Blog: Scott Trudeau

In today's interactive web world, businesses in the Great Lakes region need to be more than just a flash in the big 'ole pond. Avid windsurfer Scott Trudeau, president of Daggerfin, a growing creative services agency, will dish on marketing and branding for the little guy and how we can attract more creative types to the area.

Scott Trudeau - Post 3: Little Guys, Big Idea

Locally owned, independent office suppliers have a big challenge ahead of them. To survive, they must compete against global retail giants like Staples, OfficeMax, Office Depot and Quill. As a collective whole, independent suppliers and dealers have traditionally accounted for a majority of the office supplies bought and sold in the United States. However, that share is rapidly shrinking. These small businesses have never had the resources to challenge and counter the enormous marketing operations behind big box chains. And on the local level, it’s becoming more and more difficult for small business owners to compete in the backyard communities they have served for years. 

However, a group of independent, Michigan-based, small businesses, under the guidance of Daggerfin, have united in a shared cause to co-op their marketing resources and develop a single brand marketing and lead generation platform. This unique collaboration seeks to create a true B2B challenger brand to the big box suppliers of office supplies.

Stand apart
On the surface, the task appears insurmountable - big box stores offer the same products local suppliers offer, have robust online ordering environments and offer sophisticated reward programs. How can small, locally owned office suppliers effectively compete with global giants? The first step was to find a way to truly stand out from the big box chains. We had to identify a relevant and compelling way for these local office suppliers to stand apart and thrive in the competitive landscape.

Our research uncovered the absence of any emotional connection to the big box suppliers - no true brand loyalty. The core targets all participated in a pattern of switching suppliers when enticed with coupons, discounts, and rewards and/or when prices started to creep upwards. The research also shed new light on the need for a real "human" challenger in the competitive space: a real people brand in a faceless category – a brand that could challenge the joyless impersonality of the market leaders and the category as a whole.

Hence, Little Guys Supplies was born - a challenger brand fired up with a view (buy local) about the world it has to share – and looking to put the category right. Think Southwest Airlines, Sam Adams, and Ben & Jerry's (the early days). The Little Guys brand offers a motive, stance, and point-of-view that fosters a sense of belonging, provides a platform for rallying, and rewards participation. The simple, direct, and symbolic name signals 'supporting the little guy, the underdog'.

Changing the way the game is played

The second barrier: how to market the new challenger brand to local office managers and business owners with a fraction of the budgets, tools, and resources the big boxes have? Our answer was to develop a highly integrated marketing plan that could leverage select social media channels such as The Local Voice blog, Twitter, and YouTube. 

The pilot program, anchored with outdoor and radio advertising, is launching in the Metro Detroit area this month. It includes a new website portal that directs visitors to the nearest "Little Guy" in their neighborhood based on zip code proximity.

Instead of trying to compete with no real voice, independent locally owned office suppliers are building their own brand and offering a real alternative to the big boxes.