How to Battle Bigger Brands and Win

Brad Angevine Reviews "Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry"

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I work for a medium-sized company that is always battling bigger brands with more resources, so it's not often that I find a business book addressing the unique challenges I face on a daily basis. That's why I jumped at the opportunity to read "Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry," and why I am glad to report Stephen Denny not only knows what it's like to be the small guy up against monster-sized competitors, but has valuable insights for us all.

His first insight: there are no easy answers. Instead, Mr. Denny provides a better understanding of how many different ways there are to challenge bigger competitors and how to thrive while doing so. The key is to identify specific places where you can beat your category's giants. Then, stay focused on making the most of those chinks in the armor.

The ten core chapters provide an easy-to-read strategic framework for small to mid-sized companies, outlining 10 strategies that are logical and well-founded. Some strategies are immediately clear, while others are a bit nuanced. And Mr. Denny sometimes wraps a strategy up in a catchy phrase, when it might be better to be more direct. Case in point: the strategy dubbed "Inconvenient Truths" highlights the importance of knowing category economics and how to turn them to your advantage. That said, his strategies are solidly grounded and provide helpful insights for category underdogs.

The case studies are, for the most part, well researched and compelling. My favorites, such as the Samuel Adams beer brand case and the Method household cleaning products case, thoroughly explained the category dynamics, rationale and consumer behavior that led to breakthrough success. But while there is an appealingly wide array of case studies, providing plenty of fodder for readers to dig their teeth into no matter what field they hail from, "Killing Giants" would have benefited from some pruning. A few of the 33 case studies are shallow, even a bit off-topic, which needlessly distracts from the key points Mr. Denny is making.

Still, "Killing Giants" is a surprisingly welcome business book on a topic that is often overlooked. What's not surprising, however, is that the secret is often about turning the giants' strengths into weaknesses and then having the passion and commitment to keep at it. That's not particularly revelatory, but worth being reminded of and seeing in action -- whatever size company you're running.

There will always be competitors who are bigger and who have more resources at their disposal. What Mr. Denny's insights help us understand is that it is still possible to succeed and thrive. It may be more challenging and require us to be smarter and work harder than the massive category leaders, but it's also a lot more fun.

Brad Angevine has worked at both the giants and the giant killers in his career. Currently, he is senior VP-marketing at the independently-owned fruit juice company Apple & Eve.
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