In the marketing world, there’s no such thing as playing it safe. Timid and conservative advertising is frequently overlooked as passé and uninspiring. People don’t want their favorite brands to do the same old thing. They want those brands to innovate. In other words, they want to feel moved – and there’s no better way for a brand to move its audience than to do something disruptive.
Now, this doesn’t mean being obnoxious or offensive. In this case, disrupting simply means changing the status quo. Think about Netflix disrupting the video rental industry, or Apple disrupting physical music sales. Today, these seem like natural progressions of dying mediums. However, at the time, they were quite controversial and represented something wholly new – in a way that scared the establishment, but also made the lives of consumers easier. And that’s why people were so eager to welcome these changes.
There’s always a lesson to be learned when a disruptive business finds its audience. While you may not be in a position to disrupt your entire industry, you can still learn from those that have changed the game, and apply those lessons to your everyday business strategies.
Nike is an established global leader in its industry, but it’s been a disruptive force for decades. When Nike released its Air Jordan sneakers in 1985, they were actually banned by the NBA. Michael Jordan was faced with either shelving his new shoes or being hit with a $5,000 fine every time he suited up in his signature sneakers. However, Nike stepped in and paid the fines on Jordan’s behalf. The resulting controversy, combined with Jordan’s success on the basketball court, drove sales through the roof and helped Nike to become the juggernaut we know it as today.
Rather than resting on its laurels, though, Nike has continued to disrupt. Most recently, Nike embarked upon a major ad campaign starring former football player turned activist Colin Kaepernick, despite Nike being the NFL’s main apparel provider. While Nike’s stance alienated some, it made others feel even more strongly about Nike, with sales surging by more than 30 percent in the days following the launch of the campaign.
The Lesson: Sometimes the rules are made to be broken. You might not have the money to pay thousands in fines, and you may not have the social capital necessary to make a statement that resonates with an entire nation. But there’s always a way to get your name out there, and to cement your brand image, without resorting to bashing your competition.
Uber has changed the public transit game to the point that it’s hard to remember how the situation was even five years ago. Struggling to hail a finite number of cabs, reluctantly sharing rides with others and paying top dollar for transportation are largely things of the past thanks to Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing services. But this shift isn’t Uber’s true disruption.
Where Uber really succeeds in disrupting the status quo comes in the form of its marriage of convenience, transparency, time and technology – four factors that are of the utmost importance in modern times. People seeking rides are able to utilize an easy-to-use mobile app to order rides. They don’t have to call a cab company or risk looking foolish trying to get a cab driver’s attention. Drivers can work any hours they want – a huge benefit in today’s “gig economy” – and they can rely on Uber’s app to give them the directions they need to get people to where they need to go. Best of all, nobody has to feel like they’re being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous driver who’s more concerned with racking up cab fare than actual customer service.
The Lesson: The combination of two unrelated items can often result in some great ideas. There aren’t two concepts more different than taxi cabs and mobile technology. Uber managed to stumble upon the perfect pairing of the two, and it changed the world. Turning various elements of your business on their axis and seeing how they work with other unrelated tools can help transform the way you see your business and how it fits into society.
To really understand how disruptive Credit Karma has been in the financial industry, you have to understand the state of affairs before Credit Karma rose to prominence. A decade ago, finding out your credit score could only be done through sites owned by credit bureaus. These sites heavily advertised “free” credit reports, while conveniently leaving out the fact that what they were actually giving away were free trials to their credit monitoring services. Within a week of receiving the free score, users would be charged upwards of $15 a month if they forgot to cancel their trial memberships. Perhaps even worse, the credit scores provided weren’t FICO scores, but were instead proprietary bureau-specific scores that didn’t neatly compare to each other, let alone actual FICO scores.
Tired of seeing consumers being taken advantage of in this way, Credit Karma set out to provide truly free credit scores to anybody who wanted them. The results have been spectacular, to the point that one out of every three adults uses Credit Karma to keep tabs on their credit scores. Instead of gouging unsuspecting customers, Credit Karma makes its money by providing personalized recommendations that will help people to succeed financially. Credit Karma gets a referral bonus every time someone signs up for a credit card or loan based on a recommendation. The end result is a customer base that’s better educated and places a high level of trust with Credit Karma – and by extension, the financial institutions that seek referrals from Credit Karma.
The Lesson: The absolute best way to gain a following is to provide something of value, along with an education that explains why that item of value is so important. Credit Karma not only moved the credit monitoring industry away from consumer exploitation, but it also helped millions to better understand their credit and how their financial decisions affected the big picture. This also helped them to recruit financial partners, who would now be working with smarter customers who were more motivated to make their payments on time. No matter your industry, your ultimate goal is something resembling this situation. You want to give people something they can truly use – something they’ll happily recommend to others, and something that will help them achieve their own goals.
Disruptive brands are generally young and hungry, but they also have one other thing in common – they all got their drive from one truly brilliant idea, one nobody else thought of, and one that truly benefits their customers. If you’re motivated enough, you’re closer than you realize to disrupting your industry. If you need a little help finding the sweet spot between consumer need and your expertise, contact us today.