Five ways a start-up can take on famous brands

By Rafael Rozenson

When it comes to launching a new food or drink product in the UK, the reality is that you’re likely to be entering a market that is already highly competitive. Where there is a well-established market, you’re also likely to find big brands fighting to market share, flexing their marketing muscle to win, and keep, customers.

So what hope does a small independent food or drink company have when they’re up against competitors with multi-million pound marketing budgets and established retail networks? You’d have to be crazy to even try, right?

Having worked in FMCG at some of biggest consumer goods companies in the world, including brands like Bacardi, Mars and Danone, I have first-hand understanding of the power that big companies can wield through big budget advertising campaign to strong retail relationships. Sadly, when it came to launching my own business I didn’t have any such luxury and had to adapt.

When I walked away from my previous career to launch my own start-up, I quickly realised I had to undertake a complete 360 degree mind-shift and I had to start thinking about how it could be possible to succeed as the little guy. It is still early days, but here are five things I learned so far that have allowed me to make the small wins on the journey to building my business:

  1. Being agile: Big companies are notoriously slow moving by nature. Even the small decisions often have to go through multiple layers of decision makers, and there are such rigid processes in place that, in a short timeframe, very little gets done. At Vieve I change our strategy on a regular basis, often even daily. You don’t often get that liberty in a big company. Customers really love the flexibility to respond to their needs, so use it.
  1. Being creative: Having the huge resources and marketing budgets of a big company can actually make you complacent. You can end up spending vast amounts of money on things that actually deliver very little value for you. Being small forces you to be creative, and find ways to make the most of what you have. Use that creativity to find a unique space within your category and shout about it in a way that is totally your own.
  1. Being entrepreneurial: With limited resources, you end doing a lot of the work that would otherwise be done by many people in a larger organisation. On any given day I am my own marketing, sales, strategy, finance, logistics and customer service function. Sometimes all within the span of just a few hours! Wearing so many hats may be scary at first, but it gives you an incredibly solid grounding in your own business that will stand you in good stead as the company grows.
  1. Being authentic: Big brands are by their nature manufactured constructs. Don’t be afraid to put a little bit of your personality into the brand, so it comes off as being authentic and human, so people can really engage with you. At Vieve as an example, we donate 1% of our profit to Mind the mental health charity because I’ve battled mental health problems all my life. It’s a way for people to connect with me, and my brand.
  1. Being humble: This is perhaps the most important lesson! Big companies are notorious for being arrogant and flexing their muscles, so take a more subtle approach and your customers, suppliers, partners and consumers will appreciate you much more.

Much like the famous story of David and Goliath, it is possible to turn your size, and all the limitations it carries, into an advantage. Carve out your own unique space and remember, you don’t compete with the big guys on their terms – create your own!

Rafael Rozenson is the CEO & Founder of Vieve