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What is a David?

Written by Ben Tyson - Jan 28 2019
Over the past few years we’ve had the odd (read: plenty) of questions over what exactly we mean by Davids, so I thought I’d share how we define one.

If you aren’t familiar with Adam Morgan’s book Eating the Big Fish then you should be. In there, and in his work since, Morgan talks about challenger brands.

He defines being a challenger as a state of mind, not a state of market.

And that is fundamental to how we see Davids (and Goliaths). Davids are small businesses, medium businesses and large businesses. Davids are one month old, but also one century old. Size, weight, age, turnover, location are all irrelevant to being a David.

We do social media for businesses taking their first steps in the world. We do social media for some of the world’s biggest businesses. Both are Davids.

So how we define Davids — when size, revenue and age signpost nothing — is by looking at two simple criteria:

  1. You can’t be a David without a Goliath. You have to be rallying against something as a brand, up for a fight. Sometimes it can be a competitor — probably the market-leader. Sometimes it could be against a whole industry. Sometimes it can be against a cultural trend itself. And sometimes, it can be against all three. Ugly Drinks are in a scrap against Coca-Cola, the soft, sugary drinks industry and the cultural trend for “health” brands to promise to make you bigger, better, stronger, more beautiful in a bottle… and they stand for that all at once. David.
  2. Davids understand their inherent advantages. Malcolm Gladwell explains this better than we ever could...
...the point is: Davids understand the odds are stacked against them, but they also understand the inherent strength that comes with that position. For brands, that might be the ability to take risks that market-leaders may not be willing, or even able, to. Brewdog have always been able to push the boat out with their positioning — happy to turn off some consumers to avoid the crippling indifference a lot of beer drinkers feel towards the beer brands they buy. Could you ever imagine Carlsberg being brave enough to act like Brewdog do? David.

Social media itself is the perfect channel for Davids then. It’s a place where Goliaths dominate by throwing massive media budgets behind safe content that looks like the TV ads and posters they’ve always made. But it’s also a place where smart, brave and fast-moving brands can build huge audiences on shoestring budgets. Back to Adam Morgan.

Being a challenger is about understanding the gap between your ambition and your resources. Then leaning into that disparity to reduce the odds.

Davids come with challenges — limited resource forces creativity but it is hard. Often everything is at stake, you’re playing a zero-sum game of which you can only influence but never control the outcome. But at Born we’re learning every day how to help Davids, and we believe it’s just about the best thing we could be doing.