Challenger Brand Marketing: A Strategy That Can Make All the Difference

If a Challenger Brand can’t get the right message in front of the right target audience in a way

that is credible and believable, chances are their marketing efforts will fall short

By John Gumas

When it comes to marketing strategies, many organizations in the building industry think of themselves as traditional marketers. This is great, but unfortunately traditional marketing strategies tend to work best for those who spend the most in the category. For the majority of the others, their marketing strategies tend to fall short of expectations. Why is this?

Most companies in the building industry, from builders to suppliers, are Challenger Brands. Challenger Brands are companies of any size or category that are either being outspent by their larger competitors; are new to an industry; compete in large or cluttered markets; or, for any reason, find that their current marketing resources are not enough to generate the results they seek.

The building industry is loaded with Challenger Brands that are trying to compete directly against larger, financially stronger, and more established brands. Many of these Challenger Brands have superior products, provide exceptional solutions and offer a more cost effective alternative than their larger competitors. But at the end of the day, if a Challenger Brand can’t get the right message in front of the right target audience in a way that is credible and believable, chances are their marketing efforts will fall short.

Just because you are up against larger competitors, does not mean that you can’t be extremely effective at marketing. The typical mistake most Challenger Brands make is that they develop traditional marketing strategies. Traditional marketing strategies are tried and true, but they typically work if you have the marketing budgets to sustain these programs at a high level over a long period of time.

The key is to think and act like a Challenger Brand. By virtue of circumstances, Challenger Brands have to approach everything they do from a different perspective. They have to throw out the thinking that comes with traditional marketing strategies they have learned and start to think differently.

The following are five of the most basic mindsets that all Challenger Brands must embrace:

Think and act differently: To get noticed and break through the clutter, Challenger Brands need to draw attention to their message and say things that are unique. However, it is critically important that you know with 100 percent certainty that your message is relevant to your target audience. The key is to be different and attention grabbing, yet extremely relevant to the needs of the target. Be careful to not be a “focus group of one.” Just because you think your message may be relevant to your audience, doesn’t always mean it is. The final judges are your prospects, so be sure you have taken the time to confirm the relevance of your message with your audience. Challenger Brands can’t afford to make a mistake here.

Own a niche: You must identify a niche within your market that you can truly call your own and just as importantly, can defend from any competitor moving forward. What is it that you do better or differently than anyone else in your space? Discover your unique niche, then own it and defend it.

Understand the limitations of your budget: Most Challenger Brands play only in those arenas where they have the best chance to win. Don’t think about the perfect marketing program because chances are you can’t afford to execute it. Instead, think about your total marketing budget and how to create a program that will optimize your strengths and maximize the ROI on the resources you have available. Consider segmenting your target audience into smaller, easier to reach vertical markets or reducing the geographic focus of your target. Your objective is to put yourself in a position to be noticed, make an impact, and win.

• Never compete head-to-head with larger competitors: Challenger Brands understand that if they go head-to head with competitors that have significantly larger marketing budgets, greater marketing resources, a larger sales force or better known brand names, using the same strategies will only result in getting lost in the clutter.

•Become famous for something: All of this leads up to one, very critical objective for all Challenger Brands—become famous for something. You can never be known or remembered for everything, but you can certainly be famous for one thing. Whatever it is that you ultimately become famous for, remember that it must be unique, memorable, ownable, and most importantly, relevant to your target audience.

John Gumas is the Founder and President of Gumas Advertising, a San Francisco based full service branding, advertising and interactive marketing agency that specializes in Challenger Brand Marketing. He may be reached at or visit

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