Taking on the industry giants

Starting a challenger brand is a daunting prospect at the best of times, but taking on the business responsible for creating the market must make any entrepreneur think twice. That is unless, like the people behind online greeting card firm thedogsdoodahs.com, you've got decades of knowledge behind you.

The company was created and funded by Tony Spooner and David Greaves, the heads of Emotional Rescue, an established greeting card supplier to high street stores, which operated under multiple brand names. They watched carefully as Moonpig built an entirely new market at the turn of the millennium.

While initially unsuccessful, Moonpig enjoyed a huge rise once TV advertising kicked in. This led to an influx of challenger brands including thedogsdoodahs.com.

Tony Spooner says that, despite their background in a very similar industry, challenging Moonpig was still an incredibly scary prospect due to not having a household name to carry with them.

The importance of a differentiated product when going up against the established business was highlighted in our guide to starting a challenger brand and Spooner says he feels thedogsdoodahs.com do this in two ways.

"One of the big problems online card businesses have is accessing good and exclusive products but we're able to take digital versions of our existing products," he says. "On top of that, we have a distinctive product and operate in a specific niche, which is predominantly about humour."

With so many challengers entering a market, which has relatively low barriers to entry, Spooner believes a lot of them will be whittled down in the coming years. Facing competition from Hallmark, Clintons and WHSmith's Funky Pigeon to name a few, he expects conditions to be challenging but thedogsdoodahs.com is growing.

The brand's name comes from a desire to display their business as fun, relaxed and slightly irreverent. However, a challenger brand needs a memorable name to be successful and time will show whether their ideas pay off when the TV advertising campaign leaves regional testing to go nationwide.

Regardless of an individual company's success or failure, the online greeting card industry is an incredibly interesting one to watch. From being built by a single brand to suffering from a mass of unsustainable challengers, thedogsdoodahs.com will have to fight to find their place in an industry that is getting more and more crowded.

To reade our guide on how to launch a challenger brand, click here.

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