What is a Challenger Brand?

7 Key Questions We Ask To Define Challenger Brands At 5&Vine

You’ve probably heard of the term ‘Challenger Brands’. Often simplified to the Biblical story of David and Goliath, these brand strategies and success stories are founded on tales of thinking differently to overtake the establishment. In the same way David thought differently to overcome the competition that was Goliath, Challenger Brands can utilize their unfair advantage to outsmart the competition.

But what is a Challenger Brand, and what exactly makes one succeed? The questions we ask to determine that are below but, before we start, it’s important to note what a Challenger Brand is not.

A Challenger Brand is not defined by size

Despite what you might think, a Challenger Brand isn’t something defined by size but its hunger to upend the status quo. They’re brands that believe there is a better way to do things through their products and services, and fight relentlessly to make it happen, no matter how many people are on the team.

A Challenger Brand is not always the underdog

Though that typically is the case, because being a Challenger Brand is more about a mindset than the physicality of a brand, you can see the Walmarts of the world becoming Challengers in their own right.

So, with that covered, what are some of the questions you can ask yourself to determine whether a brand is defined as a Challenger in 2021?


1. Does the brand fight smarter?

By definition, a Challenger Brand is not a category leader. Rather, they fight from a position behind incumbents to win customers and, ultimately, prized market share. Peeling those customers away from a monolithic and iconic brand can take years, unless you’re smart. By introducing a dramatic, smarter change that wins the hearts of consumers, a Challenger Brand can solve problems consumers didn’t even know they had.


2. Does the brand change how we see things?

Because of this smart approach to business, Challenger Brands often allow us to change how we perceive things, or approach a situation. When it seems like everybody is following a standard process, a Challenger Brand can enter and displace the market leaders. So, when you ask ‘what is a Challenger Brand fighting?’, think about the answer as a what rather than a who.


3. Does the brand care, and have purpose?

Today, customers aren’t just interested in brands that champion change, but those that actively align with their ethics. Instead of cashing in on quick capitalism, a Challenger Brand balances short-term goals and long-term vision to deliver results that meaningfully benefit society and environment.


4. Does the brand take steps to help its community?

Whether it’s destigmatizing mental health, taking steps to stand up to systemic racism, inequality or empowering parents when it comes to childcare, a Challenger Brand should be making moves to help its community. Challengers aren’t just in it for them. They’re doing this for the greater good.


5. Similarly, does it have a political position?

2020 has been a tough year. It’s put brands in the spotlight more than ever and prompted consumers to call out brands that are not showing their political position. Statistically, studies show that 83% of millennials want companies to align with their values and 76% want CEOs to speak out on issues they care about. Typically, a Challenger will be vocal about the causes it supports.


6. Does it have a fractional CMO?

Challenger Brands today need a fractional CMO. One that balances a deep understanding of Goliath with the hacker ethos of a startup and understands every part of your business, from brand building and customer service to user experience and social media. Invest in a seasoned full-time CMO too early and you accelerate your burn too quickly; too late, and momentum is halted. 5&Vine is the solution, taking the role of your CMO and strategic marketing team.


7. Is the brand always exploring how it can do better?

By definition, a Challenger looks at how it can do things better. That might be through sustainable packaging, innovating the supply chain or offering healthier alternatives to what’s already on the market. Whatever it is, the work of a Challenger is never over. There are always more playing fields to level and differences to make.

Here’s some of Challengers 5&Vine has had the privilege of working with:


Haute Hijab Challenger Brand Example

Haute Hijab is a hijab brand created for Muslim women by Muslim women. Their strong credentials in functional high fashion and civil rights advocacy by their founder Melanie Elturk were meaningful advantages that needed to be harnessed to take on industry incumbents Nike and Adidas.

Haute Hijab engaged 5&Vine as their Fractional CMO and Marketing Agency to architect and strengthen their launch strategy, and support their capable in-house marketing team to elevate ideas, sequence the launch and mobilize their community.

What makes Haute Hijab a Challenger?

What makes Haute Hijab such a standout Challenger is their bravery in standing up against prejudice and highlighting the determination of Muslim women in sport around the world. Through their recent Can’t Ban Us campaign, they challenged us to call out and stand against prejudice.


Fresh N’ Lean Challenger Brand Example

Fresh N’ Lean is a food delivery service providing ready-made meals with sustainability and organic ingredients at its core. To date, Fresh N’ Lean has delivered 17m meals and donated 320,000. Not only that but it’s a business with sustainability firmly in mind. All meal containers and almost every part of their packaging is fully recyclable and the containers themselves are made from BPA-free plastic, keeping food free from harmful toxins.

Fresh N’ Lean engaged 5&Vine to develop a growth strategy to scale customer acquisitions while reducing CPA. We led on social media strategy to strengthen product and brand stories, providing more on-ramps to the business based on customer targets.We engaged the most influential customers as brand advocates to demonstrate aspirational relatability. While these strategies were in place, we led the essential business’s COVID-19 response strategy.

What makes Fresh N’ Lean a Challenger? 

As a brand, Fresh N’ Lean offers people the opportunity to adopt a Keto, Vegan, Paleo, Low Carb, High Protein and generally healthier lifestyle with minimal fuss. Particularly during the pandemic, the brand has evolved its message to emphasize transparency, food safety and humanity, and offered a number of educational resources (on both nutrition and fitness) for those isolating at home.


Greenlight Challenger Brand Example

Greenlight is a fintech brand and parent-managed debit card for kids. The Greenlight card and app were purpose-built for families, with financial education at its core.

Greenlight engaged 5&Vine to drive growth and successfully position them for a Series A. Our team developed a Challenger Brand strategy that is inspirational to kids while also being credible with parents, alongside the development of a scalable growth model and in-house marketing team.

What makes Greenlight a Challenger? 

Greenlight is changing the way both parents and their children view finances. It’s on a mission to redefine the way young people approach money by teaching them about saving, spending and investing. It fights smarter and with purpose.


Stok Challenger Brand Example

Stok is a brand made up of interdisciplinary experts helping real estate owners and occupiers reimagine the built environment.

Stok engaged 5&Vine to relaunch the brand through a new positioning, logo and website that we authored, designed and developed. As their past projects and the people who work at Stok are a testament to their success, we wanted to double down on the brand’s strong vision, core values and, most importantly, their commitment to the environment.

What makes Stok a Challenger?

As humans, we spend most of our lives in buildings. Stok ensures those buildings are healthy, high-performance and ultimately better for the environment at every step of the real estate process. Working across a number of sectors, from residential to retail, Stok strives for better by enhancing the occupant experience, optimizing resource efficacy, improving financial performance and more.

If you enjoyed our post, you should check out How Challenger Brands Can Win With PR

PR coverage is vital to a Challenger Brand’s success. Media validation, whether by way of a published article, widely shared blog post or broadcast interview, is an incredibly powerful means to drive brand awareness. Credible press builds social proof for new customers visiting your website, provides meaningful stories for social media, bolsters organic search rankings and more.

Challengers don’t have the same brand awareness as incumbents do, but this hurdle can be strategically overcome by approaching PR like an underdog.


Ready to challenge the
status quo and win?

👋 I'm Rahul, founder and CMO at 5&Vine. Reach out to schedule an intro call about your marketing challenges and let's assess how 5&Vine can help your brand win.

Get in Touch