Examples of Disruptive Marketing: Disruptors at Work

The word "disruptive" tends to carry a negative connotation. It might be used to describe a naughty kid who distracts his classmates, for example. Take the scenario and change the setting, though, and your left with a positive event. That is, put your company in the place of the the naughty kid. Now imagine your company in its industry, instead of a classroom. The students are now your competitors. How does your company disrupt the industry?

What is Disruptive Marketing?

What disruptive marketing does is anticipate trends before they occur. Sometimes a new product can be designed for the trend. In other cases, a "repositioning" of a product can create a disruption. Repositioning the product involves changing the consumer's perception of the product by changing its price, changing how it is distributed or changing its image. Often, it takes a bold, counter-intuitive strategy to disrupt. Let's take a look at some examples.


photo by EricaJoy

Zappos is one of the early web-era disruptors. Zappos originally sold nothing but shoes from its website. It was not a new idea. The big, new idea was how they provided customer service. Everything was designed to exceed your expectations, which wasn't something online retailers often did, at the time. Visitors would order shoes and get free shipping in 4 to 7 days. Then, the company would do everything in its power to get the shoes to you in four days or less, and it would often succeed.

These days, Zappos has a 365-day return period and returns are free. Of course, you can't scuff up the shoes all year and expect to get a refund. Still, it's a very generous returns policy. There's also an option to receive a dedicated Zappos service phone number when you sign up for their VIP loyalty program. We've never heard of anything like that before.

How is Zappos disrupting? It's offering the best customer service imaginable and constantly exceeding expectations. When the competition gains ground, Zappos just keeps innovating. It's as difficult to beat Zappos as it was to dodge that spitball when you were sitting in class daydreaming about your 5th grade crush, unaware of the naughty kid taking aim behind you.

As for advertising, Zappos takes a rather disruptive approach to it as well.

Warby Parker

Let's take a look at a more marketing-related example. Warby Parker is an eyewear company that was founded with the primary purpose of disrupting the eyewear industry which, it says, was a big ripoff. A secondary goal was to be socially responsible. To that end, the company created a buy one give one model, where every pair of glasses sold means one more pair given to someone who can't afford them, somewhere in the world. The socially responsible model isn't new, though. It's been an initiative of many companies, from Tom's Shoes to Patagonia to Whole Foods.

So, how else did Warby disrupt their all-too-ripoff-happy industry? What has really been disruptive and new about Warby Parker is it's vertically integrated, low-cost business model. The company produces its own high-quality, stylish (really, not allegedly) glasses and sells them on its super-chic website for prices far below what you'd pay at your local eye shop. Nobody else we know of will ship a set of 5 glasses to you for free, so you can try them on. That's just icing on the disruptive cake. Check it out.

In Sum

These are some of the best disruptive marketing examples we know of. Disruption still requires advertising, though, in most cases. That's where we come in. When your message just isn't "buzzworthy" enough to reach as many consumers as it needs to, call on us. We'll find your leads. Click here to get in touch.

David Kalla