In a Year of Uncertainty, These Brands Defined What It Means to Disrupt

Adweek’s Challenger Brands honorees are shaking up industries from food and pharmacy to fashion

When Adweek launched its Challenger Brands franchise two years ago, “challenge” still went by its traditional definition—to engage in competition, to push limits, to disrupt the status quo. But coming off a year like 2020, the notion of a challenge has taken on an entirely new dimension. Not only is most every brand now challenged in multiple ways, but the upstarts have that much tougher a fight. The unique economic conditions of the pandemic have demonstrated that the mega brands seem to hold all the cards—scale, infrastructure, access to capital and simple brand recognition. So, what hope does any challenger brand have now, at the start of 2021? You’ll read about that in the pages to follow. Because no matter how rough economic conditions may get, innovation, agility and creative thinking still count for a lot. These virtues have allowed all of Adweek’s 2021 Challenger Brands to take market share from their more established competitors. And down the road—who knows?—they may be enough to topple them. A select group of the movers and shakers behind the brands you’ll read about will be sharing their insights at our virtual Challenger Brands Summit from Feb. 22-25. We hope to see you there. —Robert Klara

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This story first appeared in the Feb. 22, 2021, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.