In an age of conscious consumerism, what makes a challenger brand stand out?

If someone had said five years ago 'soap on a rope' would make a comeback, you'd probably have had a good laugh at their expense.

Soap on a rope could make a comeback, seriously, argues Laura Oliphant
Soap on a rope could make a comeback, seriously, argues Laura Oliphant

You’d chuckle about adding it to this year’s Secret Santa and then you might reminisce about the one your grandparents used to have in their chilly downstairs bathroom.

But fast forward to 2018 and the idea of soap on a rope being a challenger doesn’t feel so unlikely.

Not because the soap market has been dominated by big incumbents that are taking their customers for granted, or because we’ve suddenly realised it’s the life hack we’ve always been missing, but because it could help us turn the tide on single use plastic.

The world’s chronic overuse of plastic has come into sharp focus in recent months, and consumers are beginning to respond by demanding products and services that help to reduce their own environmental impact.

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Enter the humble bar of soap – a potential new hero in our homes.

In 2019, we’ll see a different kind of challenger standing out and the driving force will be social or environmental change.

It’s a ‘bigger’ purpose that is changing the way consumers think, feel and spend their money.

We’ve already seen sales of re-usable water bottles and coffee cups sky rocket in the last year, and few of us wouldn’t leave our house or office without a canvas bag, "just in case".

Consumers’ attention is also shifting towards ‘fast fashion’, with the recent deluge of media reports highlighting the disastrous environmental impact of plastic fibres shed from clothing and toxic production methods.

As consumer demand for social and environmental change intensifies, the market potential for challenger brands that enable us to reduce our global carbon and plastic footprint is huge.

In the last decade we’ve seen big market challengers taking on large incumbents with better service and more competitive pricing - financial services and energy are two obvious examples.

We’ve also seen niche market challengers improving products that we didn’t even know needed enhancing – the influx of new mattress in-a-box companies is an interesting case in point.

Perhaps the idea of a purpose-driven challenger sounds a bit worthy by comparison.

But what’s really interesting about this latest iteration of the challenger brand is that it’s not just open to start-ups.

From Soda Stream, with its latest ‘alternative to sparkling water’ marketing push, to Adidas and its ‘ocean plastic’ range; long-standing brands that haven’t traditionally focused on sustainability could have their moment in 2019, if they continue to ride the wave of conscious consumerism.

So if soap on a rope does become the next big thing, you heard it here first.

Laura Oliphant is managing director of Stand Agency

Thumbnail image ©GettyImages

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