I’ve just finished my “buy challenger” month and overall I feel pretty good about all my choices. 2 new pairs of Camper shoes (to be walked in slowly), flights for me, the wife and kids on Easyjet (the joys of speedy boarding), a new iPAD (and about £100 of apps to go with it. I’ve been using BING instead of Google, signed up and used ZipCar, talked for 10 hours to my little sister in Singapore on Skype, played Wii Sport with the boys and am actively trying out new applications from Huddle to Evernote.

The interesting take-out for me was that while all these brands have crossed the chasm in term of acceptable market adoption, they all feel a little bit mainstream for me. And there lies the rub.

The unknown challenger brands, the yet to be discovered zaggers cutting a different and alternative path have yet to cross the chasm.  We are mostly unaware of who they are and often discover them accidently as we sprint through our busy lives. But when we do, for me certainly, there is a eureka moment. And it’s that process of discovery that gets  me all excited. I then feel compelled to tell the world about it, to give it a push, to get it to the jaws of the chasm and see if it can make the leap.

My point is simple, when is a challenger NOT a challenger anymore?

Camper shoes would argue their roots and beliefs are still grounded in Majorcan island life and their motto “walk don’t run” still guides decision on brand development and extension – but are they really still a challenger?

I like to think that Zag brands or challengers are the relatively unknown,  pre-chasm companies who are battling real market conventions to make their way. After they have successfully crossed the chasm and established a new category and mind space for themselves I think we need a new world to describe these companies or at least recognition that being a challenger is a continuous and ever changing paradigm. Something as simple as Challenger Stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4 and so on.

After all if Virgin or Apple are still to be considered “challengers” we need to separate them from the like of Wonga.com and FourSquare who are at very different stage in their life cycle.

It gets tricky when you try to measure things on revenue versus attitude i.e. If a $1b company still has that pirate culture in its business and still manages to live by its beliefs is it any more or less of a challenger than a start up?

Next stop Google TV…

Food for thought.