'Marketing Today': Eatbigfish's Mark Barden

In this week’s episode of “Marketing Today,” I speak with Mark Barden, the San Francisco–based partner at eatbigfish — a marketing consultancy that coined the term “challenger brand” and that has helped clients like Audi, Sony PlayStation, Charles Schwab, and Callaway Golf transform their brands to achieve new levels of growth. Barden is also the author of A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business, and he has contributed a chapter to the upcoming book, Eat Your Greens, which will be published by the Account Planning Group as part of its 50th anniversary celebration.

In the course of our discussion, Barden talks in great detail about the differences between challenger brands and disruptors, and he places them on a spectrum to better understand those differences. He also makes an observation about what challenger brands must do to succeed.



 “It’s all about animating a group of people to do their best work,” says Barden. “And that comes down to being clear on what your ideology is, what problems you’re trying to fix, what wrongs you’re trying to right in the world on behalf of the consumer, the beer-drinking public, the cellphone-using public, the burger-eating public. You’re trying to right wrongs on their behalf. And getting clear on that is really powerful. And that’s what ideology does — it fuels the relentlessness that you need as a challenger.”

Highlights from this week’s podcast include:

  • Barden talks about how he got started in the challenger brand business and the chapter he contributed (“Why Challenger Brands Matter in the Age of Disruption”) to the book, “Eat Your Greens,” which will be published next month by the Account Planning Group. (1:38)
  • Barden on the difference between challenger brands and disruptors, the use of a spectrum analysis to better understand these brands, and how one defines a true challenger brand. (6:57)
  • Barden explains how his views diverge from those of Byron Sharp. He also talks about the notoriety of the Scottish CPG brand, BrewDog, and how they used fame to overcome small budgets in achieving growth and success.  (17:28)
  • Barden makes a point about the importance of ideology (and how it’s similar to purpose). (26:03)
  • Barden more fully explains the spectrum of challenger brands citing two examples: Southwest Airlines and Warby Parker. (30:41)
  • Barden provides four tips for becoming a successful challenger brand. (40:11) 
  • In answer to the question, “What is the future of brand-building in the age of Amazon?” Barden observes that brands will have to find a way around Amazon while being baked into it. (52:20) 
Next story loading loading..