In Part 1, How Challenger Brands Attack, we discussed what constitutes a challenger brand and the advantages that a Challenger Brand has over its market leader rival.
In Part 2, we’ll look at some of the strategies at the Challenger Brand’s disposal, how they can increase their odds of success, and when they should strike since timing is important when it comes to increasing a challenger’s chances of success.
But let’s start by recapping. Not all brands are in the challenger position. If the challenger is unable to sustain an attack on a market leader, it probably isn’t a true challenger. Challenger brands are often extremely well-resourced to enable attacks to be launched and maintained over extended periods of time.
The success or failure of attacks depends on whether the challenger:
- Is able to sustain attacks over time.
- Attacks in a way that is damaging to the market leader.
- Is perceived to be different to the market leader.
- Is able to provide comparable product thereby offering a genuine alternative.
Challenger Brands Attack.
The Challenger Brand attacks. So marketing plans need to articulate a medium term (3-5 years) objective that outlines:
- Market share ambitions.
- Steps taken to win market share.
- Market leader weaknesses.
- Plans to exploit market leader weaknesses.
Challenger strategies should always:
- Include a comparable or acceptable product(s) or service(s).
- Use its brand and positioning to create appeal.
- Be vigilant to take advantage of leader weaknesses.
- Celebrate wins – however small – to keep staff motivated.
Using military analogies, a challenger can choose from the following offensive maneuvers:
- The head to head full frontal attack.
- The Pincer Movement, encirclement of market leader.
- Assaulting the sides – the flanking attack.
- Guerilla warfare.
- Changing the rules of the game.
Challenger Brand Positioning.
One of the critical elements for a challenger brand is the repositioning its market leader rival. Normally this is the adoption of the opposite position to the leader. For example:
Virgin – the anti-establishment versus the establishment.
Apple – designer products versus boring products.
Pepsi – young generation versus old generation.
Avis – small enough to care versus (Hertz) big enough not to care.
Being the opposite of the market leader requires you to:
- Determine the position of the market leader and
- Be able to position as the opposite to it.
Other examples of opposition may be derived from such positions as:
- Big versus small.
- Mass market versus specialist.
- Metropolitan versus regional.
- Male versus female.
- Establishment versus maverick.
- Conservative versus modern.
The Best Time for a Challenger Brand to Strike.
Odds need to favour the challenger winning market share and thereby weakening, even subtly, the market leader. Market leaders can be attacked at any time, but they are best attacked when they pose the least resistance to the challenger. This can be achieved by:
Attacking the leader when it is distracted.
Distractions occur during changes in senior management, times of downsizing, times of ownership changes, negative media coverage, regulatory intervention or other major incidents that occupy the leader’s attention.
Attacking the leader where it is least likely to respond.
The market leader may not retaliate if it does not value the territory that you are attacking or it deems it to be unimportant. This might be because the target market is too small to warrant a market leader pursuing it. A challenger may win profitable market share by collecting multiple uncontested segments in its armory.
Attacking the leader when it is least likely to respond.
Some challengers, and most guerillas, operate in stealth. If the leader doesn’t see your competitive activity, the leader is not positioned well to respond to it. Stealth has the added advantage of enabling the challenger to quietly build its strength – in other words, to “fly under the radar” of the market leader. Once the market leader realizes that the challenger is strong, it is too late. The challenger has grown into a force to be reckoned with.
Attacking the leader when market chaos is occurring.
In much the same way that leaders get distracted by internal matters, leaders can also be forced into scattering resources if too many attacks take place simultaneously. Challengers can muster support from allies to create chaos – and this enables territory to be taken from the leader.
In Part 3, How Challengers Attack, we’ll take a closer look at the military strategies that Challenger Brands use to disrupt the market leader.