Why Challenger Brands Are Perfectly Imperfect

October 9, 2015 | blog | By Mike Sullivan


I like to think of Challenger Brands as perfectly imperfect – and that can work to their advantage. Unlike the established competitors that present themselves as polished and refined, Challengers are a little edgy, unconventional and willing to push the envelope. That’s the kind of adventurous spirit that allows Challenger Brands to win market share by winning mind share.

There’s a Japanese aesthetic called wabi sabi that comes from Buddhist teachings and it often reminds me of Challenger Brands. The concept of wabi sabi, in essence, says there is perfection in imperfection. And that’s what Challenger Brands are – perfectly imperfect.

Relationship-Building Between Customers and Your Brand 

Establishing a relationship between customers and your brand is key to creating brand loyalty. It’s human nature to want to feel a sense of belonging and connection, so it’s critical to clearly identify the Lighthouse Brand identity and consistently communicate the company’s personality throughout all marketing, advertising and social media outlets. Let your customers get to know the personality of your brand with all its lovable imperfections.

We can’t forget that number five of psychology and marketing guru Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion is “liking.”  People are more easily persuaded by those they like. If your customers like and relate to your brand, you’ll build or reinforce brand loyalty.

Biting Back: How To Succeed As A Challenger Brand

People Embrace Imperfection

Worried that creating an imperfectly perfect brand persona will turn customers off? Think about it this way – in high school, was it easier to relate to the straight-A prom king/queen with perfect hair and a cool car (Mr. or Miss Perfect)? Or did you find it easier to approach the quirky, but cool kid with his/her own sense of style, who rode the bus and was friendly to everyone (Mr. or Miss Wabi Sabi)?

In 2011, Alex Lickerman, M.D., blogged about the elusiveness of perfection inPsychology Today.  The aphorism, “Perfect is The Enemy of Good” has been around for centuries, though it’s exact origin is a matter of debate, some attribute it to Voltaire, it was also quoted by Aristotle, Confucius and Shakespeare. The very fact that this phrase is now plastered all over social media as various memes should speak to the popularity of the idea and that people accept imperfections as a fact of life.

Georgetown University marketing professor and former Ogilvy media strategist Rohit Bhargava points out in his book, Likeonomics, that consumers embrace “loveable imperfection.” He points to real-life examples like actress Jennifer Lawrence and food manufacturer Oscar Mayer that have won market share by being lovably imperfect.

Define your Lighthouse Brand identity – who you are, your point of view and where you stand. Before you know it, your customers will like you, wabi sabi and all.


Mike Sullivan

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


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