Management & Strategy

Up to the challenge

Steve Pateman, Executive Director, Head of UK Banking, believes any business can benefit from adopting challenger brand strategies.

Question the status quo

Challenger businesses don’t accept things the way they are, they question why they have to be that way. They look at a product, a market, an approach, and they set about challenging convention, with innovation and creativity. Underpinning this, however, is a solid cost base, within which these businesses can operate successfully. Many older, more established businesses can feel constrained by their cost base, by their fixed overheads, and find it incredibly difficult to innovate and adapt.

Don’t be afraid

We are witnessing a trend towards mediocrity, where people fear failure more than they desire success. Your business might produce endless ideas and innovation, but if the thinking is that things can’t be done for fear of a contagion risk, or a cannibalisation risk, then you will remain stuck in convention. There are, however, ways to innovate in a large company. Sometimes this can mean creating a fresh start from a crisis or ground-shaking moment, such as a change from one CEO to another.

There are many great examples of big businesses, which have created challenger brands, such as Ocado within John Lewis, transforming the way Waitrose operated its distribution. Also, when HSBC set up First Direct, they decided to launch an online bank, but to do it in a way which allowed experimentation, but didn’t cannibalise their existing business. First Direct focuses on a discreet customer base that they manage really, really well – and they have the customer service scores to prove it.

Be a pirate

‘Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?’ said Steve Jobs, Apple founder. People forget that, only 25 years ago, Microsoft dominated the market and Apple was the challenger brand. You just have to look at the way Apple sells its products to see how it has taken a completely different approach to any other form of electrical goods manufacturer. One of the world’s most successful companies and it is still innovating and challenging. I am sure that we will see many more businesses appealing to people in this way, with a distinct product and service.

Watch Steve Pateman talk about Challenger Brands:

Challenger brands; Innovation

Challenger Innovation.mp4

Challenger brands; Lead from the top

Challenger Lead.mp4

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK