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Eating The Big Fish

Do spend some time and think the angle you should undertake to make your brand authentic and unique in the market.

Take a step back, think strategically deeper and do not rush the process.

When it comes to startups related discussion and how to compete with the big boys out there, I was strongly inspired by Adam Morgan’s book titled Eating the Big Fish while I was studying in Australia. This book offers great insights for smaller brands on how they can actually compete against the larger ones. It’s a must-read for startups.

There are 8 credos Adam introduced that may lead to a successful journey when you’re challenging those big boys. I’m going to share the 4 of them that I used when I successfully established the celebrity fashion brand Attra Thru in just one year. The brand had been reported in numerous fashion media and one of them is Yahoo! It became a sensational brand among celebrities – flourishing to 3 consignment shops, two in Hong Kong and one in Macau which located side by side with the likes of D&G, Just Cavalli and a few others.

These are the key strategies I applied;

Establishing The Lighthouse Identity. Whilst every single fashion brand is focusing on products, we decided to build up an identity that pretty much focusing on the overall styling of the customer instead. We offered a unique styling consultation after you purchased any product from Attra.

Creating The Symbol of Re-Evaluation. Besides offering unique styling consultations, we also paid attention to personalising the styling tags in each of the design to let the customer understand what’s the best match for the top for the skirt she purchased from Attra.

Committed To Making Things Easy. To find the best retailers to distribute Attra, we designed a superior approach that ensures flexibility and a win-win partnership – the consignment way. The retailers will ask one very important question, why would they distribute our brand which happens to be a new brand at that time. We tried this approach anyway despite knowing that fact the chances of failure is too high because of no commitment from the retailers. And it works.

Approaching the retailers is critical too. On the first day of approaching the retailers for distributorships, I walked into the first retail shop wearing a business suit. I failed. On the second day, I walked into the second shop, this time I just provide the photo of the styles. Again, I failed. Then I started to think, if I were to do exactly the same thing for the third day, it will definitely be a disaster again. This time I decided to have an all-black fashion look with a hand carry luggage. Equipped with the products’ styling tag, this time the retail shop owner said yes. That day, I secured my first retail shop as a consignee.

Idea Centred, Not Consumer Centred. Instead of having the normal SS and FW collections, we launched the first ever Halloween series named as Attralloween. It immediately caught the fashion industry players’ attention and it was covered by the fashion media for two consecutive years. The style is well known for its daytime office look and nighttime party-look to be complemented by add-on accessories. The other revolution idea was lighting fashion, which styles quickly adopted by Joey Yung when she headed to the 12th Global Chinese Music Awards 2012 in Singapore.

It was phenomenal. Simply check out Attralloween being reported in the local fashion media such as Apple Daily, 12th Global Chinese Music Awards 2012 coverage in Singapore. The video is here.


You see, to outdo the ‘big fish’ is not always easy as they have a deeper pocket and well-connected community in the market than yours. They have the edge in terms of experience too.

That being said, can you still ‘eat’ the big fish?

My answer is this – try to think strategically deeper and do not rush the process. Answer these two simple questions to begin with. One, what can you do differently or more importantly better? Two, which part of the business that they’re neglecting or missed that you can fulfil?

For example, if you are marketing products or services within the automotive industry, have you ever thought of going further by providing drivers with better driving techniques via a more practical set of training? Or, if you are marketing something in the real estate industry, have you ever thought of going slightly deeper by providing renovation consultations for self-help perhaps?

Do spend some time and think the angle you should undertake to make your brand authentic and unique in the market. Then only you can expect to win more and eventually eat the big fish through your newly found superiority.

Credit to Adam Morgan’s Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders.

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Written By

Robert is leading a sales and marketing team in one of the UK-based universities in Hong Kong. He is also a speaker, once invited by Google, to share his digital marketing experience on higher education and premium fashion. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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