, MAOAM had developed a passionate niche following, with an anti-corporate, slightly unpigeonholeable quality.  In our brief to drive awareness and sales, we embraced these qualities, producing a campaign which felt real, not overly slick, and very much relatable.  We found a way to go mainstream, but by talking to the outsider.  And it worked, overtaking Skittles in market share.

Written by Jamie Williams.