Challenger branding is not for the weak of heart. As the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency for more than 20 years, we’ve had the privilege to work with dozens of challenger brands large and small in every business sector and from every part of the country. Last year, we wrote an entire book on why we love jumping in the trenches with brands that are scrappy and underfed. For us, there’s nothing more satisfying than helping challenger brands go toe to toe with the category leaders. That’s why every day, we focus on the five essential weapons that help challenger brands win.
In this post, we’re focusing on what it takes for challenger brands to go to war and beat the brands at the top of their category. To fight against the big dogs that have more money, more resources, more people, and more pull — and still win. There’s clearly a lot that goes into that. But from our experience fighting side by side with challenger brands of all types, we know when underdog brands go to war and focus on the five essential weapons that help challenger brands win, anything is possible.
The 5 C’s of Challenger Brand Warfare.
In The Art of War, legendary Chinese military strategist Sun-Tzu posited that “every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” That’s absolutely true in the brand wars. Because, like most battles, the actual fighting is less a harbinger of success than is the preparation, strategy, and mindset of those in the actual fight.
When challenger brands go to war against the category leaders, they do so knowing they are undercapitalized, understaffed, and under the gun. Despite that, many challengers find a way to punch above their weight. They grab market share, and even force big brands into unforced errors. How? They embrace the Five Cs of Challenger Brand Warfare – the five essential weapons that help challenger brands win: Courage, Connection, Creativity, Company Culture, and Change.
In chapter two of The Voice of the Underdog, we note there are three primary factors that distinguish true challenger brands from the leading brands in their categories. Those factors are State of Market, State of Mind, and State of Readiness. While the first two – State of Market (understanding where you stand compared to your competition) and State of Mind (understanding who you are as a company or brand) – are somewhat constant, the third factor, State of Readiness (understanding how ready you are to go to battle) is variable. And it requires extreme Courage, the first C in the essential weapons that help challenger brands win.