Challenger brands step up their marketing game

Challenger brands have previously been known as the underdog. You secretly route for them to come out on top past their high-brow competitors and you want them to do well. You want to see a good fight and challenger brands were the people to take on the big boys head to head for the title of ultimate dominance in the marketplace. Times have changed however. Whilst there is still a certain amount of dog eat dog back handedness going on behind the scenes, the challenger brands are slowly but surely catching up to he mainstream big shots.

In my opinion, mainstream brands such as Coke and British Airways are a little more ‘vogue’ with their challengers, Pepsi and Virgin Atlantic daring to be a little more ‘rogue.’ With this, I mean that challenger brands such as those mentioned are a little more daring to step outside the box and reach consumers on a different level in the marketing stakes and ways.

Whilst challenger brands tend to be smaller, a brands size really shouldn’t matter too much in this day and age where digital plays such a huge part in consumer interaction. Take Innocent for example; practically unknown less than ten years ago, they now have a social media following of over 500,000 on Facebook and Twitter. The massive investment that the young team made into engaging with their customers on a more personal social media level has earned them points, both consumer feedback and in target sales. With challenger brands being smaller, they also can’t invest the same that the larger and more dominant brands invest in marketing campaigns and advertisements. Digital therefore comes into its own, as do the challenger ‘rogues.’ Digital marketing, including the mass use of social media cemented Innocent in the challenger brand stakes, with their fun and games type attitude and no-nonsense gumpf. Looking to these other digital means can be practically free (excluding time and employee wages) and can be a way of getting to your customers on more of a personal level.

We now live in a world of consumer choice, where it doesn’t matter if your brand is the best known any more. It comes down to what the customer can get, what you’re offering and how you are going about offering it to them. The impact of consumer engagement largely impacts on a brand welfare, and investing more time in listening to your customers and engaging in their needs and wants is something that shouldn’t be dismissed as a challenger brand attitude. Advertising in more conventional ways now is seen as less important, with a mass importance being put on digital marketing and social media. Brand design and identity is also key to a challenger brand becoming successful. If you miss the mark here, chances are, you’ll miss it altogether. I call challengers ‘rogues’ as they tend to be more daring in their marketing and strategy of gathering a following. Take Red Bull; ‘gives you wings’ was taken to a whole new level when Felix decided to free-fall skydive from a world-record breaking 128,000 feet! As a challenger brand, forward thinking and that extra pinch of dynamic belief has helped propel Red Bull forward in the energy drink stakes.

Not conforming to the same attitudes as their competitors is a challenger’s main aspect in staying a challenger. A ‘me too’ attitude would only end up in the generic failure of a company and brand, so standing out and sitting up to listen to how your competitor does things is a great way to learn…but then turn it on it’s head completely and think way outside the box and you may be on to a winning challenger brand.