What is a Challenger Brand?

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A Challenger Brand is a brand that provides a product or service that exceeds traditional expectations for their industry – whether that be product or service based. The brand will also have a determined and focused mindset on goals above that of normal resource. They are not a market-leader, but their determined attitude sets them apart.

Adam Morgan identified three factors that make up a challenger brand in his book ‘Eating the Big Fish’:

  1. State of market – The brand cannot be a market leader or be a niche brand.
  2. State of mind – a company that has ambitions above their resource. Essentially a company with big dreams and a drive to achieve them.
  3. Rate of success – a company that has seen fast and significant growth.

Challenger brands usually do not attempt to take market-leaders head on, rather they compete with the standard conventions of their industry. For example, Uber started off as a challenger brand. Instead of creating another bookable taxi service where you call ahead, they integrated the ideas of taxi-hailing and booking by creating an app where you can virtually hail a taxi on demand – hence challenging the concept rather than individual market leaders.

It’s important to have a challenger brand SEO strategy if you’re looking to take on the market leaders. As market leaders often rely on brand alone and so don’t focus heavily on SEO, it’s a brilliant way for challenger brands to go head to head with their competitors.

Although brand narrative is important to all brands, it is especially important to challenger brands. As they are focused on goals bigger than their marketing resource challenger brands have to utilise their narrative to attract new customers.

Brand Narratives for Challenger Brands

The Challenger Project lists ten different types of brand narratives that these companies may have:

  • People’s Champion
  • Missionary
  • Democratiser
  • Irreverent Maverick
  • Enlightened Zagger
  • Real and Human
  • Visionary
  • Next Generation
  • Game Changer
  • Feisty Underdog.

Many challenger brands are driven by a mission, normally underpinned by a want to push an industry forward with the customer’s benefit in mind.

Our client Giesswein, a merino wool clothing and footwear company is a challenger brand. This family owned Austrian firm only use mulesing free wool, even though it is more expensive they believe that respectful treatment of animals is a must. In a world where consumers want to invest in sustainable and ethical products it is values such as this that set challenger brands apart from their competitors and draw in customers. In fact, research has shown that 83% of millennials believe it is important to buy from brands that share their values.

Challenger brands are specific about what they want to change within the marketplace. One clear example comes from the phone case company Mous. The founders at Mous noticed that smart phone cases came in two types: extremely chunky protective, or too flimsy to offer any protection. They didn’t think you should have to compromise on style and size to have a case that properly protects your phone. Mous designed and tested thousands of prototypes before they received crowdfunding to launch their line of slimline, beautifully crafted protective phone cases.

Challenger vs Disruptor

It’s important not to confuse challenger brands with disruptor brands. Whilst challenger brands are not the market leaders, disruptor brands are just the opposite, they are after that top spot. They achieve this by bringing something completely new to the market. Think Airbnb, never before had it been so easy for homeowners to rent out their spare rooms, their converted annexes, or even their whole house before – all from their phone. It also changed the game for holidaymakers, no more are the days when you would have to fork out for the price of a hotel in your favourite city, instead you can find a cheaper alternative and live like a local.

Challenger brands are here to stay and are growing by the day as consumers look for new and alternative products to market leaders, from wool products, to phone cases, to taxis.

SEO for Challenger Brands

We are an SEO Consultancy for challenger brands. We understand the mindset of a challenger brand because our founders have been challengers. In 1999, they co-founded, grew and exited one the first UK digital marketing agencies before building a global SAAS platform. Collectively we have been ‘doing’ SEO for over 25 years (Jamie for over 20) so we understand the importance of attention to detail, hands on focus and the importance of a positive ROI.

If you are a challenger and want to know more about SEO, please leave us your details and we can chat. We won’t share your personal details with anyone else and you won’t be joining our mailing list.