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From challengers to champions - what can we learn from the success stories of challenger brands?

Lloyd Preston
Lloyd Preston
Marketing Manager
5 minutes to read
From challengers to champions - what can we learn from the success stories of challenger brands?

Ever wondered how some start-ups quickly catapult themselves to the top, taking on the industries most established brands in the process? Well, we’re here to clue you in.

At Enjoy, we work with market leaders, challenger brands and everything in between — so we’re always inspired to learn about the success stories and strategies challenger brands use to disrupt the market, and keep the big players at the top of their game.

For this blog, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the world’s most renowned challenger brands (and some of the lesser known ones, too). From the disruptive forces of Airbnb and Uber to the binge-worthy success of Netflix and the fruity goodness of Innocent Drinks, we’ll share their stories and explore some of the strategies that have shaped their success. Who knows, it may just help your business shape its own.


Founded in 2007 after two college roommates had the inventive idea of putting a spare mattress in their living room and turning it into a bed and breakfast, Airbnb is now a thriving online marketplace that helps connect people looking to rent out properties or spare rooms with tourists and travellers across the globe.

With over 7 million listings and 1.5 billion guest arrivals since it started out, Airbnb's unique business model and dynamic digital presence has completely transformed the online hospitality market. 

Key Strategies

  • An accessible and frictionless digital experience: Accessible worldwide via their website or user-friendly app, Airbnb offers a frictionless online booking process; its headless architecture allows users to seamlessly search for accommodations, view detailed listings, and communicate directly with the host before making a reservation.

  • Building trust and credibility: By encouraging user-generated content (UGC) such as reviews, ratings and social-sharing, Airbnb have established credibility and trust amongst their audiences. 

    Community building: Airbnb has created a sense of community and belonging, constructing cultural exchanges and connections between hosts and guests across several touchpoints. This focus on community-building has helped them drive engagement, establish lasting relationships, and create an immersive travel experience for their users.

Top takeaways

Airbnb's evolution from a simple idea into a market leader within the hospitality space demonstrates the vast potential of digital innovation and user-centricity. Not only have they invested in a market-leading digital experience — and global networks that connect people from different backgrounds — they've inspired trust and credibility along the way, with social proofing playing a key role.

Key Strategies

  • Pioneering technology: One of the big success factors for Uber has been its ability to pioneer tech — with its app being levels above anything else offered in the market. It offers real-time tracking, cashless transactions, and significantly reduced wait times, connecting riders with nearby drivers through cutting-edge geolocation technology.

  • Strategic marketing: Through strategic marketing initiatives, including referral programs, partnerships, cross-promotions, digital advertising, localised activity and more, Uber has rapidly expanded its brand awareness and driven user acquisition.

  • Adaptive Innovation: Uber's continuous innovation, diversifying its services beyond ride-hailing to include Uber Pool, Uber Eats, and venturing into autonomous vehicles, again reflects the importance of innovation to meet evolving consumer needs.

Top takeaways

Uber's offering has transformed urban mobility, changing the way people commute around the world. What’s more, they're always innovating; expanding their services to include shared rides, food delivery and more. Uber's journey from a disruptor to an innovator demonstrates how a unique business model, combined with customer-centric marketing and adaptive innovation — can drive a business into the market's pole position. 


Starting out as a DVD rental-by-mail service, Netflix transitioned to streaming in 2007, capitalising on a consumer preference for convenience, and setting new standards for entertainment consumption by delivering high-quality content at the click of a button.

Netflix is now a household name, and has an impressive global subscriber base of around 250 million consumers. On average, Netflix subscribers spend 3.2 hours per day on the platform. That’s 6 billion collective hours – every month!

Key Strategies

  • Data-driven personalisation: Netflix leverages user data to understand viewing habits and preferences, serving personalised recommendations and tailoring the user experience to enhance engagement and keep its customers coming back.

  • Content creation and distribution: By investing in high-quality original content like "Stranger Things" and "House of Cards," Netflix differentiated itself from traditional TV networks, embracing the direct-to-consumer model.

  • International expansion: Netflix's relentless pursuit of global expansion has contributed significantly to its dominance. The platform's success shouldn't just be attributed to its eclectic content library, but its efforts to curate region-specific content. By tailoring content to local preferences while maintaining a diverse global library, Netflix has successfully penetrated various markets worldwide, building widespread adoption.

Top takeaways

Netflix's trajectory underscores the importance of adaptation and innovation in an ever-evolving digital landscape. Embracing data-driven personalisation, investing in original content, and shaping its services for different markets, has allowed Netflix to reach audiences, regardless of geographical boundaries. By understanding and meeting diverse consumer demands, it has carved a clear path towards sustainable growth.

Key Strategies

  • Natural branding: Innocent focused on promoting healthy lifestyles through natural, unprocessed ingredients, and playful, quirky branding, resonating with health-conscious consumers.

  • Transparency and sustainability: The brand's unwavering commitment to transparency in sourcing and sustainable practices has helped it appeal to an ever-growing audience of eco-conscious consumers.

  • Creative storytelling: Innocent captivates consumers by weaving compelling narratives around its brand journey, core values, and dedication to making nutritious drinks accessible to everyone. Through creative storytelling, they've effectively communicated their mission, and have inspired millions to join it. 

Top takeaways

Innocent revolutionised the beverage market by championing transparency, natural ingredients, and playful branding. Their commitment to healthier choices in line with changing consumer preferences, has helped to build a broader awareness of ethical sourcing. Through creative storytelling, they have connected consumers with their journey, winning hearts and minds in the process.

Honourable mentions


Founded in 2012 by Ben Frances in his home garage, Gymshark is a UK based fitness apparel brand. Through building a highly-engaged online community of 12m+ followers and renowned for its influencer marketing campaigns, Gymshark is now challenging the likes of Nike and Adidas - and Ben is now the UK’s youngest billionaire!


Established in 2015, Monzo set the record for "quickest crowd-funding campaign in history" when it raised £1 million in 96 seconds. Monzo’s services — which include real-time spending alerts and fee-free overseas transactions — are all provided through its user-friendly app. Their digital-first approach challenged conventional banking norms and helped establish Monzo as a big player in the financial services space.


Launched in 2008, Vinted has since emerged as a European powerhouse for swapping preloved clothing. Their ethos — which centres around collaborative consumerism — has created a vibrant community of users exchanging second-hand fashion items. This strategy has successfully tapped into retail consumer preferences for affordability and sustainability.

From obscurity to dominance

These examples of strategic-thinking and digital innovation from the likes of Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Monzo and more are beyond simple success stories; they're blueprints for every business aiming to shake up the market. They teach us that technical innovation, customer-centricity, tactical marketing and genuine authenticity can propel ambitious brands from obscurity to dominance.

These brands have dared to challenge the status quo, and in doing so, they’ve shown us that success isn't about replicating others but about embracing uniqueness and daring to think differently. Remember, in today's competitive digital landscape, it's not just about being seen; it's about creating a lasting impact, and these brilliant brands have paved the way.

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