The descriptor ‘disruptive brand’ is used often – but why should it matter to you? Because, by embracing disruptive thinking in your marketing, you can take on the big guns – and win.
Think of it as your secret weapon.
In this piece, we discuss how disruptive thinking can transform your business – and hopefully we’ll inspire you to get a little maverick, too.
What does it mean to be a disruptive brand?
The concept of a disruptive business traces back to the 90s, specifically to a Harvard professor named Clayton M. Christensen. In basic terms, the process of disruption goes as follows:
- A larger, well-established company gets tunnel-vision. It focuses on developing products that serve the needs of its most profitable and/or high-maintenance customer segments.
- In the meantime, it overlooks other segments – including ones that are yet to exist.
- Enter stage left a smaller, newer, less financially liquid challenger. This young brand succeeds by innovating practical solutions for these neglected segments – often at a more accessible price.
- The contender typically aims at less profitable, lower-end segments or an entirely new market – converting non-shoppers into shoppers.
- The big gun fails to pivot fast or hard enough. In the meantime, the newbie shifts up a gear, upgrading its product to appeal to a larger piece of the audience pie – including those all-important mainstream segments.
- The disruptive brand succeeds, thanks to the edge their initial innovation lent them, which makes for a more attractive brand experience.
Arguably, any brand that tears up the rule book and invents new ways to serve customers could qualify. This doesn’t have to be wild, avant-garde, or involve ping pong tables in the office; it just has to better serve a need that is presently overlooked.
3 reasons why you should embrace disruption
Great news: as an SME, you are incredibly well placed to become a market disruptor.
1. Direct-to-consumer is inherently disruptive
If you’re not selling direct-to-consumer already, perhaps you should? In relative speed, you can set up an e-commerce store and, armed with a great product, brand, and strategy, start building customer sales.
D2C business models make for agility, which makes for more inventive, dynamic brands.
Untethered by corporate bureaucracy and inflexible systems and processes, you can harness the possibilities of e-commerce to completely rethink how you serve your end customers. The rise of bespoke online subscriptions such as Hug’s serve as an excellent example of this.
This shift is not without challenges, of course. It involves time and investment, but there are real benefits:
- Better margins by cutting out the trade middle man.
- Ability to price high-quality products more competitively.
- Freedom to maintain tight control of standards.
- By keeping decisions regarding brand identity and marketing under one roof, your message, difference, and independence of spirit are preserved, allowing you to make your products and services more engaging.
2. Good products & simplicity: the perfect storm
Harry’s, a razor company, started life as a startup in 2013 – two years later, it was worth roughly £5.6M. How come? It embraced simple perfection.
The founders spotted a gap in rival razor companies’ customer experience models. Guys were overwhelmed by the sprawling ranges of razors offered by brands such as Gillette. What they really wanted was one straightforward yet reliable option – one great razor.
The team at Harry’s disrupted the razor game by recognising this need. They only sell a limited yet top-notch selection of products. The idea resonated.
Why are we using this example?
Because, by nature of their size, smaller businesses are built for simplicity. Compact teams, transparent practices, and a focus on quality make them the ideal creators of high-calibre capsule collections that are well priced, complemented by a satisfying experience that demands less of customers. This, in itself, is disruptive.
Perhaps there’s an opportunity for you to simplify your products or services and focus on creating your own perfect storm?
To quote Harry’s…
“We’ve built Harry’s to reflect our passions and values: affinity for simple design, appreciation of well-made things, and a belief that companies should make the world a better place.”
To find out more about the Paradox of Choice (and what a turn-off it is), head over to our piece on marketing psychology.
3. The Amazon Antidote
The bigger a company gets, the more difficult it is to maintain bulletproof authenticity – a genuine personality. Offices pop up thousands of miles apart; things get lost in translation; perhaps supply chains aren’t scrutinised as closely as they once were.
Not so with SMEs. When a deep, value-driven, and localised passion for something drives what you do, it’s much easier to put forth a point of difference – one that challenges larger, wholly profit-driven corporations.
Amidst thousands of products and brands, a unique offering and a story with a real sense of place and people powerfully resonates – and can be truly disruptive.
Being a disruptive brand: 3 questions to ask
Disruptive thinking doesn’t have to involve dramatic stunts or Tesla-esque inventions. Merely delivering well-conceived experiences that meet needs in new, better ways can be game-changing.
If you think you and your business could benefit from more of a disruptive mindset, ask yourself the following questions regularly:
- Are we serving our customers in the most effective way we can?
- Is there something in our organisation that could be reinvented to elevate our offering?
- Are we focusing too much on a specific segment and neglecting others? (Are new needs emerging?)