The term "challenger brand" has been around for over 20 years, first coined by Adam Morgan in his book 'Eating the Big Fish' in 1999. Since then, the phrase has become a popular way to condition up and coming brands who position themselves as experts and are redefining the status quo in common sectors.
According to The Challenger Project, "a challenger brand is defined, primarily, by a mindset – it has business ambitions bigger than its conventional resources, and is prepared to do something bold, usually against the existing conventions or codes of the category, to break through."
Some well-known brands that are considered challengers include:
Some newer challenger brands that I personally love are:
While the concept of challenger brands is not new, there seems to be an emergence of new brands and an awakening of the term. Why? And why do challenger brands even matter?
In order to be considered a challenger brand, your business has to be centered around an ideology that puts you in a position to take an old approach to a service, product, or method, and transform it to make it better, more approachable, and innovative. "Ideology determines where challengers focus their disruption, helping them apply effort to where it matters most, according to their worldview."
Challengers have a vision of a future that completely uproots the status quo. New challengers often gain awareness so quickly because they can be more agile, react quickly, and make moves without the burden of being bogged down by an incumbent corporation.
According to Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson's book The Challenger Sale, "a Challenger is defined by the ability to do three things: teach, tailor, and take control." Especially in a COVID-19 world, and hopefully a soon-to-be-post-pandemic landscape, challenger brands matter now more than ever because they are offering consumers solutions to modern problems, taking on the "big fish" to make products, services, and methods unique, accessible, and meaningful.
At Marika Creative, we provide services for established, heritage brands, but we pay special attention to challengers for the following reasons:
Their agility in the marketplace and their readiness to take risks makes collaborating with challengers a rewarding and exciting challenge, and allows us to be invested as a real partner, seeing them through their growth and movement.
Challengers care about working with people who share their mission and vision, and since we define Marika Creative as a challenger agency, we often do.
Challengers understand what it takes to close the gap between good and great, and we have the skills to pursue that with them.
I consider Marika Creative to be a challenger agency because we are redefining what it means to be a creative entrepreneurs and a creative agency overall. We believe there is a better way, a better way to serve clients, build community, and leave a legacy in the industry. At Marika Creative, we are disrupting the status quo in the commercial photography space, showing brands the way to literally triple their revenue in less than a year, or get noticed by big names who will help them grow, or build a community of super fans. As a challenger agency, we have the mission, the vision, and the need to move, shake, and do better in this world for the brands who will trust us and for the other creators who need someone to inspire them.
In conclusion, I will leave you with some important words from The Challenger Project:
"Twenty years after the concept of the ‘challenger brand’ was coined, a new wave of challengers has been changing the way the categories around us think and behave. Financed by a new type of investor, harnessing emerging structural changes and new ways to build relationships with their consumers, they have generated an enormous energy and excitement in the marketing and business community.
But challenger behaviour is not confined to the new or the small. Brands of all sizes – whatever their category, competition, heritage or personality – can benefit from adopting a challenger mindset to drive more ambitious growth and make the impact they desire."
Does the challenger terminology resonate with you? Are you an entrepreneur looking to adopt a challenger mindset or a challenger brand looking for a partner to grow with? I'd love to hear your opinion and perspective, so I invite you to contact me to further this meaningful discussion!