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  • Geraint Holliman

Are you a challenger brand, a challenging brand or just plain challenged?

A client triumphantly proclaimed to me recently that “we’re not number one in our market so we’re a challenger brand”. “Hallelujah!” I cried, “did you do that by adopting all of the 8 credos of a challenger brand?”, hoping, expectantly, that I could write his experiences up as a case study.

“Erm, well…..,”was his response.

And this is a problem since being a ‘challenger brand’ has become the latest trendy position to take. After all, we can’t all be number one, number two or even number three can we?

How do you know if you are a genuine challenger brand rather than just being challenged?

Challengers are not the market leader in volume or sales terms, but they do want to gain market share. They are bold mavericks that take risks. They always stand out from the crowd and usually they are loud and often aggressive. Challenger brands never stand still.

So, what is a challenger brand? The term was coined by Adam Clayton in 2005. He defined the 8 credos of challenger brands in his best seller ‘Eating the Big Fish’. These precepts identified the key guiding principles that brand should follow to achieve a genuine challenger position. If you want to know more about the 8 credos see my Slideshare.

Who are challengers? Famous examples are Pepsi, Virgin Atlantic, Body Shop and Innocent Smoothies. But size is not the issue here. Brands of any size can be true challengers.

Don’t think of your brand as the underdog. Malcolm Gladwell in his recent book ‘David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants’, suggests it’s about choosing different terms to compete on. Try and determine when and how your disadvantage could actually be perceived as an advantage. Richard Branson is famously dyslexic but used this unfortunate condition, which would have held back most people, to his advantage and used it as the spur to work harder and focus on the skills he did have rather than those he didn’t.

Being a challenger brand is not just an ambition, nor simply an aspiration. It is a culture, not a tactic. Being a genuine challenger brand is ingrained in the behaviour and DNA of the brand. Challenger brands want and NEED to be different, it’s what inspires and propels them forward. They are always on the move, always innovating, always challenging.

Someone asked me if a brand can become a challenger? Well, why not? Whilst cultural change is the hardest thing a brand will ever attempt to achieve, if strong leadership can define a clear vision which is driven by a focused customer need then why not?

So if when you next cast your eyes enviously at the number one and the number two and the number three as they frolic coquettishly at the top of the market and you conclude that the best competitive response is to reposition as a challenger brand make sure you consider whether you are truly a challenger brand, challenging or just plain challenged.

If you want to make your brand a true 'challenger' in your market then get in touch with us here.

About the author: Geraint Holliman is Managing Director of Giantoo Content Marketing. A leading speaker and academic author he presents at events all over the world on content marketing, and branding. He will bore you to death on all content marketing issues if you give him a chance. Don't do it!!!! (But you could LinkIn to him here)

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