Disruption doesn’t have to be as elusive as you think.
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The following is an excerpt from Sean and Thora Dowdell’s Brand Renegages: Our Fearless Path From Startup to Global Brand, out May 25 on Entrepreneur Press. Pre-order it now via Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop. Find out more about Sean and Thora at ClubTattoo.com.
Business owners who succeed in reframing their industries and elevating their brands doesn’t just refer to new businesses coming into a marketplace and doing well. For example, it’s not Kinko’s coming in to compete with Copymax in the high-speed color copying business. It’s not a new fast-food chain competing with three of the most successful disruptive chains: Subway, McDonald’s or KFC.
The food served doesn’t qualify any of these businesses as industry disruptors or brand renegades. It must have operations, structure, format,or other business functions that are dramatically different from any other fast-food chain on earth. A new business may take market share away from existing companies, but market share is not the same thing as turning an industry upside down in a distinctly successful, powerful way. Below are some examples of true industry disruptors, followed by an overview of the qualities germane to any brand renegade.
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Facebook was a latecomer to the online social media scene, but it took advantage of growing technology capabilities to reinvent how social connections were used. Then it disrupted the industry again with low-cost, closely targeted advertising. The disruption succeeded so well that it was the death knell for platforms like Friendster and Myspace.
Facebook didn’t just come in and take market share by connecting people online; it changed the way social media platforms functioned, attracted billions of users and kept them engaged for longer periods of time.
Tesla is a company that came onto the business scene with a lot of promises that many of its competitors scoffed at or simply laughed off. The mission was to change the entire world with electric vehicle technology and slow the use of fossil fuels. Its CEO, Elon Musk, had a bold vision for his company right out of the gate and nearly went bankrupt in the process.
Not only did his company end up riding out the financial storm and break the enormous barrier to invention and entry into the marketplace, but they have become the seventh-largest auto company in the world (and climbing fast). Tesla’s technology has not only changed the world of automobiles, but it is also now proving it can accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Uber transformed the public access to transportation industry in a dramatic way. Many say it hurt the taxi industry, but it also spurred the creation of copycat companies like Lyft and helped foster the gig economy. In this case, Uber found a better way of serving the consumer, which in many cases forced the taxi business to make some dramatic changes to compete.
Most Americans used to have an image of hamburgers or pizza when thinking of a fast-food chain. Not anymore. Not only has Chik-fil-A become one of the fastest growing fast-food chains in the world, but it has also done so without being open on Sundays like its competitors. Furthermore, they are competing in the standard “hamburger” space with brands such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc., with-out selling hamburgers. Its core product is breaded chicken, and their business model is 100% customer-experience based. Chick-fil-A has rewritten the book on how to create a better customer experience, showing that it can be done differently.
Airbnb disrupted the hotel and vacation travel-lodging industry. Their offerings range from rooms in private homes to entire houses for rent that are nicer, sometimes less expensive and even located in out-of-the-way places where big chain hotels may not exist. Airbnb is also known for adding the personal touch of a local guide who gives tourists advice, sometimes offers transportation to and from airports, and provides other services hotels don’t offer.
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What are some things these industry disruptors and brand renegades have in common?
- They have a true passion for their industry that drives a deep-seated need to succeed on their own terms.
- They don’t seek approval from anyone inside or outside the industry, which also means being tough enough to let criticism roll off their backs. Critics will speak loudly and repeatedly. (Note: This is not the same as refusing to seek input or advice from other experts. That is foolish. Any advice you choose to apply, however, must still fit your mentality and process plan.)
- They are willing to step way out of their comfort zone and re-create an existing business model.
- They are unafraid to act, and if that action turns out to be a mistake, they don’t wallow in fear or regret when making corrections.
- They know how to take calculated risks based on the information available at that time.
- They make affordable mistakes that won’t cause the business to go under.
- They have an in-depth connection to and understanding of their service or product that transcends “normal” business practices.
- And they see the big picture but act on what’s in front of them at the moment.
If you’re not following their example, then you’re not leading your brand into the future with renegade spirit.