Brand disruptors – a lucky hand or a quick draw?

Are disruptor brands changing consumers behaviour – who is winning the battle for hearts and minds?

We are into a new year, and as our resolutions fall like snow onto muddy paths, we are looking to brighter, warmer times ahead.  We’ll get fit because we know that’s important and good for us; We’ll eat really well because it’s cool and looks good on Instagram; and we’ll be mindful, kind, generous and …. bloody hell, there’s more bad news on the telly.

Life is tough at the moment and it’s tougher to “do the right things” (when we’re not even sure what the right things are, sometimes).  It used to be easy – we had a system: cycle to work, go to the gym, drink decaf coffee (with one sugar because I’ve earned it), stop eating cows. But something changed… The biggest, most unpredictable, unprecedented (I said it, get over yourself), the transformational pivot of The Information Age.


Disruption – “radical change to an existing market due to technological innovation

Overnight, everything changed.  Some of it amazingly for the better – a vaccine developed in under 8 months. In fact, lots of vaccines.  A fresh appreciation for the NHS.  Doing our bit, because it’s the right thing to do. Wear a damn facemask.

But what about the things we loved?  Going out to restaurants, to savour cuisine from all over the world.  Meeting friends to laugh and gossip.  Cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries. Sports and fitness.  GOING TO WORK! (I know nobody misses the commute, but I do miss audiobooks on the journey). All gone. We can’t have them anymore.

WRONG”, shout the disruptors. “Just imagine it, and it will be wonderful”.

Disruptors can come in different shapes and sizes. From the likes of Rick Stein, a well-founded brand with huge brand equity but a business model gone for the foreseeable – fear not they said, we’ll bring Rick Stein to you. This is more than just the Deliveroos of this world, this is top quality meal kits that offer a luxurious way of doing take-out at a time when we cannot “Eat out to help out”.

Take Joe Wicks – a true disruptor at heart, who spotted an opportunity and ran with it, turbo powering his career and brand, and giving real weight behind the possibilities of in-home workout. Zwift has taken the MAMILs indoors with their community cycling.

Brewdog stretched their brand into sanitisers (not all disruptors pull it off…)

What about Moshi Sleep, the mindfulness app for kids that is helping both kids and parents with what has been a difficult period in growing up?

So what? What next…?

Whether it’s an incumbent brand with new tricks up its sleeve or disruptor brands with new ideas, there have been seismic changes to our markets, to consumer behaviours, and to the brand landscape.

The need to be adaptive and agile as a brand has never been more important.

And it may not be a fair fight, to coin an old phrase from Stefan Olander of Nike+, “A Smith & Wesson beats 4 Aces”.

The brands that have drawn their gun at the card table have set themselves up to take on future challenges, to think differently and to respond quickly, potentially leaving the too-comfy incumbents behind.

If we think about gyms, January & February is normally a key boom time.  And gyms like Pure Gym, Fitness First and local workout spaces would be holding all the aces. But lockdown 3.0 flipped the poker table and disruptive young guns like Zwift, British Military Fitness and Joe Wicks were sharp enough to take their offering into purely digital channels, to workout at home. Now they have expanded their offering in ways that will build them back even stronger when we all venture out again.

Maybe the biggest disruption won’t be the lockdown, but what comes after?

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By: Simon Stokes

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