Complex Made Simple

Expert opinion: Building brands through disruption

Author: Gagan Bhalla is a director at Kantar MENAP.

In today’s highly competitive marketing environment, it is not enough just to out-shout competition in terms of advertising share of voice. While building salience is important, only being salient without having relevance to consumers in a meaningful way is of no use. Brands that are salient, and at the same time, also meaningful to consumers in a manner that is different from the norm, are truly disruptive – these brands are able to unlock new value for customers and deliver a high return for shareholders.

Amazon is the archetypal disruptive brand. By making people’s lives simpler, less expensive and more convenient, Amazon has grown its brand value by 2,228%, far outdistancing the WPP BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands, which grew by a creditable 152% over the period from 2005 to 2017.

So, what do disruptive brands do differently and what can we learn from brands that have grown through disruption?

Gagan Bhalla: Director at Kantar MENAP

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Identity a latent consumer need – the starting point for most marketing disruption is to understand a key consumer need or want. The difficulty, however, lies in the fact that very often consumers are unable to clearly articulate what they desire – but in most cases, they can express their frustrations with existing products and services. Apple understood the frustration of consumers who were forced to buy expensive CDs, while they really wanted to listen to only one or two songs in an album. Identifying this latent need led to the development of iTunes, which was the first major success for Apple.

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Develop a new business model –  once a latent need has been identified, then companies need to work out how they can deliver on that need, in a way that is faster, better and/ or cheaper than the competition.  Uber and Airbnb are typically cited as disruptive brands because they came up with new business models – but they are not the only brands to have done so. Safaricom’s M-Pesa mobile wallet in Kenya is a notable example of a brand disrupting not one, but two sectors, telecom, and financial services – enabling financial inclusion for millions of consumers by allowing them to store and transfer credit via mobile SIM cards.

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Convey the message in an impactful way – brands can also grow by disrupting the communication norms within their category. Subaru has become the most profitable automotive brands in the US, in part due to the emotional connect that their “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru” campaign generated – the campaign was as much about the owners, their families, pets, and adventures, as it was about the cars, and this helped to position Subaru as a meaningful and differentiated 4-wheel drive brand in the market.  Or take the case of Emirates airlines campaign a few years back, which was all about the experience that travels to novel places brings, rather than the in-flight comfort or service levels – with an evocative tagline “When was the last time, you did something for the first time”.

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Deliver total experience to the consumer – disruptive brands put the consumer or customer at the heart of everything they do. And they are passionate about measuring and improving the customer’s experience. Emirates NBD’s Liv mobile banking app offers a total digital experience to customers – right from opening an account via the mobile app, to generating an IBAN and Swift code, getting a credit card delivered via fetchr, and having a section powered by Zomato to recommend nearby food options, it offers a totally digital user experience, specifically designed keeping millennials in mind.

From an analysis of the WPP BrandZ™ database, we have seen that, on average, consumers pay 14% more for brands that they perceive as being meaningful and different. Therefore, when it comes to profit growth, the biggest opportunity might come from targeting the right customers and then managing perceptions of meaning and difference, to drive up brand value.

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