So what IS a challenger brand?
The notion of being a ‘challenger brand’ has become a trendy attitude to adopt over the past few years but how do you really know if you are a genuine challenger brand?
Challenger brands are bold and take risks – they always stand out from the crowd and never stand still! And they are typically not the market leader in terms of volume or sales!
The fundamental belief of any challenger brand is that they can offer or do something better than what is out there. They question the status quo. Challenger brands continually disrupt in a constructive, conducive manner, laying new foundations to allow for something different.
Who are the challengers?
Famous international challenger brands include, Pepsi (vs. Coke), Burger King (vs. McDonalds), Virgin (vs. British Airways), and Avis (vs. Hertz). But challengers can be of any size. Typically, they are the ‘underdogs’ confronting the category leaders for market dominance. Avis, in fact capitalised on this ‘second best’ status with their campaign ‘We try harder’, focused around their second place ranking after Hertz.
Innocent, essentially unknown in 2005 and with limited commercial budget had to think outside the box to create brand awareness and engage with consumers. Innocent’s original marketing strategy used playful packaging and in-store displays to entice customers to try their product and created brand advocates. Now they are the UK market leader in smoothies, and have even maintained their challenger values and reputation even after being ‘bought’ by Coca Cola by retaining its independence spirit and unexpected, playful image.
But the challenger brand mentality is not just applicable to small entities and start-ups; from confectionery (Mars) to car rental (Avis), there are many examples of well-established brands retaining disruptive, ‘outsider’ thinking to innovate and profit. Indeed, the brands making it onto The Challenger Project’s Top 20 Challengers this year range from small craft brewers to giants such as Netflix and Under Armour.
New innovative businesses challenging the status quo and disrupting their industries include brands like Uber, Lidl, Zappos & Tinder. Brands are not only challenging the status quo, but are genuinely turning the sectors on their heads. Existing market leaders are having to entirely rethink their approach to their business in order to survive the success of these challenger brands.
What makes a challenger brand?
Not every challenger brand intends to be one. Companies that are quicker, more agile and imaginative are often labelled challengers. It is not necessary to have an original product or service to be a challenger brand, but answering a question or fulfilling a need of the consumer. Industries where customers feel mistreated or undervalued by existing brands are ideal areas for challengers to grow. Being a challenger brand is not just your aspiration or a tactic, but embedded in your culture, engraved in your behaviour and the DNA of the brand.
How can brands stay disruptive after becoming mainstream?
Becoming mainstream presents fresh challenges for challenger brands and their image. Once a brand is successful, previous strategies often become unfeasible. It’s been argued that challenger brands have two strategies – they position themselves against the industry giant or rip up the rulebook. This reinforces the belief that challenger characteristics are unmaintainable after mainstream success. However, the fundamental thing about successful disruption is the ability to lay new foundations.
Red Bull is a great example of a challenger brand that maintained its original values and augmented them in forward thinking strategies; the awe-inspiring Stratos jump in 2012, cementing the brand as an original thinker that takes risks. Other brands, like Virgin, expanded and disrupted other categories, maintaining their challenger status.
Endaba as a challenger brand
Endaba began its life when Founder, Lynette Deutsch, wanted to challenge the transactional nature and status quo of the headhunting industry within which she work, imagined a service that would do better by both clients and candidates. With Patrick Egan, they seized the opportunity to enhance executive search services and market intelligence by combining it with innovative leadership development techniques. With guiding principles of integrity, innovation, passion, commitment and trust, we transform the way people do business – we set new standards, inspire people to think creatively, and always believe in better. Where others seek quick fixes, we build relationships and go the distance. We continually craft bespoke innovative solutions that drive real business success for our clients, now and for the future.
Continuing to challenge the status quo is as important as setting out to redefine a category. This is why, as the Endaba brand continues to grow and increase its international footprint, we decided to reinvigorate and rebrand our website to keep pace with this evolution. Our core values and ethos remain constant, while the company’s reach, breadth of offering and market position has evolved over the years.
“What other people called ‘adding value’, I called the norm. It was time headhunting was approached in a different way. I’ve always gone against the herd, not to be different for different’s sake, but because there’s always a better way to do it. You just have to have the courage to stand on your own to do something different. Although sometimes it takes a little longer, it’s about doing the right thing. I wanted to provide the best possible service, which wasn’t about the transaction, but what was best for the candidate and the client, building genuine and honest relationships. I’ve never looked back since, and I’m proud of what we have achieved. We continue to challenge ourselves and our clients.” Lynette Deutsch, Founder and CEO.