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Challenger brands

The term ‘challenger brand’ was popularised by the author Adam Morgan, who argued that challenging market dominance works and small brands can topple big ones if they take a systematically different approach to strategy. Challenger brands are not just ‘runners up’ in a category; they are brands that deliberately and provocatively break category rules. They are defined by their state of mind, not their state of market.

Key Reading

Important papers from across the Warc database

A guide to positioning your brand as a challenger - a state not necessarily conferred by not-market-leader status. The most successful challenger brands are ones that are able to bend the rules in their favour, creating new paths to success.
how Indian Motorcycle has driven progress in a category with distinct characteristics and unique forms of consumer behaviour.
Challenger brands don't need big budgets - a focus on craft and detail, and an understanding of neuroscience, can create profitable niche markets.
How brands like T-Mobile, Airbnb, Warby Parker and Dove take on their category leaders.
Adam Morgan - whose 1999 classic, Eating the Big Fish, introduced the world to challenger brand theory - followed up 10 years later with five valuable strategies for the next wave of contenders.

Case Study

This case study shows how iD Mobile, a mobile network brand, successfully launched its services in the UK, using a digital-first campaign.

Case Study

This case study shows how TSB, a financial services brand, improved brand metrics by adopting a purpose-led campaign that defined its business in the UK.

Case Study

This case study shows how Kronenbourg 1664, a beer brand, successfully increased sales by developing a humorous background focused branding strategy in the UK.

Case Study

This case study explores how Hippeas, a health food start-up, launched a campaign in the UK and the US to promote its chickpea products.

Case Study

This case study shows how 10X Investments, an investment management company, used a viral video campaign to make South African consumers aware of high investment fees and increase brand awareness.

Case Study

This case study shows how Clear, a shampoo brand, successfully broke through a cluttered market by pairing up with two major Taiwanese baseball stars.
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Article

This article argues that company constraints don't have to be seen as restrictive but rather can encourage creative solutions to do more with less.

Article

This article covers how Reliance Jio, a telco challenger brand in India, has seen rapid growth in market share by launching its service for free.

Article

This article posits that challenger brands don't need the huge budgets of established competitors to break into the market - by concentrating on craft and attention to detail, and understanding certain principles of neuroscience, new brands can carve out a niche.

Article

This article explores the position of a brand as challenger - a state not necessarily conferred by not-market-leader status; traditions won't do so the rules must be re-written.

Article

This webinar lays out strategies to help turn the apparent constraints (of budget, resource, time or talent) that we face as a daily business reality into stimulus to deliver more powerfully against brand purpose and business ambitions.

Article

This event report considers the argument that limitations on resources can lead marketers to think more creatively about how they can best use what is at their disposal.

Article

This event report shows how Julep, a challenger in the beauty category, has effectively used the principle of crowdsourcing to create new products and build its brand.
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  1. Article

    This article posits that challenger brands don't need the huge budgets of established competitors to break into the market - by concentrating on craft and attention to detail, and understanding certain principles of neuroscience, new brands can carve out a niche.

  2. Article

    This event reports outlines how Kia, the automaker, has moved from humble beginnings to become a major success story in the US.

  3. Article

    This article explores the position of a brand as challenger - a state not necessarily conferred by not-market-leader status; traditions won't do so the rules must be re-written.

  4. Article

    This event report provides an insight into how challenger brands can seek to take on category leaders.

  5. Article

    This article provides marketers with information and guidance on building brands.

  6. Article

    While some marketers begin to start the uphill struggle against restricted promotional budgets, some brands have always had to operate on limited resources.
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