Over the past few years, and especially over the past 12 months, the Internet has seen the growing presence of a singular form of clickbait advertising. It often features a photo of two or more millennials posing with their arms crossed in front of a brick wall, and a caption that says something like: “This (tiny, brilliant, etc.) company is disrupting a $(unverified number) billion industry.”
The companies employing this tactic provide everything from auto insurance to meal kits to investment services. But is there any truth to their assertions of disrupting multibillion-dollar industries?
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In short, not really. A website that recommends an auto insurance company (without so much as a price quote) based on statistical aggregation is not truly disruptive. Neither is an investment service whose only differentiating feature is “We have an app!” Amazon is truly disruptive. So is Uber. And Netflix and Spotify. These brands are game changers that caused a seismic shift in their industries. But take note: At the outset, none of these true disrupters pounded their chests and professed to be disrupters. Only in due time, on the basis of their proven success in execution, were they granted the title of disrupter by the public.
So why do so many new companies try to claim the label of disrupter when it’s lazy at best and dishonest at worst?
Because of the gold-lined benefits, of course. In fact, the allure of laying claim to the construct of “disruptive” is multifaceted: It is an irresistible sound bite owing to the David vs. Goliath story that practically guarantees sizable earned media coverage. Moreover, it entices speculators, who are hoping for multifold increases, to invest in the company. And last but definitely not least, it promises that customers will be big winners in convenience, savings or both. In short, it is a fast and inexpensive way to build awareness and instant goodwill in this crowded 24/7 communications world. Besides, “we the people” love it when Main Street sticks it to Wall Street.
Maybe the bait will lead to clicks, and maybe some clicks will lead to sales. But without a truly disruptive brand, these companies will fail at the one thing they think associating with “disruptive” will achieve: making them stand out. Instead of using a cheap tactic, companies should pursue a thoughtful approach, even if the ultimate goal is disruption. That’s still done the old-fashioned way, with market research, brainstorming, good execution and solid marketing – kind of like those true disrupters Netflix and Amazon.
Regardless of whether you want to be a true disrupter or just a successful brand in your chosen space, you will benefit from a branding partner who will ensure your brand communications and actions are appropriately aligned. Six Degrees works with clients around the world to strategically manage the right brand perceptions effectively and credibly.