Anyone interested in challengers is interested in compression: how do you make a story utterly compelling in a very short space of time? And one of the reasons that the concept of the ‘challenger brand’ has caught on, you might argue, is that it itself does just that: within just two words you surely have all the ingredients of an engaging story – conflict, a protagonist and an adversary, an anticipation of a future event whose outcome is uncertain, the new order against the establishment. It’s all there.
Except that it isn’t. Not really. Because for all that people talk more than they ever did about challenger brands (3,020,000 hits in 0.11 seconds on Google this morning), all too often it is the clichéd and superficial view of what a challenger narrative actually is that persists: either ‘little brand explicitly calling out big brand’ (think Avis or Ryanair) or ‘turn every category rule on its head’ (think the young Red Bull or Grameen Bank).
But if we look at a new generation of challengers from the last ten years, do they really all fall into one of those two different approaches? A new generation, spanning South Africa to Uruguay to the US, from automotive to betting to beer to tech, with marketing spends ranging from millions of dollars to nothing at all – would they all really be about just one of these two narratives?
There seemed to us to be an opportunity to learn from this new challenger generation, and put on the table a more evolved model of what it means to be a challenger. What if we were to group all the different challengers from the last ten years into the ten most common challenger stories they tell? What if we were to identify for each of them what (not whom) they were challenging, and how they were doing it? What if we then interviewed a shining example to get an insight on what it really meant to live in that narrative? What if we could unpack the communications the communications implications for each?
GOOD IDEA, WE THOUGHT.
LET’S DO IT.
SO HERE IT IS.