May 18, 2015

What is a challenger brand?

You are the target; you are the prey. Your world is about to be turned upside down. 

If you operate in a space where things are comfortable, ordered and structured, then watch out. If you’re happy with accepted norms, historical precedent and the established order, then beware. If the status quo lets you sleep soundly at night, then prepare for a rude awakening. You may not know it now, but you’re in their sights. You are the target; you are the prey. Your world is about to be turned upside down. Tomorrow’s normal will take shape as yesterday’s norms take flight. You may be good at what you do; you may be one of the best at serving today’s customers, but the Challengers are coming.

There won’t be a fanfare; Gandalf won’t be visible on a white charger; but you will know they have been, once they’ve eaten your lunch. You can’t argue with them, because they don’t speak your language. They’re wired differently. They don’t even know what they can’t do. Your rules just don’t apply. They haven’t read the books that were on trend when you were young. They do it their way, ripping up time-honoured practices.

If you’re using a wooden bat, they’ve got titanium, and the bat is bigger and the boundary is closer. And they get 26 instead of six for a big hit. And they look different and people look up to them. Why are they in colour, when you’re happy in black and white? They have more energy, more commitment and an irritating capacity to say and do the things you’ve often considered and discarded.

Secretly you admire them, because they’re proving you right. Most annoyingly, your customers are turning to them. But worse, much worse: you were once a Challenger and look at you now. So if you want to regain that zest, that innocence and that ambition, where do you start? Is it just a matter of timing, and you’ve had your shot?

Actually, no. Warren Bennis, the great leadership writer and academic died recently at 89 whilst working on his next book, his last one having been published in 2010. Age is no barrier; but mind-set might be. So take a moment. In fact, take Five, and have a good look through this very special edition of our magazine. You’ll find a huge amount of material and ideas, and the full endorsement of the team from eatbigfish, authors of the ground-breaking work on the what and how of Challenger brands. If you’re from Alibaba, taking on the might of eBay and Amazon every hour of every day, or a disruptive technologist upsetting established practice in the risk-averse world of upstream oil and gas, you’ll recognise much of this. But if reading this makes you uncomfortable and worried, don’t be. The Challengers are all around you, but there’s a way to join them. And beat them.

Download Five Issue 9

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