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In recent years, the term challenger brand has become more visible, as start-up costs lessen and the expectation economy takes hold. Challenger brands look to turn their industry upside down and break traditional brand rules whenever possible, but what exactly makes a Brand a challenger?

The term challenger brand emerged in the late 1990s with the growth of businesses such as Virgin Atlantic and since then a whole vast of challengers have come to the fore including Under Armour, Innocent and Brew Dog. Challenger brands aim to change how we see and experience things around us. They turn industries upside down; introduce revolutionary technologies and challenge what consumers think they know and like.

Ultimately, challenger brands don’t outspend, they outsmart; they implement different strategies, company positioning and operating culture to compete with established leaders.

Warby Parker is an American based Challenger Brand. Located all over North America, they  have been challenging overpriced designer eyewear since their inception. Warby Parker operates primarily as an online retailer with a human touch with its ‘buy one, give one” model where for each pair of glasses purchased, the company pays for the production of another pair of glasses for the non-profit organisation Vision Spring, restoring vision for individuals in lower income countries. Challenger Brands enjoy breaking the rules.

There are 3 types of Challenger Brand

  1. The Missionary. This is a brand with a transparent sense of purpose; an agent of change and force for good. The Missionary changes what it wants to actively change in the world because it believes it to be ethically or ideologically wrong. The Missionary is fired up to challenge the belief system or foundations underpinning its industry.
  1. The Real and Human Challenger. This is a brand that focusses on the ability of the consumer to understand the people and history of the brand itself. These challengers succeed by appealing to consumers on a more personal level, making a human-to- human connection as opposed to a brand-to-consumer connection. A human challenger brand presents itself as a ‘real’ people brand.
  1. The Next Generation Challenger. This is a brand which most directly intends to turn an industry upside down; it challenges the appropriateness of the established brands for the world we live in today. These types of challengers, such as Asos, Tesla and Uber, are becoming ever more relevant in a world of continuous social and technological change and advancement.

Becoming a challenger brand is not easy; becoming a successful one is even harder. Knowing what type of challenger you are and understanding your industry at a granular level are two keys to success.

For more information on how Amnet can support your challenger brand, please contact us at

Shelley Harrison

Author Shelley Harrison

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