Smaller brands making bigger waves

It looks as though big brands don’t have it all their own way. A recent survey by Iris, commented upon in Marketing Week, suggests that consumers are looking to smaller brands that they see as representing better quality and they feel better able to trust.

Of course the big brands still feature highly, but interestingly in a recession, consumers seem more prepared to pay a premium price for brands they see as embodying the right values.

One example cited by MaryLou Costa in her excellent article is that of Virgin: “Other surprises come from the travel and technology sectors. In travel, 38% of people say they would be willing to pay a premium for a Virgin Atlantic flight, while just 28% say the same for a British Airways flight. While Virgin Atlantic is not necessarily only a premium airline, its marketing portrays a fun, forward-thinking company that offers an enjoyable, relaxed experience.”

It’s back to those old emotional values and attachments, and all of this is good news for the small brands. However, it should also be a wakeup call for big brands. I would suggest that one reason why Virgin scored over BA, despite being a big player is that it acts more like a small brand.

I commented earlier on Virgin’s move into retail banking – perhaps if it can continue to express and live up to these values it can justify a position against the major retail banks. For the smaller brands however, the high ground is there to be won. With a differentiated offer and clear set of values, David can still give Goliath a run for his money.


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