We’ve all heard them, the in terms bandied around the branding workplace, they come and go (thankfully so in the case of most of them) but there is one that I think actually makes a lot of sense if you care to extend its original context. The term I’m thinking about is ‘Challenger Brand’.
“Challenger brands enter a category where an established leader dictates the market conversation.”
No wait, it get’s more interesting I promise.
When I looked at the generalised characteristics of a challenger brand, and I’ll list them in a mo’, I actually found myself thinking, well don’t we (designers and creative in the branding business) demonstrate the same characteristics, and if we don’t why don’t we.
Here they are, the characteristics, see if you recognise yourself.
1) Have ambition exceeding resources, a “fire in the belly.”
2) Have willingness to sacrifice and focus; have the nerve to risk and stretch.
3) Ask, “Where can I start my grassroots movement?” Find out where exactly the market audience is that you want to grow.
4) Are willing to break from conventions of their category. To get ahead, you can’t say similar things as others. If you do, you can sadly only turn up the volume.
5) Are ready to make new rules for the game.
6) Assume “thought leadership” for their category.
7) Are willing to create an emotional connection: Become emotionally connected with the customer, your company and what you are selling. Creatively.
8) Are willing to collect ideas that will engage the imagination and emotion of customers. All personnel can be involved, because ideas come from everywhere.
9) Are ready to create an unmistakable brand identity. If you can’t outspend the competition, you have to outsmart them.
10) Plan ahead for integrated campaigns. Retrofitting integration never works as well as planning for it.
11) Will give digital a real seat at the table.
12) Most importantly, a challenger must be a media agnostic. Re-examine your media options at all times.
In sum designers have the same MO as challengers, well they do to me. What I think is really interesting is that we don’t know it half the time. But if we were more conscious of it, more conscious of our positive role to disrupt convention for positive reasons, to continually look to reinvent, to challenge ourselves, then wouldn’t we become more useful, more valued, and more valuable.
I’ve always thought that brand is God’s gift to the challenging mind, it’s so big and so important and emotionally driven that it makes sense, in my mind at least for creativity (and therefore creative) to have a much greater say in how brands are created, reinvented.
That doesn’t mean that we’re trying to turn all of our clients into challenger brands, it means that if we embrace more consciously the characteristics of the challenger then we will be more successful in our careers.