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Who or what is your brand nemesis?
Who or what is your brand nemesis?

“Do you know what nemesis means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent, personified in this case by a ‘orrible c***, me.” Brick Top, from Guy Ritchie’s Snatch (2000). Nemeses exist both on the big screen and in real life, but when it comes to brands it’s not always as simple as good versus evil and it certainly isn’t all doom and gloom.

As a brand strives to maintain rational and emotional relationships with its customers, their nemesis can appear in various shapes and sizes. For Nokia it’s complacency. For Waterstones it’s Amazon. And for Gap, it was themselves. But, a nemesis doesn’t need to be your brand’s downfall. What a nemesis will always cure your brand is boredom and it can actually be your saviour from indifference. Boredom kills brands.

This has become even more pertinent today, with trends and platforms changing at a staggering rate and both Generation Y and now Z becoming key influencers across digital channels. Identifying with customers and staying relevant has never been more difficult and brands are being forced to invest in new ways to keep current customers fulfilled and prospective customers intrigued and engaged. Audiences are being bombarded with thousands of messages every day, so how do you stand-out and avoid fading into banality?

Here are 3 brands who haven’t just identified their nemeses – that’s not enough. They have gone a step further and used it give their brand an edge – something to fight for, a raison d’être and a means of beating boredom.

Jeremy Corbyn & The Labour Party

Just when you thought Labour were down and out, Jeremy Corbyn shocked the nation with an underdog story even Rocky would have been proud of. He executed a strong, austerity powered campaign strategy and concentrated on things he knew people truly cared about. He identified Theresa May as his nemesis and did everything he could do to become her absolute antithesis. Anything she would do (or not do) – Corbyn would do the complete opposite and use her uncompassionate demeanour and apparent incompetence against her. Communities marginalised by the Tories finally felt they had a party that would both listen and stand up for them. Labour and Corbyn shrewdly focused their efforts on emotionally charged rallies across Britain, appearing at music festivals and connecting with voters across social media platforms – engaging young people and inspiring them to vote. This resulted in the largest turnout of voters aged 18-24 in decades – a bored and disillusioned demographic that the Tories simply thought ‘weren’t bothered’. It was a superb example of a brand (of sorts) noticing the opportunity to listen to its customers and connect with them in way that the Conservatives simply hadn’t tapped into.

Channel 4

Since launching in 1982, Channel 4 has stuck two fingers up at all the other television channels and become a ground-breaking challenger brand, doing things their own way and shaping the landscape of modern television in this country. Their nemesis was the predictable, stale and strait-laced broadcasting that existed thanks to the BBC during the 80s. So they ensured that their channel would stand for a brand new, experimental and pluralist form of television that the BBC could never aspire to – not in a million years. It would broadcast and produce content that no other channel would dream of doing, living up to their mantra of ‘Born Risky’ while somehow preserving their commercial appeal. What is most impressive, is that they have maintained their relevance and challenging approach throughout the emergence of both digital television channels as well as streaming services. Whenever an entertainment channel releases seemingly innovative material Channel 4 will make waves with something truly experimental, avant-garde and ground breaking. Who cares about incremental change? Who cares about ‘playing it safe’?

As a publicly owned corporation Channel 4 have regularly taken television to new frontiers, whether that’s been through broadcasting (igniting new trends such as reality TV with Big Brother), through innovation (showcasing an entire week of 3D content back in 2009), or by being industry leaders in big data and analysis. They have embedded channels such as E4 to target specific demographics, the Alternative Christmas Message has offered unconventional points of view to a mass audience and the championing of sports events such as the Paralympics and the Women’s World Cup have placed otherwise overlooked sports into the spotlight and empowered them. This has all been accompanied by a distinctive brand identity and at a time when streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are taking over our screens. As long as Channel 4 continue doing what they’re doing, television certainly isn’t dead.

Red Bull

Red Bull turned up to the soft drinks market with Coca-Cola and Pepsi bickering over who’s sugary drink tasted more refreshing. They rarely stimulated their audiences and did little more than sponsor the odd football tournament. It was all a bit flat. After taking one look at these uninspiring nemeses dominating the category, Red Bull endeavoured to elevate the expectations of what a soft drinks company should stand for and represent – shaking up the whole industry in the process. They possessed a new product, a new business model and a new attitude.

They subverted the focus of their brand, going from being a simple energy drinks company to a pioneering entertainment brand and a global icon of extreme sports – who also sell drinks on the side. They consistently churn out engaging content at every touch point, creating a powerful bond with their tribe of loyal followers. Even if you’re not interested in getting a team together for the Flugtag, or don’t care where Daniel Ricciardo finished in the Singapore Grand Prix, you’re only ever captivated by their brand. They connect on an emotional level, to move and inspire you. From Red Bull TV, to sports team ownership, to jumping from the edge of space – Red Bull is a brand that continues to innovate and keep us on the edge of our seats. The brand has wings.

A nemesis doesn’t always need to be a sign of terror and despair – it’s quite the contrary. Identifying your nemesis is important. It can give your brand something to rally against when things might be going a bit stale. It might provide your brand with a new-found purpose or something tangible to stand for. However, you still need to work out how to react and overcome these challenges to ensure your nemesis actually gives your brand a new lease of life. It’s a sure-fire way to make your brand different, well-defined and certainly not boring.


What are Wild Cards?

The Clearing have been working with The School of Life to develop 100 questions designed to help you see your brand from new perspectives. We think great conversations begin with a great question. Each week, we’ll share another question and our response to it. Email us with your own answers on – we’d love to know what you think.