The concept of linear lifestyles has become obsolete. We’re in an era of disruption.
Now, more than ever, stands a visibly saturated market with brands and retailers often struggling to stand out from the crowd. So, whilst the term disruption may be edging towards overuse, the concept of ripping up the rulebook is still very much relevant.
Disruption in our current environment is not purely the latest piece of technology or a brash brand statement; it is how brands are choosing to overtly modernise their strategies, challenging everything we thought we knew about retail. It is outrageous innovations, challenging conversations with consumers and a persistent endeavour to surprise us. It is also the eradication of an insular brand strategy, looking outside of the brand and its marketplace and beginning to contend with even the most unlikely competitors.
A Wealth of Choice
In this modern climate, we are overwhelmed by choice and we find ourselves promiscuous with our shopping; unwilling to remain loyal to one brand when we are faced with such an array of competitors.
Whilst we still value the quality of products over anything else, when multiple retailers are offering a similar quality, we begin to look at those brands providing a superior service or experience. Whether it’s the store that exceeds the transactional expectation, the outrageous marketing stunts or the entirely personalised experiences; we favour the brands who take bold, innovative steps towards disrupting the mould. It is the element of surprise and delight, to feel as if we are part of an exclusive experience which means more than just taking our payment.
But what does this mean for our future? The simplest explanation is that in 2020 and much further beyond, brands and retailers must redefine their strategies in order to capture the attention of an audience eager to fulfill experiential desires. We’re bored by the norm and these brands highlight how change can be instigated:
Since their inception in 2007, Brewdog have done nothing but disrupt the mould when it comes to the world of craft beer. Firstly, the inception itself was pretty innovative. With a strategy to create beers which would be loved by a community, they founded their business on a crowdfunding effort which gives thousands of fundraisers equity in Brewdog. But the creative minds behind Brewdog did not stop with a pioneering launch, they have continued to break the rules every step of the way. When Vladimir Putin instigated his outrageous anti-gay laws, the brand responded with an equally outrageous bottle design depicting Putin in an Andy Warhol style design (complete with lipstick) and featuring the phrase *Not For Gays in small print. Unafraid to send a case of the opinionated beer to Putin himself, Brewdog successfully made a mockery of a law which prohibits self-expression.
In a less political but equally as dramatic campaign, Brewdog chose the ad break in Game of Thrones to reveal their ‘most honest ad yet’. The exceptionally high volume of GOT viewers had resulted in notoriously flashy and over the top mainstream advertising, something Brewdog wanted to ditch entirely. Their advert was simple - a white background with a single can of beer set against the word ‘ADVERT’ with a heavy metal track blaring as a backdrop. And to follow, they implemented the simplicity of this ad campaign across cinema, social media and even bus ads. Yet the minimalism of their advert wasn’t a lack of creativity, but an answer to the three quarters of the public who no longer trust advertising.
“We don’t want to live in a world dominated by bad beer any more than you want to live in one with lame advertising.” – Brewdog
We hear so much in brand marketing that we should be proactive, not reactive. And whilst proactivity is incredibly important – who doesn’t want to be the brand behind a new concept or innovation? – reacting to the marketplace and its consumers can be equally as advantageous. In most cases, reactive marketing is most successful when it focuses on humour. In an era where we thrive on roast battles and enjoy friendly ‘banter’, we admire brands who join in with this and form a community around humorous stunts.
Whilst it may seem like a risky strategy to mock another brand, for fear of retaliation, a well-executed ridicule can be beneficial to brand awareness. Over the years, Burger King’s banter with McDonalds has seen the brand go from strength to strength. Back in 2017, their #NeverTrustAClown campaign likened Stephen King’s IT to the McDonalds mascot with the Hamburg Premiere of the film ending with ‘The moral is: never trust a clown’ alongside the BK logo. And even more pivotal, in 2019, the brand revealed that every single image of a Big Whopper in their ads had a Big Mac hidden behind it! Essentially they highlighted that the generosity of their most celebrated burger can easily eclipse that of McDonalds biggest seller.
However, reactive marketing is not always reliant on light mockery, it can be responsive to a situation too. And it appears that fast food brands have instigated some of their most successful strategies when it comes to reactions. Another fast food giant, KFC, reacted to their embarrassing chicken shortage with a ‘FCK’ campaign; bringing a sense of humour to a situation which could have resulted in a much more negative backlash.
Reactive marketing has eradicated the hushed tones which were associated with mockery or outrageous stunts, disrupting the traditional retail marketing for good.
We’ve discussed the concept of co-creating in our Building Cultural Credibility piece, with reference to Away to Mars. However, active participation from the consumer is not just reliant on the fashion industry but extends to multiple sectors. Made.com is another example of how co-creation can disrupt the traditionally insular methods of ‘brand sells, consumer buys’. No-one knows better how a consumer wants to be sold to than the consumer themselves, a fact recognised by Made.com and translated into their retail strategies.
Their Made Emerging Talent Award is an annual online contest, allowing budding designers to submit their work to be voted on. If it receives enough votes, grabs the attention of the judges and ultimately wins the contest, the product will be produced and sold online within a 12-month period. It is not only a method of co-creation for the brand, but exposure for the designer themselves; building a community through positive empowerment. Similarly, another method of co-creation and inspiration is their Made Unboxed online community, a platform for customers to upload photographs of their Made.com furniture in their homes. With such limited space in their UK showrooms and with their stock constantly evolving, this concept allows the e-retailer to add some tangibility to their products without curating a physical superstore.
At one time we were accustomed to the method of purchasing items designed on our behalf, but brands such as Away to Mars and Made.com highlight that the link between retailer and consumer goes beyond functionality. Deeper connections and brand loyalty has been built on this disruption to the normal methods, allowing us to participate in the creative process and become part of the brand itself.
THE GAME CHANGERS
New brands are cropping up at every turn and we find ourselves faced with an abundance of retailers selling competitive products. When Casper launched a few years ago, they pioneered a new way of shopping for mattresses with a game changing ‘bed-in-a-box’ strategy. With full belief that the only way to truly test a mattress is within the comfort of your own home, they eradicated the traditional method of purchasing mattresses in-store and focused on an e-commerce only approach. This differentiation to the market was incredibly innovative, but their uniqueness was short-lived with many other brands starting a digital mattress business. However, Casper have releaved themselves to being more than a producer of mattresses but a form of sleep therapy for the masses. Opening a pilot store in NYC called The Dreamery, the brand essentially sold naps! Accompanied by pjs, a post-sleep coffee, eye masks and a Casper mattress, visitors to the store could indulge in a revitalising nap.
We can’t deny that the concept is a soft sell, at the heart of the store is the promotion of the Casper mattress. But the offer is so much more than a purchase, it is the chance to explore a new way of resting in an otherwise extremely busy day. Whilst we all understand sleep as part of our daily routine, this correlation between sleep and relaxation is heightened by Casper, highlighting their dedication to our wellbeing. As a digitally native brand, this experiential approach to their pilot store changes not only the marketplace but challenges their own strategy.
In an earlier insight piece, we discuss the Femtech innovation and how this has greatly impacted modern retail strategies. However, technological advancements are not the only way that feminine healthcare has been brought to our attention in a big way. As a sector, it has remained relatively stagnant for decades and women became accustomed to the same limited brands with almost identical branding and advertising.
However, a recent interested in the subject of feminine healthcare has helped push topics such as periods, contraception and fertility into the limelight; prompting much more open conversations around the subjects. The usual suspects (Durex, Always, Tampax) may dominate the space product-wise and occasionally revamp their existing lines, but it’s the newbies to the market which have stolen our attention. Brands such as OHNE, Woo Woo and Lola have stormed the feminine hygiene market and made a name for themselves with quirky branding and even an even more quirky tone of voice.
Disrupting the once-stagnant market with innovative products, these brands dispel the idea that feminine hygiene is a taboo subject and instigate more candid conversations for younger generations. Rather than sit back and watch the decline in the market, the amplify the availability of products with exciting social and physical marketing.
From food and beverage through to mattresses and feminine hygiene, there are so many markets in which brands are contesting what it is to be normal. In an overly saturated retail world, it is easy for brands to fall into the abyss, no longer capturing the attention of a consumer who is faced with a wealth of choice. And whilst the term ‘disruption’ may itself be falling into overuse, the concept is still very much relevant for those brands who want to remain relevant and engage with their consumers.
Breaking conventions increasing opportunities and we work with our clients to amplify this disruption.