Thinking like a pirate by Scholar Charlotte Green

Another day, another awesome session courtesy of The Marketing Academy. This time a day spent with the brand consultancy company Eatbigfish. Contrary to their name, they’re not the latest food fad and instead they turn their talents to Challenger brands.

The Scholars and I spent the day getting under the skin of what it truly means to think and act like a challenger (or as a pirate as they more fondly called it). A mix of theory, inspiration and practical application on a live case study – which led to the noodle market taking on Donald Trump…yes, really.

We covered a lot of ground. But what really resonated with me is the fact that being a challenger is very much a mindset and not just a term used to define brands like Virgin or First Direct. In fact, as marketers we spend a huge chunk of our time challenging – ourselves, ideas, the business, compliance, ways of working etc. We’re always looking for ways to stand out from the crowd and bring new, better experiences to life for our customers.

So I thought I’d share my top take outs on channelling Challenger Thinking and how we can bring it into our everyday:

1) Embrace Intelligent Naivety.

Intelligent is the key word here. Get into the mindset of looking curiously outside the usual places and ask different questions. Challenge the status quo and unlock the power of why…. Why does it work that way? Why does it look like that? Why does it cost that much? Asking questions in an open, non-judgemental way could open the lid to a new way of thinking.

2) Outlooking.

Nothing to do with email. This is about taking inspiration from outside and seeing how you can pull the opportunities in. You can be hugely creative in how you do this, from holding Ted Talk Tuesday’s with your teams, getting out and about to experience brands first hand, through to doing some desk research in your lunch break. There’s loads of ways to immerse yourself in and learn from the wider world.

3) If Carlsberg did mortgages…

Sometimes we need a completely different perspective to pull us out of a rut or to tackle something new. One technique Eatbigfish champion is around inserting a new emotion to the challenge. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Look outside of the sector and find a brand with a strong point of view that’s at the opposite end of the spectrum to yours.
  • Now imagine that this brand is going to deliver the piece of work you’re looking at.
  • How would they approach it?
  • What would they laugh at about in category?
  • What would they do about it?

You then pull these thoughts together to brainstorm ideas, the bigger and more creative the better.

Tackling it in this way will take you to the edges of ideas that aren’t right / go too far but it certainly opens up your mind and, like Goldilocks, you may find something in the middle that’s just right.

4) Can if…

And finally, ban the phrase ‘can’t because…’ and replace it with ‘Can if…’ Cheesy, but it makes a massive difference.

So there you are. Four ways to start thinking like a pirate!


The Scholarship – a 9 month, free, part time programme for 30 of the UK’s fastest rising stars in Marketing, Advertising, Media and Communications.

The Fellowship – Equips CMO’s and Marketing Directors with the tools, knowledge and insight to make the move onto Boards and into General Management / MD / CEO roles.

12 month full paid Marketing Apprenticeship for young adults who because of challenging backgrounds, lack qualifications or poor life choices are normally overlooked for this kind of work experience