Challenger Brands

Challenger Brands aren’t defined by size or revenue. They’re relentlessly focused on redefining the status quo. They wage war against wrongs and don’t rest until they’re resolved. They’re earnest. They’re responsible. And they do it all with total alignment, ensuring their hiring, manufacturing, financial and social practices are integrated with their mission.

Challenger Brands believe that business can and must be a force for good, and that their responsibility extends well beyond shareholders. It extends to their customers, their employees, society, and the planet.

Where Does The Term‘Challenger Brand’Come From?

In 1999, Adam Morgan published Eating The Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders. It discussed examples of how a Challenger can get noticed so they can poach customers from the incumbent, along with frameworks to do so.

Morgan founded eatbigfish and, with PHD Worldwide, the agency defined 10 different kinds of Challengers, which you can explore here.

Missionary: Right IconChanging something in the world it sees as broken or unfair.
Next Generation
Next Generation: Right Icon Questioning the appropriateness of the market leader, or even the whole category, for the times we live in today.
Enlightened Zagger
Enlightened Zagger: Right Icon Deliberately swimming against a prevailing cultural or category tide.
Irreverent Maverick
Irreverent Maverick: Right Icon Using wit and humour to challenge complacency and apparent comfort found in the bland.
Dramatic Disrupter
Dramatic Disrupter: Right Icon Offering a product or service that is significantly superior to the incumbent.
Real & Human
Real & Human: Right IconChallenging the impersonality and faceless service of the market leader.
People's Champion
People’s Champion: Right Icon Standing up for a group of people short-served or exploited by the establishment for too long.
Democratiser: Right Icon Bringing ubiquitous access to the things that have previously only been available to the elite.
Feisty Underdog
Feisty Underdog: Right Icon The David, sticking it to Goliath.
Local Hero
Local Hero: Right Icon Reflecting the emotion and energy around a renewed appetite for localism and local character.

What Does 5&Vine Believe?

5&Vine believes 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.

Whether they’re an Enlightened Zagger or a Feisty Underdog, we work with Challengers who look beyond profit to purpose, always.

Challengers are 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.

Challengers Change How We
See Things

Challengers Change How We See Things

Because of their innovative 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.

Challengers Fight Smarter

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

Challengers 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.

Challenger Brands Q&A
With 5&Vine’s CEO
Rahul Raj

Challenger Brands are brave. They speak out against wrongs and aim to resolve them. This can range from egregious fees, horrible customer service and mediocre performance to racial injustice, gender discrimination or environmental degradation. They believe that business can and must be a force for good, and that their responsibility extends well beyond their obligation to shareholders, to their customers, employees, society at large and the planet. They don’t shy away from the impossible, and run towards a challenge.

They are earnest in their actions, aiming to align their business, hiring, manufacturing, financial and social practices with their mission – recognizing that change happens from the many small daily decisions as much as it does from the grand strategy.

They are humble and reflective, acknowledging their progress and the distance they have yet to travel.

They act alone and with others. They don’t wait for others to lead when leadership is needed, but also know that change is more powerful when realized together, and play the needed role for the greater good.

They question fundamentals, operate from first principles and are intentional about actions. They don’t need to do things the way they’ve been done in the past, but architect new ways based on what the world needs now.

They do right by the customer. They invest in relationships with them, empathize and often drive exceptional growth through word of mouth and referrals.

Start by identifying the unassailable truths of your industry and competitors: pricing, quantity, packaging, delivery, timing, efficacy, communication, service, lifespan, availability, target, jobs to be done, accepted points of failure, warranties, and start to consider the following questions:

If we had to start from scratch, releasing ourselves from constraints, how would we address the customer pain point?

Who are we serving and who are we ignoring or leaving behind? How can we better serve them?

What would need to be true in order for us to deliver a product or service at half the cost or twice the quantity, or with considerably less packaging?

In addition, read your customer reviews – both positive and negative – to identify opportunities to be better and deliver requests that have gone unanswered. Do the same exercise for your competitors. Make sure you use your own product and journal your experience to identify how you can be better. Ask others in your company or network to do the same, ensuring you get a diverse set of perspectives.

Spend a day, month or quarter in customer support engaging with customers and helping them with their concerns to build your empathy and understanding.

Ask yourself: Why does it have to be this way? How could this be better? And then do something about it! Act, speak up, and build your confidence to move from a series of small actions to planning for bigger ones.

Accept that you will fail, because it will happen. It’s the only way you’ll make progress. Embracing Challenger thinking means embracing discomfort. Use that discomfort to propel you forward. Let the feeling become the force that guides you to ask hard questions and change something in the world for the better.

We are hardwired to disrupt and grow. We aren’t incrementalists. We need to understand the change you want to realize and help you make that a reality.

In our experience helping dozens of Challenger Brands win, we have developed a playbook to help you take on or take down industry incumbents. This improves our success and helps you avoid common pitfalls.

We are led by a CMO with decades of experience enabling socially minded Challengers to win, supported by an exceptional team of experts in growth, paid acquisition, branding, organic social, content, and design, so we can deploy the resources needed to succeed.

We care. Life’s too short to spend time with people you don’t like or respect, working on something you don’t care about. We don’t have time for that. At 5&Vine, we believe we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. We choose those people wisely. We collaborate with smart, brave and socially conscious Challenger Brands to achieve the impossible.

One of the best and most iconic Challenger Brands is Airbnb. Our affinity towards the brand stems from its drive to forge connections when we travel, to deepen our understanding of others and build community.

There are few things more sacred than the privacy of our homes. They often reveal who we really are, from our strengths to our struggles. Inviting guests into our space is something typically reserved for those we are closest with. Airbnb has helped bridge that gap by helping prospective guests get to know prospective hosts, find commonalities and build trust. In doing so, it has enabled countless individuals to experience a new dimension to their travel and understand the people and neighbourhoods they are visiting in a way that centralized and sanitized hotels are unable to.

Airbnb has also challenged the notion that we must build new structures in city centers to house those visiting, when there are hundreds or thousands of underutilized rooms or houses that can provide the desired shelter and comfort.

It’s taken the neglected art of hosting and brought it back into the spotlight, enabling individuals to show their care and attention to detail through guidebooks, warm greetings, welcome amenities and more. At the same time, large hoteliers and airlines continue to unbundle their service offering, charging for internet access, snacks and early check-in.

Airbnb has disrupted an industry that was growing complacent and accepted as the norm. It showed the power in mobilizing a community of independent hosts and their properties to help us connect with each other on a basic human level, and build an exceptionally strong business in the process.

Challenger Brands Ask “Why” with 5&Vine’s CEO Rahul Raj