If you’re facing an 800-pound gorilla in your market, have no fear. A strong challenger brand can tame the largest beast while stealing market share and building revenue.

Size in business is often beneficial. Large companies have more resources and often more money to throw at their pursuits, creating a formidable challenge to other businesses interested in the same audience and market space. However, that reliance on size can lead to an overreliance on money to solve problems. With enough money spent, large companies can achieve a certain level of traction. And that often leads to complacency.

No problem. It’s right then and there that as a challenger brand you have them exactly where you want them!

How exactly is that, you ask? With a bit of marketing jiujitsu, you can use their weight and rigidity against them. To that end, if you’re facing an 800-pound gorilla in your industry, explore one of the following strategies to drive growth and challenge the market leader.

1. The Disruptor Strategy

A disruptor offers an innovative business model, whether based on product, platform, or distribution channel. Think of the hotel industry, where giants have reigned supreme for decades. We’re talking brands such as Wyndham, Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, and InterContinental. Among these chains alone, you’d be doing battle against more than 25,000 hotels around the world.

Enter Airbnb. It offered a new business model, just without the hotel attached to it.

Airbnb is now a $2.93 billion entity, stealing market share left and right from large hotel chains. It’s not that Airbnb tried to beat them at their own game. It changed the game altogether.

2. The Cross-Pollination Strategy

This strategy involves the borrowing of ideas from another industry and applying it to one's own market. One company that succeeded by doing this is eBay. It merged a traditional idea (the auction) with another growing field (e-retail), and then went on to revolutionize online shopping.

Businesses could set up their own store and use eBay to reach other businesses looking for deals. Consumers could sell whatever they had on hand, and could peruse millions of unique offerings in a dopamine-filled exploration. The cross-pollination underlying the business was powerful, with eBay now close to $9.6 million in annual revenue.

3. The Whitespace Strategy

Another strategy for a challenger brand is to identify whitespace in the market, where larger competitors are simply ignoring a niche in the market and the challenger seeks to fulfill an unmet need.

Think of how Accenture challenged the management consulting world, filled with traditional strategy leaders such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Co. by becoming a specialist in technology. If you were looking for a new enterprise technology implementation, you looked to Accenture. As technology grew in importance and became a central lever of business success, Accenture was in the perfect position to ride the wave. Accenture is now a leader in not only technology consulting, but also blockchain, security, applied intelligence, and AI.

4. The 10X Strategy

When Google first appeared on the scene, it was competing with larger, established search engines such as Yahoo, Lycos, and AltaVista. It aimed, though, to not only be better, but to index 10X the volume of web pages while being 10X faster than all of the others.

Google then deployed AdWords as a 10X revenue opportunity.

It then began cranking out free versions of products with the potential to grab 10X the audience, whether Gmail, Google Docs, or Chrome. By taking a 10X approach to everything it does, Google now has become the 800-pound gorilla itself in multiple product categories.

5. The Customer Service Strategy

Competing against market leaders is challenging, and if you’re not yet ready to disrupt your industry or implement a 10X strategy, lower-hanging fruit is to simply provide unparalleled customer service.

There are countless examples of companies that have taken this approach to great success. More well-known examples include Nordstrom and Zappos. But good examples are all around us. For example, Paycor is an online payroll services and human resource solutions company where 60% of quarterly product enhancements are reportedly driven by feedback from customers. The power of listening to customers and treating them like VIPs is something that any challenger brand can leverage.

6. The Missionary

The “Missionary Strategy” is not just for non-profits. What this strategy means is adhering to a transparent sense of purpose and making it a core, essential part of the DNA of the brand. Often, a missionary brand wants to change the world in some shape or form.

Elara is a brand that sells what many would consider mundane items, such as plastic gloves in the food and medical fields. Their products help to ensure safety, in the prevention, for example, of food poisoning and food-borne illnesses in restaurants or of infections in a medical setting.

But what lights up the company’s people is their devotion to fighting hunger. For every case of products ordered, the company donates a meal to someone in need. The company has worked with more than a dozen food banks and hunger relief organizations in the donation of millions of meals, along with participating in ongoing volunteer and educational activities.


 If you’re facing stiff competition from large companies, try one of these challenger brand strategies, which help you to stand out and differentiate your brand. Remember, size is not always an advantage, and there are ample opportunities for innovative approaches for growth that blindside larger competitors.


 Justin deMontigny is a Brand Strategist at Stratabeat, Inc. (https://stratabeat.com/), a branding, design, and marketing agency with special expertise in neuromarketing, for middle market companies. deMontigny has extensive experience in performance marketing and SEO for market leaders such as Staples, Converse, Dannon, and Clarks Shoes. Follow him on Twitter at @StrataJustin.