Tell It Like It Is: As Big Brands Get Happy, Challenger Brands Get Blunt


Tribe Hummus Best if Eaten

The following is a guest post by writer Katie Conneally:

Hummus: delicious Middle Eastern snack or a lens into human behavior? It’s hard to tell these days, especially with the current (and almost year-old) Tribe Hummus campaign in the US that seeks to differentiate the brand by telling it like it is, even if “it” is all about being selfish.

With copy like “If you don’t have enough for everyone, that’s just too bad for everyone,” “Best if eaten before guests arrive,” and “If you like to share, buy salsa,” Tribe is taking a page out of the Equinox Fitness (“Equinox made me do it”) playbook and encouraging customers to embrace their inner desires—all in the name of a chickpea dip.

Tribe says its “defiant and assertive” attitude is a deliberate departure from its previous messaging and tone of voice, and a necessary one in order to stand out.

Tribe Hummus Too Bad

“We’re a challenger brand and we need to scream to be heard, and that’s exactly what this campaign does,” stated Adam Carr, CEO of Tribe Mediterranean Foods, Inc. “It may touch on areas that one would not necessarily associate with hummus, including the bedroom, but it certainly creates a stir. And that’s what we need to happen.”

With lines like “Yummus!” and “The all natural hummus is here,” Tribe once played up its flavor and ingredients. The tagline also evolved from a welcoming “Join the tribe” to the tougher “You’re either a member or you’re not.”

Tribe Hummus Buy Salsa

But with the rise of consumer awareness about what goes into the food we’re eating, phrases like “all natural” are not only loaded but have become table stakes in the snack space, and challenger brands like Tribe need to find a way to stand out.

Global brands, like Coca-Cola (with its Open Happiness ads and other happiness campaigns) or Oreo’s wonderfilled platform, often turn to positive human emotions like happiness or wonder. Tribe has gone in the opposite direction, identifying the white space where few food brands have gone before—blunt humor and honesty, even if it hurts.

StreetEasy ad

And it’s not just food. New York-based apartment-hunting website just launched its first-ever ad campaign that brings to light the questions and thoughts any real New Yorker has had from time to time. With copy like “Is it still a bedroom if the bed doesn’t fit?” and “Sure, your window faces a brick wall but behind that wall is New York City,” Streeteasy “Live As You Please” campaign is owning the real New Yorker narrative, as unglamourous as it may be.

StreetEasy walk-up ad

“Every New Yorker can relate to the insanity of the city’s real estate environment and how challenging it can be to find a home,” stated StreetEasy General Manager Susan Daimer about the campaign. “In this diverse city, buyers and renters have very different needs and want to live as they please. The campaign shows that StreetEasy brings much needed rationality and empathy to the process.”

As more and more big brands move to own the happy-go-lucky feelings and emotions consumers can connect to—and build the grand campaigns that it takes to get people on board (Think: McDonald’s attempt to get customers to Pay with lovin’)—it’s no surprise that some challenger brands are becoming more honest, scrappier and more aggressive.

StreetEasy ad

Campaigns like Tribe’s and StreetEasy’s let consumers connect through shared human behaviors, however undesirable, unsexy and socially taboo they may be. Because as much as we might not like to admit it, sometimes we just want to keep our hummus all to ourselves.

—Katie Conneally is a Brooklyn-based writer and creative strategist.