Challenger Brand: Shaking Up Industries and the Status Quo

Challenger Brand: Shaking Up Industries and the Status Quo

Challenger Brand: Shaking Up Industries and the Status Quo

This post is an additional resource to Digital Marketing Therapy podcast episode 222  featuring Craig Alexander.

Ever wondered why the challenger brands, like little David, dare to take on big Goliaths in their industry? These underdogs aren’t just brave; they’re disruptors that reshape markets and redefine what consumers expect.

I remember when I first heard about Warby Parker. They shook up the entire shopping experience for eyewear. You could finally shop from your own home and get glasses mailed to you to see how they work in your daily life.

In this world of Davids and Goliaths, challenger brands are turning industries upside down – from reducing greenhouse gas emissions in manufacturing processes to launching subscription services as a business model. And guess what? They’re succeeding!

Get ready for a wild ride! We’re about to dive headfirst into how these brands are stirring the pot, causing us to reconsider where our loyalties lie.

Table of Contents:

The Power of Challenger Brands in Disrupting the Status Quo

Challenger brands, by definition, are innovative entities that disrupt market leaders and alter the status quo. They’re not just a fresh name or logo; they redefine industries with their unique strategies and business models.

Craig Alexander, president of Gumas—an award-winning full-service San Francisco advertising agency—provides some valuable insights into challenger brand marketing. Alexander’s skill is essential to comprehending why these types of brands have been so triumphant.

The Role of Data-Driven Decision Making in Challenger Brands

A crucial factor behind successful challengers lies in data-driven decision-making. By leveraging information about their audience’s needs and desires, these companies can make informed decisions that hit right at consumer pain points.

It’s like reading your opponent’s playbook before a big game: you understand exactly what they’re going to do next because you’ve studied them closely. This ability gives challenger brands an edge over traditional market leaders who may rely more heavily on established tactics rather than innovation driven by data analysis. Forbes provides great insight into how this approach has led to the rise of new breed challenger brands.

How Challenger Brands Inspire Action Through Emotional Connection

An emotional connection forms another cornerstone for many successful challenger brands’ strategy. Just think back to Warby Parker’s “Buy One Give One” campaign—it was simple but it touched hearts everywhere.

This brand, among others, leverages impactful language and emotive campaigns to evoke emotion and inspire action among consumers. They go beyond just selling a product or service—they’re selling an experience that resonates with the consumer on a deeper level.

Think of it as being invited to join in on a shared mission rather than merely making a purchase. This approach is powerful because it taps into our innate human desire for connection and purpose. 

In conclusion, challenger brands are shaking up industries.

Key Takeaway: 

Challenger brands are not just fresh logos, they’re innovative disruptors reshaping industries with unique strategies. Success comes from data-driven decisions that address consumer needs and fostering emotional connections with audiences. It’s about selling an experience, a shared mission—not just a product or service.

Challenger Brands’ Approach to Social Responsibility

In the business world, challenger brands are taking a new approach. They’re prioritizing social responsibility and implementing strategies that help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and address food waste.

Addressing Food Waste through Innovative Business Models

A fresh wave of challenger brands is on a mission to tackle the global issue of food waste. By crafting innovative business models and optimizing supply chain strategies, these trailblazers are setting an example for other businesses in their industries.

An impressive example comes from Too Good To Go, an app-based platform connecting consumers with restaurants that have surplus food at discounted prices. This not only helps eateries minimize wastage but also gives users access to meals at lower costs—a win-win situation.

This shows how effectively reducing food waste can be woven into brand strategy while providing unique value propositions for customers.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions as a Brand Strategy

The quest for reducing greenhouse gas emissions has led many challenger brands towards sustainable practices integral to their operations.

Allbirds, a shoe company known globally as ‘the world’s most comfortable shoes’, makes sustainability its primary focus by committing itself to carbon neutrality, measuring every product’s carbon footprint openly with labels on each item—a rare move among competitors.

table showing the how brands communicate CO2 reduction with their brands

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Subscription Services as a Successful Business Model for Challenger Brands

With the increase of digital platforms, subscription services have become a powerful way for challenger brands to foster meaningful connections with their customers. Delivering value and fostering loyalty are integral to the success of subscription services for challenger brands.

The Role of Subscription Models in Building Customer Relationships

A successful challenger brand knows that the key to growth is not just attracting new customers but retaining existing ones. A subscription model does exactly this by creating consistent touchpoints with customers, which help strengthen customer relations over time.

Forbes mentions how businesses using subscriptions often see increased customer retention rates due to predictable spending patterns and repeat interactions. This results in long-term relationships that drive higher lifetime value from each subscriber – quite beneficial when you’re competing against established market leaders.

In fact, BarkBox, a pet product company adopted this approach early on. They’ve grown significantly since launching because they consistently deliver personalized boxes filled with treats and toys tailored towards individual dogs’ preferences every month. That level of personalization creates real connections between BarkBox and its subscribers – effectively transforming one-time buyers into loyal patrons.

Leveraging Data For Personalized Subscriptions

To make subscriptions work effectively, data plays a crucial role too. When used correctly, data can provide invaluable insights into consumer behavior which enables companies to tailor offerings according to individual needs – enhancing satisfaction levels drastically.

A great example is Netflix’s recommendation engine—it uses viewer data not only to suggest shows but also to create original content based on viewers’ preferences. Netflix’s capability to give individualized experiences is a major explanation why they have been able to remain in the lead of the competitive streaming market.

Subscriptions as a Sustainable Business Model

Beyond building relationships, subscription models are an effective business strategy for maintaining steady revenue streams—essential for any challenger brand aiming to establish itself against big players.

Check out this insightful research for a deep dive into the mindset of e-commerce consumers and their behavior with subscription boxes.

Key Takeaway: 

Subscription services are a powerful tool for challenger brands, helping to build durable bonds with customers. This approach offers regular customer interaction points, often boosting retention rates. It’s all about personalization – think BarkBox and its custom pet product boxes or Netflix tailoring recommendations to viewers. Besides fostering loyalty, subscriptions also deliver consistent income streams—a critical element for emerging brands looking to leave their mark.

Challenger Brands in Various Industries

In the dynamic world of business, challenger brands are constantly shaking up various industries. These innovative businesses, from the fashion to technology sectors, aren’t afraid to push boundaries and disrupt traditional norms.

The Rise of Oat Milk and Other Challenger Brands in the Food Industry

Oat milk has recently emerged as a strong competitor within the food industry. This trend isn’t surprising given that oat milk offers both environmental benefits by reducing greenhouse gases compared with dairy farming and health advantages for those seeking lactose-free options. Companies like Oatly, a leader among oat milk producers, have capitalized on these factors to challenge established category conventions.

It’s not just about oats though. Several other challenger brands are making waves too. From companies revolutionizing how we consume protein through plant-based alternatives or startups challenging big soda with healthier drink choices – they’re all contributing towards changing our perception of what is possible within this sector.

Wearable Technology as a Challenger Brand in the Tech Industry

Moving over to tech town now; wearable technology is redefining convenience and personalization while simultaneously disrupting leading brand monopolies. With devices such as smartwatches providing seamless integration between digital interfaces and physical interactions – it’s clear why this sector is growing rapidly.

Fitbit, once an underdog against giants like Apple and Samsung, has managed to carve out its own niche market share due to their relentless focus on fitness tracking features which resonates strongly with their audience who prioritize health above anything else.

In each case, these challenger brands have shown a knack for identifying gaps in the market and addressing them with unique solutions. They’re not just taking on the big fish; they’re reinventing the pond.

Every one of these sectors is being transformed, all thanks to bold newcomers not afraid to shake things up. It’s the old David vs Goliath story – but now, it feels like David has the upper hand.

Key Takeaway: 

Challenger brands, from oat milk producers to wearable tech innovators, are shaking up industries by offering unique solutions. They’re not just competing with the big players; they’re reinventing the game. Bold newcomers like Oatly and Fitbit have found success in identifying market gaps and fearlessly disrupting norms.

Notable Success Stories of Challenger Brands

When it comes to successful challenger brands, a few big fish come to mind. These are companies that not only carved out their niche in the market but also managed to shake up industry norms and challenge leading brand positions.

The Aviation Gin Revolution

A standout example is Aviation Gin, owned by actor Ryan Reynolds. This brand used humor and influencer marketing with confidence, crafting witty TV ads featuring Reynolds himself. The unique blend of quality product features and clever marketing helped this young company gain real potential against legacy liquor brands.

In 2023, Aviation Gin was sold for $610 million, demonstrating the strong financial return that can be achieved when a challenger brand successfully disrupts its market.

The Warby Parker Vision

Another impressive story belongs to Warby Parker. They made eyewear affordable while maintaining high-quality standards. By offering home try-on services they were able to bridge online shopping with physical retail experience—offering convenience without sacrificing customer service quality.

This innovative approach saw them grow from a start-up into one of the top glasses retailers nationwide—a feat rarely seen in such a short time span among fashion industry challengers.

Bulk Buying With Boxed.Com

Moving on from spectacles to wholesale retail – we have which disrupted Costco’s hold on bulk buying. Despite being around for less than ten years, this mobile-first company launched an effective strategy targeting young people who wanted wholesale prices without membership fees or even leaving their living room.

They demonstrated that even in established markets, challenger brands can find a competitive advantage and shake up the status quo.’s success is an excellent example of how digital platforms are changing consumer habits, forcing traditional retail to adapt or be left behind.

The Ecosia Search

Last but not least is Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees. In just over ten years, this company has planted millions of trees around the world – including many in South Africa – all funded by ad revenue from their search engine usage.

Their fresh take on corporate social responsibility really shook things up, letting them square off against Google in terms of ethics.

Key Takeaway: 

Brands such as Aviation Gin, Warby Parker,, and Ecosia are making waves with their innovative strategies. They’re leveraging humor-filled influencer marketing or home try-on services to redefine wholesale retail for the digital era. Their success highlights how bucking trends can pave the way to great achievements in competitive markets.

FAQs in Relation to Challenger Brands

What is a challenger brand examples?

Challenger brands include Oatly in the food industry and Warby Parker in eyewear. They’re shaking up their sectors with innovative strategies.

What is a challenger brand strategy?

A challenger brand strategy focuses on disrupting market leaders, often by connecting emotionally with customers or tackling social issues head-on.

Is Nike a challenger brand?

No, Nike isn’t a challenger brand. It’s an established leader in its field. Challenger brands are those trying to disrupt dominant players like Nike.

What is the opposite of a challenger brand?

The opposite of a challenger brand would be an incumbent or market leader—established companies dominating their respective industries, such as Apple or Coca-Cola.


Challenger brands, they’re not just about shaking up industries. They’re rewriting the rules of engagement with customers.

They’ve shown us how to leverage data for strategic decisions and form emotional connections that inspire action. They’ve taught us social responsibility isn’t an afterthought but a competitive advantage in reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

We’ve seen subscription services foster strong customer relationships and wearable tech give established leaders a run for their money.

Remember this: In today’s dynamic market, being the big fish doesn’t guarantee success. The real potential lies in being the great challenger who’s willing to swim against the tide!

How to Take a Vacation…Without Your Computer

How to Take a Vacation…Without Your Computer

How to Take a Vacation…Without Your Computer

As a small shop it’s all hands on deck all the time. Taking vacations (or even small breaks) is crucial for your mental health and avoiding burnout. It is definitely easier said than done however. With. asmall team everyone is doing their own thing and it may seem like only you can do certain tasks. While that may be true, there are still ways you can set up your business and prep to take that much needed and much deserved time off.

This post will focus on your marketing efforts but can easily be translated to any type of priority you have on your plate.

Make a list of your tasks!

What is on your plate that only you can do? Be honest with yourself. As leaders there is a difference between what only you can do and what you’re unwilling to let go control of. For example, only I can host the podcast, it would be weird to have someone else fill in. But, I could have someone else help out with shownotes. I’ve created a system and they have examples to look at so they could do it themselves.

If you’re struggling with this part, do a time study for a week. Track everything you do and figure get real with where you’re spending your time. Is it on the right things? I understand you’re super passionate about your organization and want to put your best foot forward. You can’t increase your impact, let along take a vacation, if you don’t let some things go!

Group your tasks

Now that you know what you have on your list, group similar activities together. When you do similar tasks you are more productive with your time. You will also be able to figure out the systems you need to ensure that work can go on while you’re out of town.

To start building out your systems look at tasks that you’re repeating over and over. Figure out ways to automate those tasks. This alone will free up some space in your day and make it easy to separate during vacation.

Remember how you figured out what tasks only you can do? This is where you also offload things other people on your team can help with. You might have found in this exercise that several of you are working on similar elements in the organization. Lumping those together will help you make your entire crew more effecient.

What you should be left with are the tasks that only you can do and what you’ll need to pay attention to in order to take that much needed vacation.

Get prepped

More than likely you aren’t deciding to take a vacation tomorrow. Get intentional with your tasks so you can have all your elements lined up and ready to take a break. Batching tasks helps with getting more done with less time. This is a good practice to have in general regardless of if you’re planning for some days off or not.

This helps you get ahead of schedule, especially with marketing. We try and record and edit 2-3 podcasts at a time. That means that my editor can work on episodes all at once, I can create the show notes all at once, and we can create the promotional materials all at once. Then I have 2-3 weeks worth of content and only have to do it 1-2 times a month instead of weekly. It also helps with building better quality with less errors.

When it comes to leaving with your mind at ease, this also means that you’ll plenty of content ready to go for while you’re gone. Just as importantly, it means you won’t be scrambling to get things done as soon as you get back.

You can use this philosophy with so many different types of tasks! When you’re not prepping for a trip, approaching your tasks in this manor means that when “emergencies” come up, you’ll have the space in your schedule to handle them without sacrificing your core job responsibilities.

Leave resources behind

At the end of the day things will come up. There is no way you can plan, prep or determine all the things that might come up for your team. If you and your team have systems in place for where things live then it will be easier for them to find the information they need while you’re gone. If each employee keeps things in their own place organized in their own way that makes things confusing.

Start building out your knowledge base so that there is a reference place to be able to find things, and understand procedures for how things get done.

To start building this out, begin with your individual tasks that only you can complete. Write down the step-by-step actions you take to accomplish that task. This isn’t a quick process, so make sure you build out time in your week to continue to build this tool. Each employee should do this for their own tasks. This will also ensure you are consistently executing the tasks necessary to reach your goals.

Let go!

At the end of the day, being able to take a vacation, and a break from work, is as much a mental exercise as it is anything. Mentally prepare yourself to cut ties. Communicate with your team what constitutes and emergency so they know when to reach out (if at all). Set your out of office so people know who to get in touch with if they need something. Even better – a few weeks prior to your time out of office, put the dates in your email signature to start to prep people.

Then it’s on you to not check email, voicemails, etc. You have to let go and unplug or you won’t fully relax. Things might not go 100% the way you want them to, but I promise you your business will not crumble to the ground. 


If you put these simple steps into place you’ll be in a great place to take that summer vacation, long weekend, or stay cation, to refresh your mind, body and soul!

Evaluating Your Tech

Evaluating Your Tech

Evaluating Your Tech

‘Technology is everywhere, and in every facet of our business. It seems there’s hardly anything we can do that doesn’t involve some form of technology! As our businesses and organizations grow, so does our need for tech solutions. Unfortunately, it can get out of hand really quickly. You decided to get more serious about social media so you got scheduling software. Someone mentioned this new data tracking tool you had to try so you got that. A new course just launched to help you with new event planning tools so you bought that too. Then a few years later you have no idea what you’re even using, what you’re paying for, or what is even the best to support your biz!

Does any of this sound familiar!!!

Yes, technology can be a huge support, streamline and save you time. It can also be an extreme time suck and get expensive fast. This post will walk you through a tech audit and help you evaluate what tools you truly need.

What do you need to do day to day?

Now it might seem like and audit should start with what you already have. However, let’s start with a blank slate. Pretend you don’t have any tech tools and let’s create a list of what would be helpful for you in your daily activities. This would be a great activity for everyone on your team to do individually. For this purpose, your team could include board members or volunteers that are involved ain a regular capacity. Some areas you’ll want to think about include:

  • how you manage projects.
  • marketing activities.
  • fundraising support.
  • KPIs and what you need to track that.
  • donor nurturing.
  • donor management.
  • task management.
  • grant management.
  • online courses/resources.
  • event software.

You get the idea! Try and be specific if you can. For example, social media posting or social media analytics vs just social media.

Once you have your individual lists, complie them together and find common threads. Group your list so you can see the elements that are most common with your organization to the least. You’ve just created your priority list.

Create the list of tech you have.

Now it is time to complie the list of everything you currently have. Start with your credit card. Go through the past year and make a list of al the platforms you’re paying for. This is the easiest place to start because it will help you identify things you may have forgotten about.

Create a spreadsheet that includes:

  • Product name
  • URL
  • What it’s used for
  • Amount
  • Renewal Date
  • Notes

Make sure you connect with all members of your team for other memberships or resources they might also have. This could include membership dues for professional organizations or local organizations like a Chamber of Commerce. While these aren’t necessarily tech tools, they offer other resources that you may be paying for that could save you money.

Organize your tech tools by your biggest day to day priorities.

Now that you know what the biggest priorities are for you to accomplish and the areas that you and your team need the most support in, you can organize you tech tools by priority as well. You’ll start to see a good picture of what are the pieces of software you must have.

It may not be that you eliminate anything, but at least you know that everything you have you need.

At this point, I like to take a look at the bigger picture tools you’re using. This is typically your donor CRM, your financial software, a project management tool, and the software you’re using for day-to-day operations like email and your internal systems.

If its been a bit since you have signed up for these platforms they may have added additional features. Or, you may have opted out to some features due to cost. Now that you have a full list of costs for all your tools you can easily evaluate. The least amount of software you have in your organization the easier it is to get things done. 

You can also use this information to negotiate with companies to get new features at a better rate. For example, maybe you’re paying for SMS texting on one platform, but now your email marketing software offers that at a higher package. You know what you’re paying for the other platform so see if you can save money by lumping them altogether.

Cut what you don’t need

Now is the fun part! Time to save some $$$! Time to transfer the information from the tools you don’t need and shut it down. Tech changes so fast and reviewing regularly will help you make the most of your tools and make sure you aren’t spending more than you need.

Now that you know what you’re paying and know that it aligns with your teams needs, you might find you need to add new tools. Always start with what you already have to see if they have those capabilities. If you need to add software then use our tips for finding the right CRM. It can be applied for researching any platform you’re looking for.


Tech is a great way to save time and money but can get out of hand quickly. By auditing your tech needs at least once a year you can ensure your tech is helping to support your organization, not take away from it. For more tips on how to use tech to support your business listen to episode 175 of the Digital Marketing Therapy podcast.

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