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How Disruptors Are Killing Big Brands

By Kevin Simonson, CEO/Co-Founder, Metric Digital

Disruptor brands are taking share from established brands for two reasons.

  1. They’re better at performance marketing
  2. They’re better at user experience

In this article, we're going to unpack both of these reasons.

THESIS #1: Disruptor brands are usually not product inventors, they're performance marketing innovators.

If you think about it, none of the cpg disruptors invented anything:

Harry’s didn’t invent razors.
Hubble didn’t invent contacts.
Warby Parker didn’t invent glasses.
Quip didn’t invent the electric toothbrush.

And yet, big brands are losing the performance marketing battle for the same product, sometimes with the same packaging, even the same website. Media have been talking about this extensively for the last year. Just read some of last year's headlines:

Financial Times: Consumer goods: big brands battle with the ‘little guys’

Forbes: Sucker Punched By Retail Disruption: Can Big Consumer Brands Reclaim Market Share?

Digiday:
DTC brands chart the way forward for the industry

AdWeek: These Direct-to-Consumer Brands Are Disrupting the Beauty Industry

So what’s different? 

They’ll tell you themselves: Disruptor brands are good at performance marketing

The Cofounder of Keeps, a men's hair loss treatment product, even said on stage at a recent conference that 80% of their customers come through paid Facebook and Instagram ads.

In fact, numerous disruptor brands are working with agencies owned by WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, and Interpublic. These agencies buy ads, but they don’t do performance marketing. (By the way, doing paid ads on Facebook does not mean performance marketing.)

Here's another reasons disruptors are killing big brands: Most large brands drive “Reach & Awareness” as an objective, whereas disruptor brands focus on “Conversions” as an objective.

As an example, here’s Metric Digital's client spend by Facebook Objective:

Disruptor brands achieve this objective by using conversion creative that’s always on. Whereas most big brands, especially CPG brands, flight media spend for weeks/months at a time, but their products address issues that happen at all times.

Simply take a look at a few of their ads:

This is creative that converts, and we know this because we manage accounts for disruptor brands just like the ones above. (You can read more specific tips in our exclusive Ad Creative Playbook!)

In fact, in many disruptor Facebook/Instagram accounts we manage, there will be different objectives, account structures, bidding strategies, and targeting methods for Disruptor media buying.

Okay! Now that you've seen how disruptor brands are usually not product inventors, they're performance marketing innovators, let's move into my second thesis for why disruptors are killing big brands...

THESIS #2: Disruptor brands know it's a better user experience to purchase things online

Take hair loss, building on the Keeps quotation from above. Buying hair loss in public is quite different than private. Keeps and their competitor Hims deliver in non branded packaging, because consumers don’t want other people to know they’re losing their hair, or buying products to help alleviate such sensitive problems

Or take traveling abroad, building on our previous post about Jen Rubio's online class on direct to consumer marketing.

Away Luggage is a company that focuses on solving every problem in the travel experience. Their team understands the nuances and context about their consumers' behavior when they are traveling, from what happens when people land to what is the first thing travelers do in their hotel room. 

No wonder Away’s built in washable laundry bag and phone charger on the suitcase make for such a disruptive experience. Samsonite never thought of that. 

Away didn't need to invent luggage, they just need to identify gaps in the user experience of buying it, and create a brand that helped fill them in a way that appealed to a new generation of travelers.

# # #

FINAL QUESTION: What can big brands do about this situation?

Three solutions: Crawl, Walk, Run.

1. Crawl:

Most brands already are.

2. Walk:

Move in house and/or partner. Start with one brand like and test the disruptor media buying strategy, optimizing toward online sales. (Read our post about shifting from agency to in house!)

3. Run:

Build and launch disruptor brands. Use the incubator as marketing R&D that has the potential to be a revenue driver.

Metric Digital not only powers marketing for the best, most disruptive D2C ecommerce brands, but we also consult with Fortune 500 and legacy brands on how to protect themselves from being disrupted. If you'd like to learn more about how your brand can take its share of the pie through performance marketing, contact us here!

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Thanks!

Kevin Simonson CEO & Co-Founder, Metric Digital The Metric Digital Blog A Blog on All Things Digital Marketing