Designing Challenger Brands

Think, Uber, Airbnb, Tesla – and of course the brands which started it all, like The Body Shop and Apple. They are the “challenger brands,” and we believe the heart of their success is their ability to turn emotion and affinity into a customer acquisition machine.



There was a time when Challenger Brands or Upstart Brands were the new kids on the block who challenged conventional businesses. Today, this is no longer the case and businesses – new and old – are seeking ways to create new markets to in order to stay relevant, and survive.


Challenger brands use the critical mass of passionate customers to fuel rapid growth.

Here are some basic pointers which Activiste has applied to a number of our clients who wanted to change the status quo:

  1. Caring about solving customer problems and being dogged about it.

  2. Creating a reason for early customers to talk about you and sharing the “good” – reward them for early loyalty.

  3. Be an “evangelist” for your brand and why it matters. 

Design plays an important role in creating distinction, memorability and that emotional connection with consumers. Never settle for “pretty” when you can have an identity that says something more.

The mark of all great challenger brands is their ability to disrupt the norm and create a passionate following – We prefer to call them Activiste Brands.

In developing a brand for Bank btpn’s digital banking platform for the lower middle class segment - a segment that is often overlooked by financial services companies – we focused attention on surprising users with how it could transform their personal finance transactions. The naming and identity design for btpn WOW! borrowed the visual language of comic-book superheroes, that would give consumers the power of a “bank in their hands”. The identity and secondary graphics were created to go viral.

Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional (BTPN), a medium-sized Indonesian commercial bank happens to be the only Asian bank and only Indonesian company ranked in the top 50 of Fortune magazine’s “The Fortune 2016 Change the World” list.

The bank’s emphasis on serving the lower-income segment, has gathered much attention for its meaningful and empowering outreach.

Learn more about our work on btpn Wow!

Corporate identity is more than a logo. Done well it should be the embodiment of what the organisation is about and its purpose. When the legal fraternity was dragging its feet in promoting mediation as a means of alternative dispute resolution, the Singapore Mediation Centre decided to take the message to businesses who had a very real need to take control of outcomes in a dispute, and being able to continue with a business relationship despite the hiccups. This proved to be a turning point in how mediation is perceived and now embraced by the business community.

In 2016, the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) handled 499 cases here involving a record $775 million last year. This represents a 72 per cent jump from the previous year. 

Learn more about our work with SMC

Like to find out more about our design work and how it can cut through the visual clutter? Contact us now.

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