Are You A Challenger Brand?

May 2, 2014 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

There’s a quote about leaders and followers that suggests “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.” For many brands, that’s certainly true. We all understand there are a limited number of spots at the top and that in each category, there can only be one market leader. It’s also true that most brands will never even sniff the position at the front of their respective pack. But that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself, or your brand to follower status. Whether you’re in second place, third place, or last place, by adopting a challenger brand mentality and embracing three distinct “states,” you can step out of your role of follower and start creating a whole new view.

1. State of Market

Challenger brand thinking begins with a look at your State of Market. This state refers to what your company’s present position is in the marketplace. Where exactly are you on the food chain? Odds are you’re somewhere in the middle, or maybe even near the back. Challenger brands are never the traditional category leaders in sales, or units. But that doesn’t mean you can’t think and act like a leader.  How many times have we seen real innovation come not from the leaders, but from those in the chase pack? Or better yet, from those seemingly off the grid? Look at the energy drink category. You would have thought Coke and Pepsi might have seen the potential for an alternative energy drink like Red Bull. But they didn’t. And that’s the beautiful think about being the challenger – often the big guys will never see you coming.

2. State of Mind

If State of Market is all about understanding where you are, the second state – State of Mind – is all about determining your level of commitment. Real challenger brands are either the best at something important to a specific group of customers, or they are actively striving to become the best at delivering something their customers want. What is it you do better than anyone else? What is it you COULD do better than anyone else? So often, companies attempt to be best in class at everything they do, and end up falling short across the board. In contrast, look at the companies who have succeeded wildly being the best at one thing – Chick Fil-AHarley-DavidsonThe Container Store. State of Mind is about focusing on what you do best and orienting your employees around a commitment to total organizational excellence. As a challenger, you can’t succeed without this step.


3. State of Readiness

The final challenger brand state – State of Readiness – is perhaps the most important of the three. Because without it, there’s simply talk and no action. Motion, but no traction. True challenger brands engender a corporate culture of willingness, openness, and energy for embracing new modes of thinking and acting on them. Admittedly, this takes a higher organizational tolerance for calculated risk-taking, but as author Marshall Goldsmith notes in his book of the same name, “what got you here, won’t get you there.” Challenger brands have to open the aperture Change position. View the world from a different angle. And most of all, be willing and open to accepting new ideas, fresh direction, unexpected epiphanies and lots of “What if?” questions from energized employees invigorated for the fight.

– Michael Tuggle is Executive Creative Director at The Loomis Agency in Dallas.








The Loomis Agency is one of the leading ad agencies in Dallas. LOOMIS specializes in advertising and marketing for challenger brands. Helping challenger brands outthink the competition rather than outspend them is what we do. LOOMIS is the voice of the underdog. We are a full-service advertising agency offering senior leadership, account service, creative services, media planning and buying, brand development, strategy, planning, brand standards creation and management, business analysis, research and insights, creative ideation, target audience definition and segmentation and touch point analysis. We have deep experience in restaurant marketing, retail, services marketing and sports and entertainment marketing. Creatively, we offer the full spectrum of traditional and digital marketing channels including broadcast (television production and radio production), print (magazine and newspaper), out of home (billboards and signage), in store point of purchase (POP), direct mail, packaging and package design and digital (user experience (UX), website design and development, digital display ad design and development, content marketing, email marketing, e-Commerce, keyword strategy, testing and optimization, analytics and insights, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), mobile advertising and Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine). LOOMIS also offers an in-house studio providing print production and retouching and video post production services through See Spot Run (SSR). See Spot Run is a full-service video production services facility dedicated to creating the highest quality work for every sized client. From editing and motion graphics to turnkey production and beyond, SSR offers a unique mix of cutting-edge technology, creative thinking and low overhead. LOOMIS also provides exemplary music production and audio support in three world-class studios through our partner Luminous Sound Studios. If your focus is advertising ROI, or marketing ROI, if you are an advertising search consultant, an agency search consultant, or a marketing search consultant, call us. Let us show you the power of challenger brand thinking and what LOOMIS can do for your clients and your brand.

challenger brand

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.