Is it the goal of every brand to grow up and establish itself as the leader in its space? Or is there value in remaining forever young, forever learning, forever ready to challenge?
In reality, we need to be doing both, because ‘Staying at number one means thinking and behaving like number two.’ 
Being a Challenger brand isn’t so much a strategy, it’s more an attitude. ‘Challenger mentality is not just a democratic ideal, it’s increasingly evolving as a cornerstone of successful branding. No longer just a noble cause, the challenger positioning is, very simply, clever business.’ 

This ‘clever business’ approach has been adopted by many of the world’s most successful brands – The CBA recently told us that we ‘Can’ as a direct challenge to our preconceptions on the limitations of personal banking.  Apple’s Think Different campaign encouraged us to believe we could be one of the many people who have changed the world… by buying Apple products, of course. Virgin has only ever done well when it’s challenged an incumbent on its very right to still be in business. There are others, of course: Hertz, Swatch, Body Shop to name but a few. 
These brands have many things in common, but as Challenger brands two things stand out for me: they always have a clear sense of themselves; and they’re always consistent in the ways they project their attitude on everything they do. It’s because of this intense self-confidence and no-nonsense approach that they stand out from the crowd.
Being a Challenger brand can’t stop at the brand: it has to continue in the field. In the best selling book, ‘The Challenger Sale’ by CEB, the Challenger’s role in sales is defined by three skills: 

  • Teach – offer a unique perspective to provide customers with valuable information for how to compete in their market more effectively.
  • Tailor – modify the teaching method and message so it will resonate with your audience’s business priorities.
  • Take control – Move customers out of their comfort zone. Be assertive and apply pressure in the decision-making cycle.

It’s ‘moving customers out of their comfort zone’ and ‘applying pressure in the decision-making cycle’ that brings the Challenger approach alive for me. Recently, I’ve been in many briefings where the client’s described the main challenge as customer apathy and the ease of simply doing nothing. Getting customers out of the comfort zone and embracing new ideas, or adopting new products or solutions is what my job is all about. And I know that this often means challenging long-term preferences, deeply engrained loyalties, or simple preconceptions. 
So I’m definitely jumping on the Challenger ‘brand wagon’ as a way of keeping my clients’ brands ahead and delivering a competitive edge on all my campaigns. 


2. B&T (17 May, 2012) – ‘Challenging times’ by Madeleine Ross