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In the last few years, terms like ‘Challenger Brand’ and ‘Disruptive Marketing’ have become increasingly popular. It’s more than the millennials that are trying to turn their industry upside-down. It’s everyone trying to get their piece of the pie. Or widget. Or whatever it is they are selling.

But what is a challenger brand really? And what makes them better from any other business?

“A challenger brand is defined, primarily, by a mindset — it has business ambitions bigger than its conventional resources, and is prepared to do something bold, usually against the existing conventions or codes of the category, to break through.” — Adam Morgan of The Challenger Project, by eatbigfish.

So what does that all mean?

It means that Challenger Brands aren’t number one, but they want to be. They want to so badly they can taste it. These brands are ruled by a state of mind and a willingness to recognize their resource deficiency but push onwards anyway. Successes happen when they lean in, championing the thing they know they are (or sometimes were) great at.

Why do challenger brands matter?

Attention spans are shorter than ever. Marketing experts around the world have estimated that we are exposed to 4,000 – 10,000 ads every single day. Our brains are on autopilot, and we zone out when we’re confronted with boring, unimaginative, and unrelatable forms of advertising.

To grab people’s attention, we need to challenge and disrupt them. That’s where challenger brands and disruptive marketing comes in.

Excuse me while I disrupt this message. 

Before ‘disruption,’ we had ‘best practices.’ AdAge states, “Everyone copied the procedures and practices that were deemed to be the most effective, including in marketing.”

These ‘best practices’ just don’t work anymore. What was thought of as a ‘best practice’ before is now just more like the rest. It’s not unique. It’s just more of the same. And that’s why industry verticals get stuck. To unstick them, we need a challenger brand that radically disrupts the industry.

Think Virgin Records. Think WeWork. Think Uber.

Back to our regularly scheduled thoughts about challenger brands. 

Challenger brands ‘think different’.  Yes, that’s right. They were once a Challenger Brand. They don’t try to spend more; they think smarter. They use different strategies and company culture to compete with the perceived industry leaders.

They’re like Jon Snow: an underdog in a seemingly weaker position that is suddenly capable of conquering his adversaries to beat the White Walkers.

So what is disruptive marketing?

Honestly, disruption is more of an operational model than a marketing strategy. Most companies still tend to advertise through traditional channels, which offer plenty of opportunities for competing companies to disrupt current messages. Think Verizon vs. Sprint. “Can you hear me now?” However, consumers have become increasingly and stubbornly resilient to changing messages, thanks to an increasingly over-crowded market. To fight this, a company’s strategies surrounding the promotion of their products or services must innovate and reflect what consumers are saying. They are delivering precisely what the market wants or think they want.

A disruptive company has one of two goals: design its product or service to match the demand of an emerging market, or re-shape an existing product or service to meet the demand of customers unsatisfied by the current services. Basically, thrive and change or fall to the wayside. From this point, a creative marketing strategy team builds an advertising campaign with disruptive messages that will either challenge the traditional way of thinking in the current market or shift and speak to a new one.

So what’s the takeaway? Be smarter. Shake things up. Disrupt. Do things differently. Believe in what you do even when no one else does. Become a challenger brand and win Westeros and rule the seven kingdoms.