Will Ferrell: Comedian, Actor, Challenger

As much as I’d like to ignore politics, the people I surround myself with won’t let me. Nevertheless, impressions of George W. Bush stoked a humorous conversation recently. Through a series of “W-isms” it became clear that we weren’t impersonating George W. Bush any longer, but Will Ferrell’s parody of the 43rd president. In the crudest form, taking equity and capturing share from a business is no different than what Will Ferrell has done to George W. Bush. In order to do it correctly, you have to expound or create your own niche on what the leader does otherwise it has no value.

So what place do challengers have in the market? Well, if the challenge is done poorly, then their place will either be non-existent or short-lived. But a true challengers place is one of movement and constant effort to become a leader. It doesn’t necessarily mean they should try to become the category leader; in fact many times that’s a bad strategy. To become a contender you need to understand what your points of difference are and find the audience that wants you in their lives.

Take Apple for instance (I know I talk about them a lot). They turned their industry on its side by offering emotive design and intuitive operating systems. Steve Jobs and friends challenged PC with simplicity. The old regime was too concerned with power and not the form and function. This was a critical error that allowed Apple to take equity from PC. The challenger concept boils down to putting a unique twist on a category and can be applied to nearly anything.

The real George W. Bush (the one I’d like to have a beer with) doesn’t hold a candle to Will Ferrell’s version (the one I’d like to party with). Will Ferrell has preyed upon W’s weaknesses (perceived intelligence) and made him rife with humor. In many ways it’s like drawing a caricature. You take the points of difference and exaggerate them for a specific target. Will Ferrell challenged our perception of the president and turned it into one that was more acceptable for those younger than the baby-boomers. It was someone we could laugh at and forget party lines for a while. Will Ferrell may have more teach about challenger marketing than any textbook.
In the world of business there are leaders, followers, and challengers. Challenging is very different from following. Are you ready to challenge?

What are some companies that are challenging their industry? Are they doing it right? If that’s too scholastic, drop your favorite ‘W-ism”.

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5 Responses to “Will Ferrell: Comedian, Actor, Challenger”

  1. Smokeless Joe

    Haha… Will Ferrell didn’t have to dig too deep: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKgPY1adc0A That said, neither does a company. There’s no patent law for good ideas; one can make an excellent living snatching them up and copying them. Astute, spry mimicry has long been a recipe for success. It’s why franchises do so well. Interesting corollary though.

  2. Steve Martin

    Smokeless Joe,

    In my research of W for this piece I came across that video. I cringe every time I see it. I just want to jump in his place and say it correctly…poor guy.

    Mimicry has been long been a part of society, there is no dispute with that. Progress is a mix of innovation and theft. However, challengers have to do it better. If you offer something that isn’t different enough, nobody will buy your product. Points of difference can obviously include a wide array of things (value, price, innovation, etc.) but they need to resonate with the consumers. A report yesterday outlined that Apple is now the world’s largest technology company. http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/technology/article7137781.ece . This is the result of constant renovation and maintenance with the user as the focus. They are shifting from category challenger to category leader. What will they think of next…

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