In enduring literature, challengers are a recurring motif — reflecting human desires for growth, transformation and overcoming obstacles.
From ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to ‘1984’ to ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, challengers arrive in storylines and bring about significant change.
The ideas in these stories have spread so widely, they’re taught in schools, they’ve permanently changed behaviours throughout society.
SomeOne founder Simon Manchipp asks, Can Brands do the same?
Today, in a time flooded with products and big companies fighting for people’s attention, branding is everywhere. Some brands stand out from the rest by doing things differently, shaking up the usual way of doing things, and making their mark in the market. These are challenger brands, and they show their true potential through effective branding.
Challenger brands, which exist in highly competitive industries, don’t follow the crowd. They come up with new ideas, offer something unique, or change how business is done. They don’t settle for being average; they want to change how people see the market and leave a lasting impression on consumers.
While branding is important for all businesses, challenger brands face a special challenge in making themselves known.
The Struggle to Emerge from a Sea of Conformity:
In markets dominated by big companies, it’s hard to get noticed. That’s where branding comes in—it turns something ordinary into something special. Effective branding transforms challenger brands, giving them a unique identity that catches people’s attention. A well-crafted brand message and a distinct look make a challenger brand memorable, especially to those tired of the same old thing.
Every profession, service, product and idea holds challenger potential. Take the legal sector, not known for radicalism. We saw that, in a world of law firms, consisting of names of people you’ll never meet — hung above doorways you rarely walk through — a brand device that invites you in via an amplified angle to discuss ideas will help far more than following the crowd in efforts to further cement elitist preconceptions. Our work for Simmons & Simmons took the firm away from the common wash of dark blue bland reassurances, into a coral hued dialogue focused on deeply held collaborative actions. In short, it stood up for something and stood out from the crowd to new clients.
A Quest for Trust and Legitimacy:
Trust is crucial in business, especially for challenger brands that people might not know much about. Good branding helps bridge the gap, showing that the brand is genuine, open, and committed to providing value. A clear brand message reassures consumers that the challenger brand isn’t just new—it’s a serious contender in the market.
Challenger need not mean new. 73 years of customer insights gave our client Saga a unique and insightful view of what their audience of the 50+ thinks, feels & behaves. These people are the fastest growing, most affluent & influential segment in the UK. They are not relics of the past, but the most refined connoisseurs of today. We discovered Saga customers are far more likely to choose a brand focused on experience rather than simply how old they are. So rather than simply serve a more mature audience, it was time to champion them by challenging long held preconceptions of what it means to be older than 50. They don’t support old ideas, they elevate a more mature view.
Conducting a Symphony of Emotions:
Brands that evoke feelings become more than just products—they become companions in people’s lives. Challenger brands have a chance to form emotional bonds with their customers by being bold and tapping into what people care about. By striking an emotional chord, challenger brands turn customers into loyal fans.
Our work for the Natural History Museum reframed a well loved brand in challenger language, bringing it greater visitor numbers than it had ever seen.
Challengers gain supporters faster. For the Natural History Museum we saw an organisation looking to challenge public perceptions about how the natural world works. On a simpler level they also wished to increase visitor numbers. Through developing a challenging visual and verbal approach to communications we launched a new campaign that saw the highest visitor numbers in 147 years. No new attraction. No new exhibition. Just new challenger language.
Optimising Scant Resources:
Challenger brands don’t have the deep pockets of bigger companies, so they have to be smart with their money. Every marketing yen, pound or dollar counts — and good branding helps them use their resources wisely. By telling their story effectively, challenger brands can reach audiences worldwide without spending a fortune.
Challengers dont look to outspend, they should look to outthink. David & Goliaths continue apace, with the seemingly small fry outwitting the big fish. Tech companies are famously good at creating new tech, but less super at looking after that tech once it’s in the hands of users. While there are several Goliath brands in the insuring and financing of devices, we worked to transform a logistics company few had heard of called BrightStar into a giant killer. The new brand, now called Likewize is currently the fastest growing tech protection brand on the planet — serving millions of device users worldwide, from purchase to use to repair to recycle. Bucking sector norms, the branding is bright pink, the infographics simply complexity and the language integrates the brand name rather than relegating it to the bottom right corner of every advert. Want better branding? Likewize.
Navigating the Tempest of Market Disruption:
Challenger brands are born from innovation and want to shake things up in the market. As markets change and consumer preferences shift, branding helps these brands stay true to themselves while adapting to new trends. A strong brand gives challenger brands direction in a constantly changing market.
Humans are fantastically awful at predicting the future, yet we continue to play the crystal ball lottery daily. (The thrill of accidental confirmation both addictive and undeniable!)
Considered brand work takes away the hope of arrival into a magnetically guided path to success. Like our new work for Eden Project, Setting visual and verbal brand parameters, agreeing values to operate by, installing behaviours to embrace — all enable organisations to avoid the temptation of destructive continual reinvention — challenger branding practice gets brands where they want to be faster, with less effort and with greater impact.
While the resonance of branding echoes universally, the stakes escalate daily. In the theatre of cutthroat competition, a compelling brand presence with a plan is not just a choice — it is as required as water and wi-fi. For brands, the challenger mentality is not a mere accessory but the linchpin unlocking potential in the face of unrelenting competition.
Challengers in business rise not just to survive but to thrive, etching an indelible mark on the market and in the hearts of consumers. Being creatures of habit, we love the familiar, the comfy, the well known paths. But the products, services and organisations that choose courage over comfort lead the way.
While Challenger branding is no longer a luxury, it remains a challenge.