Ensure your success by adding just a little bit of disruptiveness

We love success-stories. Furthermore, we would love to be part of one. We would love to be part of something unique, maybe even something close to impossible. Many of us dream about becoming rainmakers, disruptors that change the rules of the business.

”Disruptive business” and ”disruptive business model”. These are well establihed concepts in the business vocabulary followed by names such as Airbnb, Uber or my absolute favourite Spiber. These brands have managed to shake the foundation of a whole category. They actually create new categories and make established business models look old-fashioned and dull. And yes, most of the businesses that are considered disruptive are connected to digitalization which has allowed them to re-think the ways they reach out, innovate and serve their audiences.

Most businesses are, however, taking just the very first baby steps towards digitalization. They have a day-to-day business to run, physical products to ship and big investments to amortize. The owners and the management are usually smart people. They do not neglect the thought of jumping on the digitalization-train but they need to find ways to fund the trip. This often requires a healthy cash-flow from the existing business.

What these businesses really need to do is to be just a little disruptive in whatever they do.

My point is, not everything we do needs to be hugely disruptive or something totally new. We don’t have to turn everything we do upside down. There are small, inexpensive and innovative ways to stand out and win over the competition. I give you just one example: Clipper, the tea-brand.

Clipper’s website says it like this: ”before Clipper, the world of tea looked very different”. In 1984 two tea fanatics Mike and Lorraine Brehme decided to change the name of the game. Until then we Europeans were pretty happy to submerge a bag of Lipton into our tea-mugs. Not much inspiration came from this as Unilever didn’t really do much to elevate our tea-experience.

So what did Mike and Lorraine do? They simply communicated their passion for tea by ensuring that their clients would have the best possible tea-moment. They paid attention to the core of the brand: the product. They chose the best possible incredients and wrapped it in non-bleached tea-bags so that the bags wouldn’t release any disturbing flavor into the tea.

The couple boldly stated they would never add anything artificial to their drinks. Ever.

Mike and Lorraine also made it very clear that the taste alone wasn’t going to be enough for them. They considered it their duty to improve the lives of the workers on the tea estates. And please note: this was in 1994 when fair trade was not a very well-known thing. Clipper was in fact one of the first companies in the UK to receive the Fairtrade Mark.

Mike and Lorraine were disruptive in their way of acting.

It was in 2008 that I got to know the brand. The playful and self-secure packaging stood out on the shelf and a new type of naming put a smile on my face: ”Organic Sleep Easy” promised to help me calm down after a hectic work-day and ”Happy Mondays” anticipated my Monday moods.

The company knew how to talk to its audience and how to create disruptive packaging.

I am not the only one who has bought into this brand: Clipper is now the sixth biggest tea-brand in England and it has established its presence in many grocery-stores in more than 50 countries.

Systematic branding that is based on a well-considered value proposition can add enormous value to any company: disruptiveness simply means that people focus their time and creativity on doing things a little differently.

If you think of Clipper, this approach proves to be a winning concept: nothing they did was out of reach for any competitor. The competitors just didn’t have the vision nor the consumer insight to think ”outside of the cup”.


You might also be interested in reading my previous posts:

This is how branding icon Marc Gobé kicked off my career
Warm, competent brands win big. Social psychologists explain why
Why a great brand story is just as important as a great product

More about my thoughts on branding at www.co-founders.com or on twitter @co_founders.
Happy to co-create and co-operate!

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