July 11, 2019

What Is Challenger Brand Marketing?

July 11, 2019

What Is Challenger Brand Marketing?

Marketing Strategy, Challenger Brands

Are you a challenger brand looking for the right marketing strategy that can help you stand out from market leaders in your industry?  We take a look at challenger brand marketing and how adopting a challenger mindset in your category can set you up to win. 

Insight: Challenger brands are not defined by their position in the market but by their approach to marketing.

Data: Over 80% of organisations expect to compete mainly based on CX this year. (Gartner)

Key Action Point: Adopt a customer-driven challenger mindset and focus on winning the customer experience. 

The rise of challenger brands in today’s disruptive times is imminent. We’ve seen so many success stories of how these up-and-coming brands emerged with seemingly ridiculous ideas, a different way of thinking, or disruptive solutions that have changed the lives of their customers, turning their category upside down. Often brilliant innovators, or challengers, they enter the playing field with a powerful idea or a solution to a long-standing customer pain point, shaking up the status quo, and fearlessly taking on the Goliaths in their categories. 

But a powerful idea without the right marketing strategy can only take you so far. 

Today, we’ll explore effective marketing strategies that can help challenger brands dominate in your category. 


Challenge the Narrative

What is it about challenger brands that get people to take notice? In a time when leading brands may tell a story that positions themselves as heroes to their customers, challengers and disruptors in their categories emerge to challenge the narrative, pointing out to customers that they can save themselves. 

So ask yourself: What is the current narrative in your category? And how are market leaders in your category positioning themselves to their customers? Understanding this beforehand will help challenger brands come up with a unique narrative that can differentiate themselves from everyone else.  

In a survey by AdWeek, 49% of respondents have found the ability to craft a brand narrative as the most important characteristic of a challenger brand. The report has also found that continuous innovation and fostering an entrepreneurial mindset helps brands to stand out.

Think about how Uber jumped on the scene in a time when everyone thought taxi cabs were the only comfortable mode of transportation. 

Challenger brands are never short on brilliant concepts like these that entice regular consumers to look at a new way of doing things. 

The best way for challengers to cut through the noise is by challenging the narrative with something different from what market leaders are already using. Of course, once you have a powerful narrative that your customers can respond and relate to, use effective storytelling to help you align with the needs of your customers. 

Great storytelling powered with an omnichannel digital marketing strategy fuels your narrative forward and gets you front and centre to your target audience. 


Be Authentically You

In a time when everyone is trying to fit in or be just like everyone else, challenger brands can set themselves apart by staying true to themselves. 

No challenger brand demonstrates this better than American Eagle Outfitters’ lingerie and intimate apparel lifestyle brand Aerie. They broke into the lingerie and swimsuit scene that was dominated by Victoria’s Secret, a brand infamous for their small sizes, with body positivity and brought a fresh perspective to an industry so used to skinny models. 

By embracing women of all sizes, Aerie captured the hearts of women everywhere with their body-positive, unretouched imagery and a marketing strategy that encouraged everyone to be proud of their flaws. 

By catering to a huge demographic of women who could not find the right size for them, Aerie’s third-quarter sales in 2018 achieved a 5% total net revenue increase of $43 million to $1.004 billion compared to $960 million in 2017.


Get Predatory

We’ve worked with hundreds of challenger brands in the past few years, and no better strategy can help you win in your category than predatory marketing — or striking at the weakness that comes from your competitor’s greatest strength. 

Realise that because market leaders are already dominating in your category, they usually stick to what works and are often resistant to fresh ideas. They also fail to watch out for what’s coming up from behind them. This weakness can be the catapult challenger brands need to break into the market and attract the attention of consumers who are always on the lookout for the next best idea.   

Movie blockbusters and cable TV have been around for so long that they did not anticipate Netflix breaking into the scene and introducing an entirely different movie-watching experience to audiences everywhere while giving them full access and total control of their viewing choices right at their fingertips. 

Netflix did this successfully by marketing this apparent competitor weakness to their advantage. Breaking loudly into the market with a fresh solution to your audience’s pain points invites attention and encourages weary consumers to be your early brand advocates. 

By positioning yourself as “the new toy everyone is dying to try out”, you force your consumers to reassess their buying decisions by giving them the luxury of choice.  


Be the Customer’s Champion 

According to the 2019 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands report, great customer experiences were cited as providing the most significant contribution to creating a meaningful difference. 

The report goes on to explain that customer experience correlates strongly with innovation and brands that are perceived as both innovative and providing an exceptional customer experience grew more than twice as fast as those that were not.

Now that more and more organisations are trying to achieve customer-centricity, challenger brands are now faced with the opportunity to disrupt their category by becoming the customer’s champion and seeking to understand and exceed customer expectations in ways that have not been done before by legacy brands. 

To do this, challengers need to:

  • Have a deep understanding of what customers expect now and what they want in the future. Investing in resources that look into customer behaviour and analyse this data is crucial to achieving this distinction. 
  • Understand the customer journey. Foster a close relationship with your customers and gain insights about their buying habits and expectations throughout multichannel touchpoints and interactions with your brand throughout the customer lifecycle.
  • Focus on improving the user experience and relentlessly figure out ways to make every customer touchpoint as simple and as convenient as possible. Let the customer choose you based on every single positive experience they have with your brand. 
  • Build a customer-centric culture and instil the habit of putting the customer first throughout your entire organisation so every interaction stays consistent from your website and online platforms down to your team.   


The Bottom Line 

Great ideas come and go but brands that disrupt their categories with authentic and wow customer experiences are the ones that truly stand out in the end because happy customers are your greatest marketing strategy

Winning in your category means more than disruption and innovation. It takes knowing your purpose and defining your narrative, being authentic, striving to find solutions for where others have failed before, and capturing the hearts of your customers through a data-driven marketing strategy.   






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