Why Disruption Is Not Always Tech Dependant

Disruption in marketing is always a hot topic; the conventional wisdom is that a new product, typically providing a previously unavailable technical solution, is the only way to disrupt existing stable categories. And tech solutions have been amazing game changers in many categories; resource sharing concepts such as Air BNB and Uber which would have been unthinkable a few short years ago now make intuitive sense and have been embraced by the mainstream.

But for every smash hit, there are thousands of misses and untold millions spent on tech innovations which fail to take flight or cannot be successfully monetised, such as Microsoft’s half-hearted attempt to take on Apple with their version of the smart phone, the Lumia.

Or category behemoths that have first access to new and disruptive technologies, but fail to take advantage of them for fear of cannibalising existing markets and products. Kodak springs to mind for one.

So disruption through technology is costly and risky…the rewards for a hit may be great, but the misses could cause an entire company to fail. But does disruption always need technology?  I’ve noticed several instances recently where staid categories which have previously remained static for years have been disrupted very effectively by packaging or product innovations which don’t involve a tech solution.

Some brands have managed to significantly disrupt categories where customers have traditionally been underserved:

  1. Sports strapping tape company D3 has disrupted the traditionally medical focused tape and bandage category by using modern colours and packaging and positioning their tapes and bandages as war paint for healthy active people, rather than musty bandages for the injured and elderly.
  2. Mahabi’s have been game changers in the dull and dusty slipper category with their modern, attractive, practical and customisable slipper range. Mahabi’s used their intimacy with customers to design a product that actually meets customer needs.
  3. Juice makers Nudie were able to capitalize on current trends and cut through the cluttered yoghurt market with their skyr yoghurt. Clean packaging and a clearly differentiated product (low sugar and high protein) has lead to them gaining a place on the yoghurt shelf in addition to their position in juice.

So, my advice for brands who want to disrupt without a tech solution? Look for a category where consumers have traditionally been underserved by existing players who are content to do the same old thing. Then use your customer intimacy in the category to offer them something that better meets their needs…and watch them jump to make the switch.

Written by Lauren.

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