Knowledge Bomb No. 12 - Appetite for Disruption


In this, our 12th edition of Knowledge Bomb. we’re delving into some of the more interesting tactics disruptor brands are using to carve out their niches. We looked at brands from a variety of sectors - from alcohol to financial technology - to uncover the underlying principles that underpin their marketing strategies. What we’ve found is that irrespective of industry, there are common themes that most disruptive brands seem to follow. Without further ado, here are our top three learnings from these new age challengers.


Whilst mainstream incumbents generally tap into non-traditional channels as a bolt-on to their bigger traditional media heavy campaigns, disruptor brands eschew this route to build the brand almost solely using content on these platforms. A key component to how smaller disruptors build buzz is by conveying a distinct sense of personality and thereby humanising their brand (which generally comes with the territory of positioning themselves against the bigger corporates). Challenger brands rely on owned channels and earned media to achieve this through a combination of storytelling and content. Some of the biggest disruptor brands that are now household names like Netflix and Airbnb built their brands exclusively using a word-of-mouth marketing and PR strategy on their owned and earned channels. Another benefit of taking a digital-heavy brand building approach is the rich data that the brand can leverage to identify and reward your ‘super-advocates’. Money remittance disruptor Transferwise uses their database of users very effectively to measure the ‘viral co-efficient’ of their consumers, and then rewards them with non-cash promotions. A non-traditional mindset also means disruptor brands collaborate with influencers in authentic ways to co-create meaningful content to embed their position into the communities they’re striving to reach.


Smaller disruptive brands don’t just innovate with their products and positioning - they extend this ethos to their experimentation with digital and social platforms. Not only does this approach give visibility to a brand in a less crowded space, but also earned PR by virtue of breaking new ground. Fashion retailer Asos achieved this by hosting the first ever shoppable Google Hangout. The hangout featured tips and inspiration, whilst blending in links to their products so participants could buy seamlessly. In a similar vein, Airbnb was one of the first brands to use Vines in a unique way in 2013 to cultivate UGC via their “Hollywood & Vines” campaign where they created a short film composed entirely out of six-second loops submitted by users. The film, which revolved around travel and adventure, even showed on the Sundance channel: watch Hollywood & Vines by clicking here.

match up partners

Smaller, challenger brands might not have the money muscle to broadcast their presence on a large scale, but they are nimble enough to craft highly effective partnerships with other brands and influencers that share their brand values and world. And sometimes, these partnerships aren’t just about common sectors like a food brand with a drink brand, but reflect the common values between them. A partnership between Meantime Brewery and Brompton bicycles illustrated this when the two “specially crafted” brands joined forces to produce a limited edition beer and bike that reflected each other’s ethos. Pact coffee used the partnership mechanic to signal their push for helping develop the specialty coffee scene in the UK via their partnership programme to support small, independent coffee shops.

We always say what we think. We’re always happy to take gambles. If we don’t like something we’ll call it out and say what we believe in. We’re a little bit rebellious and anarchic but it’s all done with a cause.
— JamesWatt, Co-Founder, BrewDog


It may be trite to say that new strategies, channels and influencers have fundamentally upset the marketing applecart - but it doesn't make it any less true. By focusing on commercial objectives at the outset and crafting a strategy to achieve those goals, marketeers can free themselves to find disruptive routes forward that are both cost-effective and deliver demonstrable brand and business benefit.

Which is precisely what Inkling does for brands as diverse as EA Games, BBC, Bluewater and Pernod Ricard. Through a deep understanding of the key trends, passion points and sources of influence, we establish genuine value exchange between our clients and their audiences.

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