How Small Businesses Can Compete With Big Companies' Rebranding Strategies

As larger corporations start rebranding efforts that can place them in the same niches as small businesses, here are some tips for staying competitive.
May 12, 2015

Large companies seem to be thinking small when it comes to attracting new customers or holding on to the ones they have. Case in point: Whole Foods recently announced it will be creating a lower priced concept store targeting millennials. And McDonald's plans to reposition itself as a "modern, progressive burger company." 

These rebranding efforts are just a few in the recent spate of big companies trying to downplay their size to seem more authentic and relatable.

"Rebranding for any organization is essentially about attempting to claim some position in the mind of a target audience," explains Linda Pophal of Strategic Communications, a B2B content marketing company. "Organizations generally seek to rebrand when they feel that their current brand isn't serving to differentiate them well enough—or when they don't believe it truly conveys the position they wish to hold."

By appearing smaller and more targeted—a big-box in mom-and-pop's clothing, if you will—big brands have the potential to create similar brand experiences consumers have with smaller brands. It makes sense why appearing smaller would be attractive: People trust small- to mid-sized businesses (78 percent) more than big businesses (45 percent), according to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Going even more niche than big competitors can help small-business owners stand out. While KutBox, a subscription service delivering high-quality meat to subscribers, competes with the Whole Foods of the world, its focus on American-raised, sustainable meat keeps it in business, says Maggie Wilson, co-founder and vice-president of KutBox. "With clients demanding higher quality American grown and raised foods," Wilson says, "we have found a place where we can compete with larger companies."

And small business's great customer service advantage can't be overstated. "A big company can outspend you on marketing, buying magazine spots and TV ads, product development and everything else, but customer service can be a real differentiator," says Skyler Slade, co-founder and CTO of Tandem, a Web application that e-tailers can use to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Above all, take advantage of the agility and nimbleness that comes with being a small-business owner. 

"Big companies are like large boats," says Jeff Oster, CEO of "They are hard to turn and respond slowly. Small businesses, on the other hand, are quick and agile. If you study your market, act from your gut and work really hard, you can become a successful small-business owner."

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