Brands And The Ability To Devastatingly Disrupt

Mark Di SommaMarch 11, 20154562 min

Last year on Branding Strategy Insider, Thomson Dawson wrote a provocative and challenging article about “devastating innovation”. Brands that weren’t prepared to innovate far beyond their comfort zone, he suggested, would be devastated in the blink of an eye. What’s more, the fallout from such innovation would reach far beyond immediate competitors to wither those who never would have imagined they were at risk.

That fallout, he suggests, can even be unplanned by the companies themselves. “Google Maps wasn’t originally created to help people find their way – it was about gathering more information about users to sell more search based advertising,” Thomson reminds us. “I don’t think the innovators of Twitter had any idea their innovation would become the de facto method for breaking news, leaving powerful and influential media companies flatfooted.”

I’ve always been of the view that the most powerful industry change happens with, or makes, a powerful brand. And I found an article from some years back that posed some fascinating and timely questions. Written at the height of Apple’s brand popularity, the article asked whether readers would like the iPhone as much if it had come from Redmond instead of Cupertino?

Take a current Microsoft product, writer John Dvorak suggested in the piece, and ask yourself how you would feel about it if it came from a small start-up with a trendy name? Now, take the same product and ask yourself how you would feel about it if it were from Apple? Now take a product that is successful for another brand, and ask how would you feel about it if it had come from Microsoft?

The clear implication is that the impact of a radical change is governed as much by the brand as by the idea itself. Innovation for an ill-positioned company will simply not deliver what’s expected in the vast majority of cases because there is no market affinity – and without market affinity, without the goodwill of consumers wanting to see a brand succeed, chances are the innovation, no matter how brilliant, has a greater likelihood of being lost in the crowd or simply failing to gain traction.

It’s interesting that companies like Apple have seldom been first to market with what they do – but they have always made sure that when they do hit the shelves they are best to market, and their approach works because the market expects that from them. Arguably, enough consumers are inclined to believe that an Apple product will be amazing for that to become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

What devastating innovation can your customers expect to see from you next? And what, if anything, do you need to do to change their inclination before it’s released? Because without a devastating brand, your groundbreaking change could start out already blunted.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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Mark Di Somma


  • Debbie Schallock

    March 12, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Excellent post Derrick! You really got me thinking this morning. While I do agree with you 100%, I do also believe there is an opportunity for an unknown company brand to catapult itself into the brand-o-sphere by developing, communicating and positioning a “devastating” product or service. It’s in our digital DNA due to access, depth, breadth and reach.

    • Debbie Schallock

      March 12, 2015 at 10:20 am

      My apologies! I must properly credit the original author – Mark Di Somma. Derrick Daye shared your article on LinkedIn. Suffice it say, it’s now the inspiration for my next blog post.

  • Bill Bender

    March 12, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Geoffrey Moore’s classic “Crossing the Chasm” series depicts the strategy of second-to-market and best-to-market companies. ( ) Watch and learn from the first-to-market companies, then hit the larger “early majority” market with the improved/perfected technology.

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