How to Create a Disruptive Brand

By Bradley Nix, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Black Pearl Intelligence, a next-generation business intelligence firm that provides actionable insights for a wide range of businesses and organizations with case histories

Want to increase sales to become a category leader like Altoids? Create Apple’s rabid customer loyalty? Or laugh yourself to profitability like Geico?

A clear brand-positioning platform can be a highly disruptive force within an established category. A successful disruptive brand delivers consumer value through superior product quality. Superior product quality is communicated and accompanied with highly relevant and difficult-to-replicate marketing programs.

Could your brand be disruptive?

After more than 30 years in brand strategy, I’ve seen the power of disruptive brands. At my company, Black Pearl Intelligence, I provide a range of business intelligence and traditional branding services. I know firsthand how great the opportunity is to become a disruptive brand within many categories.

Disruptive Brand Characteristics

Disruptive brands identify a clear and easy-to-articulate unmet market need. They fill this need functionally, but more importantly, emotionally. Any 800-pound gorilla competitor can easily copy product features. Emotional fulfillment is difficult to replicate. Disruptive brands have similar characteristics:

  1. Authenticity: No fakes allowed. Principles without compromise. Often, the brand’s founders and core stewards are brand evangelists.  Take TOMS Shoes, founded by Blake Mycoskie. TOMS has given hundreds of thousands of shoes to those in need through its “One for One” program. Mycoskie began the program after seeing the hardships of barefoot children firsthand in Argentina.
  2. Innovation: Apple is the usual suspect. What about the unsexy vacuum cleaner? Desire is now a bold, sleek, yellow, sucking Dyson machine with Dual Cyclone™ Technology. Who cares what it means. Dyson continues to innovate with the Dyson Airblade in public restrooms and handheld vacuums.
  3. Status Appeal: Status brands appeal with story and life experience. Consumers return the favor by endorsing the brand. When a brand achieves this loyalty, the connection is a code that others share. For example, Van’s shoes enhances the young adult’s subculture street cred. A Black Dog logo on a bumper sticker for The Black Dog Tavern in Martha’s Vineyard creates old money and the New England-lifestyle associations.
  4. Accountability: Disruptive brands go to great lengths to do right by customers. I recently had a great experience with New Balance. I ordered shoes for my kiddo. Unfortunately, they were too small. I dislike mail returns, so I stopped by the local New Balance store. Instead of usual retailer reluctance, this store accepted the return and outfitted my 10-year-old with a new pair. That, my fellow readers, is not just customer service. That’s disruptive accountability.
  5. Emotional Connection: Make ‘em laugh. Make ‘em cry. Brand campaigns that elicit an emotional response can leave an indelible impression. I’m pretty certain beer lovers weren’t lamenting the lack of choice in Mexican beer when Dos Equis reinvented their brand with the most interesting man in the world.  Humor, like Geico’s gecko, can make a complex subject easier to understand.
  6. Relevance: Evolve. Try something new. Make some noise. Traditional advertising works, but online content is key for brand relevance. Genuine, informative and entertaining content keeps you top of mind with your consumers. The more powerful the content, the more it gets shared and exposed to other potential customers and future fans.

There isn’t a category in the marketplace that isn’t susceptible to brand disruption. Be ready. Because if you aren’t disruptive, another brand in your category will be.

Categories: Best Practices Marketing

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