Published: 31 January 2014

Adopting a challenger brand mentality – Brand Breakfast

Whatever your charity’s size or market position, there are aspects of challenger brands that can apply to all of us.

But what is a challenger brand? Our two speakers, Kris Hallenga, founder of Coppafeel, and Brett Donohay from eatbigfish, talked us through it.

Wedging ourselves into young people’s lives

Kris told her personal story of a late cancer diagnosss due to her GP’s misconception of how old breast cancer sufferers are likely to be. This motivated her to focus her energy on raising breast cancer awareness among young people by creating the highly successful charity Coppafeel.

Starting out, Kris chose not to go up against the big cancer charities, but instead use her knowledge and insight of student life to create the right messages at the right time, in the right way. Coppafeel uses disruptive marketing ideas to communicate life saving messages at festivals, universities, pubs and clubs. From signs in showers in halls of residence to hand stamps at nightclubs – Kris is determined to get the message across.

Brands whose ambitions outweigh their resources

Any good brand starts with a well thought out position in the market and the adoption of a clear narrative and attitude. The narrative helps them stand out to their audience. Many challenger brands are seen as one of two types, the ‘David and Goliath’ or the ‘turn every rule on its head’. eatbigfish has identified 10 narratives which describe different characteristics of challenger brands:The Missionary, The Democratiser, The Irreverent Maverick, The Enlightened Zagger, The Real Human Challenger, The Visionary, The Next Generation, The Game Changer, The Feisty Underdog.

Brett presented some examples:

The Enlightened Zagger – Camper
A completely different type of casual shoe, Camper swam against the culture set up by the likes of Nike and Adidas. Its brand narrative is one of walking not running: the quieter more thoughtful activities in life. The enlightened Zagger is attractive because, as Brett put it ‘they are in the know…they have something we don’t’.

The Feisty Underdog – Paralympics
The Channel 4 advert for the Paralympics encapsulates this narrative brilliantly. It’s not about being controversial for the sake of it, but introducing a brand narrative that forces people to take notice. The Feisty Underdog is attractive because ‘it’s a more nimble, active and exciting brand in a category of monoliths’. Brett quite rightly argued that Coppafeel was a great example of this.

The questions to ask of your brand are i) What are you challenging? ii) Why are you attractive? This helps formulate what type of narrative to adopt.

Find out what challenger type you are.

Join us at a future Brand Breakfast.


Serena Donne, brand consultant, Donne and Co

Serena has worked with some of the top brands, marketeers and agencies for the last 20 years. She specialises in brand strategy, development, management and measurement for complex organisations and charities. She is also a founder of CharityComms' successful Brand Breakfasts.