20 Challenger Brands to Watch in 2013

By Helen Redstone, 30/01/2013

At the beginning of the month we conducted a straw poll at eatbigfish HQ asking “who are the challengers to watch this year?”  And here they are, our top picks for businesses who may -or may not- make an impact in 2013.  Encompassing startups, innovations, established challengers and brands where we see the potential (even if they don’t) the list reveals just a small part of the broad canvas of Challengers and challenges out there.

We’ll be tracking with these brands, along with plenty more, over the year – in particular we’ll be taking wider global perspective with brands making an impact in regions outside of the US and UK over the coming weeks. We’d also love to hear your suggestions in the comments below. What do you think of our selection, did we miss some obvious ones?

Al Jazeera

We’ve long been interested in Al-Jazeera as a brilliant example of a Missionary Challenger Brand fighting for balance within what they believe to be a one-sided media landscape. This year we’ll be fascinated to see what impact they make in the US with the recent acquisition of Current TV.

al jazeera 

Clif Bar & Co

The ethical food and drink brand for athletes has just started international expansion to 10 countries, including finally coming to the UK (hurray), so we expect Clif Bar & Co to be gaining prominence and real momentum in 2013.


Dollar Shave Club

They gave us our favourite viral hit of 2012 so what are they going to do to follow that up in 2013 so as not to become a one hit wonder?  Will this innovative subscription business model catch on or will Gillette and Schick’s installed base be too strong to crack into? Something to watch out for…

dollar shave club

Made Collection

A brand on a mission to encourage Americans to buy America by curating a marketplace of heritage brands and premium products made in the USA. Formed by the former executive creative director, design director and creative technology director at CP+B this new brand and accompanying agency Made Movement ticks all the zietgeisty boxes for 2013. Well worth a look.




The latest venture from Geoff Ross (founder of of Challenger Project-favourite 42Below vodka) Moa is a brand from Malborough, New Zealand overlaying the conventions of wine onto beer.  We’ll be interested to see if they can make the same amount of impact as 42Below by taking a less loudly irreverent approach.



The ailing social network has re-launched as new.myspace.com – an entertainment platform that comes across as LastFm crossed with Google+.

Unsurprisingly at launch the content is firmly skewed toward the pop culture world of investor Justin Timberlake and chums but the defined account types reveal the target of “musicians, photographers, curators, filmmakers, designers” among others.  Can its streaming offer build up the critical number of content providers to make it a viable challenger to Spotify or will it find its own niche as a platform for creative talent?



A fixture on the brands to watch list every year, Nike’s ‘Fuel’ band and ‘Fuel points’ system seem poised to really take off in 2012 – will 2013 be the year it does?



The open source games console is launching in March after raising 10m US$ on Kickstarter. The technology mounts a possibly game changing challenge to the big boys – we haven’t seen any marketing or positioning yet but we expect that to change closer to launch date


Patchwork Present

A new collaborative giving platform with huge ambitions to change the way we think about gifting and consumption – launching in early 2013. The Challenger behind it is eatbigfish’s very own unstoppable genius, Olivia Knight, so we have great confidence that, like Airbnb and Kickstarter, it will become one of the successes of the emergent sharing economy.

Keep an eye out for an interview with Liv on The Challenger Project. Until launch you can share that one thing you’ve always wanted on twitter @PatchworkP #justwhatIalwayswanted.

patchwork present

Picturehouse Cinemas

When the UK arthouse cinema chain was bought by Cineworld in December 2012 the common response from fans was ‘I wish Picturehouse had bought Cineworld and not the other way round’.  With plans to increase its 21 locations to 30 can Picturehouse stick to its promise of ‘business as usual’ or will the multiplex encroach on its carefully defined premium brand experience?

picturehouse hackney


Popchips caught our eye last year when a basket of samples turned up at the office – we are that easily bought. A brand with a fantastic product story and excellent BTL activity the celebrity-focused ads have all been misses so far in our opinion – would love to see the ‘office of pop culture’ do something really interesting in 2013.


Rebel Athletic

Yes we like to keep an eye on the world of competitive cheerleading here at eatbigfish – who doesn’t?.  Rebel Athletic founder Karen Noseff Aldridge is making a bold challenge to a monopoly in cheerleading sports apparel and winning.  A fascinating story – look out for our interview with Karen coming to the site soon.



With a superbowl ad expected this weekend and a launch in June, Sean Coombs, aka P Diddy, mounts a challenge to MTV with a new cable TV channel, ‘Revolt’. With a focus on breaking new artists and social media integration we wait to see if Revolt TV delivers on the declaration that is it the MTV for the post MTV generation “bringing that revolution that television needs.”

 p diddy


Will they continue to make inroads vs. the iPhone? Will they solidify their position as the Next Generation challenger in the same way Apple did to Microsoft and Intel in 1997? Will Nick ever persuade us that his Galaxy s3 is better than the iPhone5? All burning questions here at eatbigfish HQ.


Soda Stream

In the light of the recent censoring of this weekend’s Superbowl ad how will Sodastream continue to take on Coke and Pepsi – and how will the partnership with Kraft affect their challenge to the soda goliaths?

 sodastream censored


Partnerships such as the facebook app (hitting 50 billion impressions per month) and rumoured investment from CocaCola and Goldman Sachs are fuelling rapid growth.  Although the platform is yet to make a profit the WSJ valued the music streaming site at over 3bn at the end of 2012. With the collapse of traditional distributer HMV the question appears to have shifted from ‘will Spotify succeed?’ to ‘will it be the death or the saviour of the music industry?’

spotify screen grab

Tesla Motors

The Tesla Model S was named ‘Car of the Year’ in 2012 in the US so it will be interesting to see if (and how) they scale the brand in 2013.


The Fast Diet 

Already a UK best-seller out of the starting block for 2012, the ambition of the authors is to reframe the way we think about health, food and our diets. Will be really interested to see how they harness the growing movement around them and keep themselves out of ‘the latest fad diet’ bracket

 the fast diet

U by Kotex 

Bodyform may have scored the one off viral hit with their  “Bodyform Responds” spot but its U by Kotex who continue to break conventions with their ‘provocative’ work encouraging conversations around the euphemistic ‘feminine care’ category.  Their Generation Know campaign to debunk female health myths has the strident feminists of the office applauding –  we wait to see what impact it has.



After the new year announcement of Zipcar’s $500m acquisition by Avis we’ll be keeping a close eye on whether they can keep true to the brand values while keeping their new parent happy and expand without alienating existing users. Is this the investment needed to take this visionary, category redefining business into profit, or a case of the big eating the small?


5 Responses to “20 Challenger Brands to Watch in 2013”

  1. Hilton Barbour says:

    I’m intrigued to see what McDonalds Canada does to disrupt the QSR category by extending 2012’s enormously successful “Our Food Your Questions” activity – http://yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca

    The organization appears interested in a massive re-engineering of how they operate and how they’re positioned. OFYQ is the start of a new type of Transparency in a category not known for openness.