Appetite for disruption: The secrets of building a disruptor brand narrative

Who doesn’t admire companies like Airbnb, Netflix and Spotify?

The reason they are so admired by customers, employees, investors, the media and society in general, is because they’re disruptor brands. They’re not just better than their competitors, they’re fundamentally different. They’re more than just faster, cheaper and easier, they’re solving a problem we didn’t even know we had.

That’s the narrative we all carry around in our heads about these winning brands. And today, it’s probably the most powerful narrative on which to build a brand. The market share and growth of these companies are all the evidence you need to know that.

To become a brand that transforms our world, you will need a disruptor brand narrative. This is the methodology that we, at Brands2Life, use to do that.

Better is good – different is even more important

Increasingly, brand narratives are not just about positioning a company or product but how it is re-inventing a category. Better is good but different is the most important element. That’s how ‘category kings’ are built.

So, the starting point, says Brands2Life Co-Founder, Giles Fraser, is the business proposition itself.

“You can’t build a disruptive brand narrative without a fundamentally different way of going to market. The businesses that make the most noise today have revealed to their customers a need they didn’t necessarily know about and that can be delivered in a better way.”

World-leading AI-driven cyber security company Darktrace (a Brands2Life client) is a case in point.

Brands2Life Managing Director, Business & Technology, André Labadie says, “Darktrace’s business proposition is based on a ground-breaking insight that has challenged the way people see cyber security: The baddies are already in organisations’ technology infrastructure. So the solution is not about keeping them out by building bigger fortifications but minimising the threat already present. And because there are so many threats coming in, humans can’t handle it – you need AI.”

Solving a problem that customers didn’t think they had or showing them a better way are both great starting points.

Sometimes, these can take some drawing out.

“Your proposition may be totally original,” says Giles, “or it may be that you need to take an element of the business proposition and ‘supersize’ it.”

Delivering a societal good is also an increasingly critical factor in the core of the business proposition. If a brand wants to drive market share and brand loyalty people need to know that some of their money is going to make a difference, whether that’s reducing carbon emissions, helping the disadvantaged or supporting local suppliers.

Bringing the proposition to life

With this established, the next step is what many experts call creating ‘The Point-of-View’ (POV) or manifesto. This is crucial to the brand identity and strategic execution.

The POV articulates what is wrong in the marketplace today, why your product is different and addresses the problem, and how it will change the world. It connects on an emotional level with new employees, customers and investors. And a great POV can put you in a space all by yourself.

Giles says, “This is really answering the question: what do we stand for? The best brand ideas often boil down to just two or three words. The POV is designed to bring that to life.”

This is the start of building an identity, which includes a visual as well as verbal identity but most crucial of all includes a compelling disruptor brand narrative. This is the basis of how your brand will be communicated and understood in the market.

“The narrative itself needs to demonstrate the creative tension between the challenger brand and the established competition with the beleaguered customer in the middle ready to be saved. It’s an old-fashioned ‘knight-to-the-rescue’ scenario refashioned for the business world,” says André.

At its heart is the use of language and ideas that consistently challenge people’s perceptions about what they should expect. And this must be carried through with an iron discipline into messaging.

André says, “The narrative is the platform on which many stories can be told, so it has to be both strong and flexible enough to do that. The stories must also always ladder up to the brand narrative so people understand the essence of what you are about.”

Cloud computing company VMware (also a Brands2Life client) is a great example of this. The company was born as a way of helping companies optimise their use of IT servers. It has long championed how its technology reduces carbon emissions, energy and money and in recent years has really ramped up its commitment to be a global force for good (telling really powerful stories around how it’s doing this).

The big moment arrives

You are now ready to start disrupting, or even creating, your category.

At this stage, everything you do has to be different. On an on-going basis, your communications strategy and execution should be as surprising and ambitious as the business itself. Some of the marketing and comms should embrace different platforms and techniques from the competition and feature some content that people wouldn’t expect from brands in that category. Cut-through is crucial at every step.

And here is some simple-but-wise advice: in your first year, create just one or two ‘purple cows’ as marketing author Seth Godin describes them. Create show-stealing, big moments that introduce your proposition in a way that no-one will miss.

Remember, this is your moment. It’s about focusing on creating impact that leads to change.

Today, this is the fastest and most effective path to becoming a ‘category king’.

To find out more, or discuss how Brands2Life can help your organisation create a winning brand narrative, get in touch [email protected]

Missed the first article in the Comms Thoughts for Brands Transforming our World? Catch up on Building the right team to step up on digital, where Brands2Life’s Kinda Jackson, MD of Social, Digital and Influencer and Armand David, Managing Director, Applied Innovation share their thoughts on the roles and skills brands need in a world-class social team.