David vs Goliath: Embracing the challenger mindset
The first five brand stances are inherent. Brands
need to be born that way. Changing your DNA is
risky, as reinventing your brand makes it difficult
to retain equity and your customers. In contrast,
the David and Goliath opportunity is a mindset.
It’s an attitude and a way of behaving rather than
compromising your brand’s essence. This is the
David the Underdog
Originally David was a synonym for smaller in size
(or revenue) in ‘traditional’ challenger marketing.
For example, Avis challenged Hertz’s Goliath by
positioning themselves as a challenger by stating
‘We Try Harder’. This is the old type of challenger
brand - a dominator and an underdog.
Challenger brands, like Avis, have to differentiate
their brands with emotional and rational points
to compete against the ‘first-to-mind’ brand
leader. Category leaders generally adopt a ‘If it
ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it’ ethos to minimise risk
and fluctuations to their prime position. However,
this restraint to change allows other brands to
challenge their dominance with innovation, daring
and creativity to find a point of difference.
David the Disruptor
In the brandscape of 2014, it isn’t
about size. The startup mentality
of today’s internet businesses has
disrupted the challenger brands.
It’s about disruption, the ‘sharing
economy’ connects consumers to providers.
This is more than brands - it’s about challenging
entire sectors and categories. Airbnb are not
taking on hotel brands - they’re taking on hotels.
Tepilo, the online estate agency, takes a more
extreme step in the challenging mindset by
taking the entire estate agency model head-on.
It’s an online estate agency that cuts out estate
agents: both online and on the high street to
allow homeowners to sell direct. Importantly,
the customer experience has created a channel
for both buyer and seller, removing the need for
estate agents. Furthermore, the understanding
of the user experience (UX) online and
customer experience (CX) in real life are
key components for a challenger brand to
win market share.
AVID VS GOLIATH USED
TO BE A CHALLENGER MINDSET:
THE POWER BETWEEN THE SMALL
AND MIGHTY. HOWEVER, THIS IS
AN OUTDATED VIEWPOINT.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘David and Goliath:
Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants’,
he questions why underdogs succeed so much
more than we expect and how do the weak
outsmart the strong. He overturns conventional
thinking about power and advantage. For brands
this is the challenger mindset to embrace.
Step up to the challenge
Taking a stance and adopting a challenger
marketplace is essential for the success of a
brand. In the book ‘Eating Big Fish’, author Adam
Morgan identifies six types of stances a challenger
can take in their chosen marketplace:
An agent of change
Daring to be bold
The Enlightened Zagger
‘Slow’ in a fast world
The Real and Human
Warm and friendly
The People’s Champion
Purpose before profit
David to Goliath The challenger mindset
David, the Unexpected Disruptor
Disruptive brands, such as Airbnb,
who are rocking the traditional
sectors don’t just affect the
dominance of brand leaders
but can often disrupt the
entire category. Disruptive
brands are often subject
to context and market
conditions, for example
GetTaxi are number one in
Israel but a challenger
brand in London.
It’s not about a state of market; not being
number one does not make a challenger
brand. Challenger is, above all, a state
of mind. It is a brand, and a group of
people behind that brand, whose
business ambitions exceed it’s
conventional marketing resources.
As a consequence, the brand
will need to change the category
decision making criteria in it’s
favour to close the implications
of that gap.
A Red Belt State of Mind
Dave Anderson’s book Learn to Lead, talks
of challenging mindset with a martial arts term:
adopting a red belt state of mind: “Red belt”
mentality, rather than the black belt mindset.
Anderson explains: “the most dangerous fighters
in karate dojos are the red belts. Red is the rank
prior to black, and what makes the reds such
tenacious fighters is the fact that they haven’t yet
reached the top and still train with intensity and
urgency. Black belts, on the other hand, often let
up and downshift into a maintenance mode after
working so long and hard to earn their elite rank.”
Still-hungry red belts demonstrate a stronger
commitment to improve, whereas a common
tendency for black belts is to take a break
once their goal is reached. Black belts have
the champions mindset. Act like a challenger,
even when you’re a champ.
Challenger brands don’t always have to be
modest and humble like Avis. The new challenger
mindset is disruptive. A brand could be the
second biggest in a market, or the fiftieth,
but they are the underdog and not the market
leader or the hero brand. The best kind of
challenger brands are bold innovators whereas
the bad ones are copycats.
At Forever Beta, we work with challenger brands
such as taxi app GetTaxi, apparel and running
brand Mizuno and Google (one of the most
successful challenger brands of all time). We use
strategic thinking and creativity to challenge
the status quo and do work that works.
Think like a challenger to win like a champion.
Want to know how? Email Matt Rantell at
Forever Beta firstname.lastname@example.org
Something to prove
Willing to serve
Tries something new
Works with a sense
Plays to win
Rattles the status quo
Been there, done that
Wants to be served
Stuck in their ways
Plays not to lose
Defends the status quo
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