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To stay number one – think and behave as if you’re number two.

This characteristic of a ‘challenger brand’ intrigued me, back in the day when I first discovered the whole challenger concept.

Apple, of iPhone and i-everything else fame, represents the highest profile challenger model – it strikes the poses of the hot new thing on the catwalk, even though it’s a venerable member of the technological establishment and has existed for almost as long as I have.

If anyone wants to write a non-Apple case study to illustrate the challenger notion, they need look no further than a recent weekend newspaper magazine interview with James Curleigh, President of jeans giant Levi’s. He never mentions ‘challenger’, but his quotes puts his business firmly in that camp.

When he joined Levi’s in summer 2012, the company has lost its edge. “We were still number one but it didn’t feel that way, you know?” Clearly, while numero uno might on the face of it seem great, it’s not so great if turnover isn’t what it was and you are continually having to look over your shoulder as your competitors gain ground.

Curleigh’s arrival has spurred some bold new marketing and an ad campaign, aimed at recapturing the spirit of a brand once (unofficially) endorsed by Marlon Brando and James Dean – based around ‘progress’ and doing your own thing.

Curleigh also said he pictures Levi’s as “a 140-year-old start-up”. A long history and past glories aren’t enough: a business has to tune into current attitudes.

jeans with a label

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