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How Charles Schwab rediscovered its challenger mojo

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We tend to think that acting as a ‘challenger brand’ is the preserve of disruptive start-ups such as Uber, iShares, Dyson and so on. Their ability to take advantage of new technologies and market openings would seem to be a prerequisite for acting as a challenger. It would seem that bigger, more established brands lack the agility, energy and introspection required to challenge category conventions. But as Charles Schwab's current ‘Own Your Tomorrow’ campaign shows, being a successful challenger may not be about size or recency, nor even agility. It is about adopting the right mindset, one in which taking on category conventions on behalf of a defined group of consumers becomes the company's raison d'ĂȘtre. It means burnishing and championing key values and beliefs that might lie dormant in the firm's DNA. Those values or beliefs have extra power and resonance to consumers if they represent something special, meaningful and transformational. Of course, today's consumers expect any brand that wants to engage with them to demonstrate, through brand behaviour, its values and beliefs, which makes being a challenger brand an imperative for today's marketers, not just one of a choice of positioning options. For Charles Schwab, adopting the challenger mindset meant breathing new life into the core values upon which the firm was founded in the 1970s. Within three years of the launch of their refreshed challenger platform, the brand's position, according to Landor's Brand Asset Valuator (see figure 1) shifted from lagging to leading brand in the financial service brokerage category. This paper describes the process by which Charles Schwab regained category leadership.
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Keywords: brand turnaround; campaign development; challenger brand; consumer insights; financial services marketing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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