10 Challengers Zigging on Paid Social

In the crowded world of social advertising it’s easy to get lost in the noise. But Challenger Brands find clever ways to “zig” when everyone else “zags”. For this month’s issue, we’re delving into the patterns to help uncover your own powerful strategy to stand out.

Here are 10 inspiring examples that defy the status quo of social media advertising:

1. Stok’d: Advertise the business next door.

Challenging: The limitations of Canadian cannabis advertising regulations. Instead of advertising their cannabis shop directly, Stok’d partnered with the businesses next to their locations and advertised them, cleverly hinting Stok’d with puns like “let’s get you lit” for a local electrician.

Why it Works: Stok’d uses subtle humor that creates an inside joke for those who “get it,” encouraging sharing and building a community

Apply It: What assumptions are you making about what’s possible or not for advertising in your industry?

Next to Stok'd campaign showing various ads for businesses next door.

2. Pura: Dads buy diapers too!

Challenging: Only speaking to moms in the baby care industry.

Result: Pura intentionally targets dads alongside moms, and so far has seen 43% better click-through rates and 17% better cost-per-click from dads than moms.

Apply It: Who are the untapped audiences your competitors are ignoring?

Pura ad featuring a dad and his little one

3. Nonaeyemd: Eye-catching eye drops?

Challenging: The need for sound in social advertising.

Why it Works: Eye drops don’t scream “exciting social media content” but by leveraging the TikTok silent reviews trend, this video stands out

Apply It: What organic social media trends can you adopt for your paid ads?

TikTok Video called Silently Reviewing Eye Drops

4. Calm: Feel, not tell.

Challenging: How we show, rather than tell the product experience.

Why it Works: Instead of telling you why they’re the best, Calm’s ads show you by evoking the desired feeling of calmness within the ad itself.

Apply It: How do you want your product to make people feel? Can you demonstrate that feeling via your ads?

Calm video ad that says "Listen to the sounds and breath slowly" with a countdown on screen.


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    5. Liquid Death: Negative reviews? Let’s share them!

    Challenging: That ads featuring reviews should always be positive.

    Why it Works: Liquid Death isn’t afraid to embrace those that love their humor and ignore those that don’t, creating engaging content while they do so.

    Apply It: How can you use ridiculousness to build a brand?

    Liquid Death's Greatest Hates Volume 3

    6. Ten Tree: No answers here, only questions.

    Challenging: The need to answer the questions within ads.

    Why it Works: Ten Tree proves that a thought-provoking question can be even more effective than answers.

    Apply It: What open-ended questions relevant to your industry can you ask to start a discussion?

    Ten Tree video ad with the question "Should we give a sh*t about trees?"

    7. Oatly: Slow down to stand out.

    Challenging: The need for speed.

    Why it Works: Oatly “zigs” by slowing things down.

    Apply It: Just because everyone else is moving fast, doesn’t mean you have to. Can you test using deliberately slow creative to stand out?

    Oatly video ad of a milkshake on a spinning table.

    8. Hilton: A 10 minute ad? 

    Challenging: The myth that people have short attention spans.

    Why it Works: Hilton proves that people will engage with longer content if it’s compelling. Think about how many hours people spend binging Netflix!

    Apply It: Are you constraining ads due to arbitrary time limits? Test various times to understand what resonates.

    Hilton video ad showing Paris Hilton.

    9. Dashlane: A simple ad with 48 random characters?

    Challenging: The notion that ads should be as simple as possible.

    Why it Works: Complicating the ad with 48 random characters emphasizes the importance of the problem of remembering passwords, and although it includes more copy than would typically be recommended, it is undoubtedly simple

    Apply It: How can you most simply communicate the problem you’re solving?

    Dashlane ad that says "Forget about forgetting passwords" between 48 random charectors.

    10. Inflow: Is this sentance easier for you to read?

    Challenging: That anyone should be able to understand your advertising.

    Why it Works: The bionic reading method of strategically bolding letters making sentences easier to read has been exploding in popularity, particularly shown as helpful for those with ADHD. This Inflow ad assumes that either their audience will have some familiarity or that it will simply be easier for them to read, despite not knowing about the technique.

    Apply It: What can you do to create ads specifically for your audience, though it may exclude others not in your audience?

    Inflow ad emulating a note on a smartphone in the Bionic reading method.

    Final Thoughts

    To avoid getting lost in the noise find a way to zag when everyone zigs. Inspiration is helpful to see how others have successfully defied convention but ultimately even zigs need to be true to your brand.


    Ready to challenge the
    status quo and win?

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