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When Tim Jackson landed in Australia he had his work cut out for him. Tim is Masi Bicycle's brand manager and he was "down under" to launch the brand....


That's not to say there were no Masi bikes being sold in Australia, but you'd need a micrometer to measure a market share that small. So what's a challenger brand owner to do?
First: Define yourself for yourself - and no one else. Tim and Masi bikes have a self-referential identity, which means they don't modify it very much for the rest of the world. Instead he's confident enough to invite the world to partake of the unaltered Masi brand.
Tim writes, "I am a life-long, dyed in the wool jersey bicycle geek. I am now living out a dream as the Brand Manager of the bike I lusted after since I was 12 years old; Masi Bicycles. If you ever saw the movie 'Breaking Away', then you probably recognize the name Masi as the bike ridden by the movie's hero, Dave. Since seeing that movie in 1982, I have been a compulsive bike geek with little hope of salvation."
It's tempting to let the market define you, your products, and your company .... especially when you are an unknown entity. But do so and you lose your difference.
When Cirque du Soleil first ventured beyond the friendly confines of French Canada to perform for U.S. audiences, they changed their name to "Circus of the Sun". Why? "Well, U.S. audiences might not like our French name." Shudders! Cirque du Soleil quickly learned the wisdom being true to their difference.
Second: Stay close to your "hard core" users. In Tim's case this means the Masi Bike community, in particular, and the bike geek community, in general. Tim wades right into these communities looking for arguments, hugs, and beer parties. Why? So he can hear and help lead the conversation. It's not surprising to see that he blogs and invites the raving fans and ranting critics into his conversation. So when Tim landed among the Aussies, he already knew how to speak bike geek with a distinct "Masi accent."
Third: Never settle! Challenger brand owners know there's no victory in achieving a "They're OK" preference. They won't rest until they convert all whom they encounter into "I didn't know what I was missing!", "Now I can die happy!", "I want a tattoo of your logo!" fanatics.
How do you achieve THAT? Simple: Let your passion show. Don't tame it with market research, brochures, and PR releases. Treat it like a wild lion and let it out of its cage. Tim's very good at that.
In fact, that kind of passion can attract and convince even before the brand is experienced. Here's a quote from one of those Aussie store managers who bought a Masi frame based solely on Tim's passionate recommendation:
"I knew this was going to be an amazing bike to ride from the talk you gave at the Masi show in Brisbane. It delivers everything you promised and a whole lot more– I want to say thank you for giving me an opportunity to experience the best frame on the marketplace."
A challenger brand manager's work is never done. And the final chapter of Masi Bicycles reinvention has not yet been written. But Tim Jackson is a brand challenger from which we could all learn a thing or two.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Wagner

As founder and president of White Rabbit Group, Mike Wagner has focused his energies on creating a model of branding every business leader can grasp and apply to their organization: Brand Ownership.

Mike’s understanding of creative and competitive business cultures was formed at Franklin Covey and Saturn where he witnessed how brand critical standards resulted in exceptionally successful marketing and sales processes.

In the early days of Internet marketing, Mike was instrumental in leading a web development company into Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies. Helping clients make sense of e-business when others could not, his insight as an Internet business strategist won over clients that included Wells Fargo, Principal Financial Group, AOL Time Warner publishing, and more.

Mike speaks, trains, and coaches clients across the nation. His messages and workshops help business leaders re-imagine their brands and creatively practice enterprise-wide brand ownership. He is the author of the professional business blog, Own Your Brand.