What does it mean to be a disruptor?

In the first of a six-part series in partnership with Salesforce, we talk to six executives from six disruptive brands about the disruptive mindset.

Identifying gaps the incumbent fails to see and transforming the market with a game changing concept are key to becoming a disruptive brand with the ability to stay ahead of the chasing pack.

That is the opinion of six executives from six of the 100 Disruptive Brands, a list of companies blazing a trail in their respective sectors unveiled by Marketing Week in partnership with Salesforce earlier this year.

“Being disruptive crucially means setting the agenda other people try to copy,” says James Kirkham, chief strategy officer of football content creator Copa90.

“Disruption isn’t just doing things in a different way that doesn’t resonate or go any further or becomes a one off, because that’s more of a gimmick. Being disruptive is about changing the game.”

For Stephen Rapoport, founder of coffee subscription service Pact, being disruptive means looking at an industry and forging a new way that gives you an advantage over the current players.

“For Pact disruption means taking a look at existing coffee brands and existing retail and consumer needs, and seeing if we can meet those needs better than they’re being met by incumbents in the market.”

Co-founder and CEO of credit check company ClearScore, Justin Basini, agrees that a disruptive brand has to be able to identify a new opportunity the established brands fail to see.

“A disruptive brand goes in and sees a new proposition in the market that can either deliver distinctive value or do something that’s already being done, but do it so much better to create disruption in that market and value for the user.”

To find new solutions disruptive brands need to look at the market from a fresh perspective argues Kirsty Emery, co-founder of online knitwear company Unmade. “The way we do that here at Unmade is by having a team full of lots of people from different backgrounds.”

Andy Hobsbawm, co-founder and CMO of software company Evrything sees opportunities for disruptors to identify the needs of an ever changing market and then meet those needs more effectively and with better focus.

“There are un-met market needs that incumbents can’t address because they’ve grown so broad in their approach to the market that they’re missing those fundamental pockets of need.”

At Push Doctor real disruption means changing behaviour long-term, which founder and CEO Eren Ozagir hopes to do through its network of on-demand doctors.

“A disruptive idea really is the thing that changes peoples’ habits and that can be really powerful. You see people taking Uber rides, that’s a total habitual change, but at Push Doctor we’re doing that next level of disruption, it’s how do we save people’s lives.”

Uber and Airbnb were also cited by Salesforce marketing leader (UK & Ireland), Emma Chalwin, as disruptors who have taken risks to change the game long-term.

“To be a disruptor in today’s evolving world you really need to not be afraid to take a risk. Some of the best innovators and disruptors in the world have had that passion, tenacity and vision, and have never deviated away from the true core of their business.

“Brands such as Airbnb and Uber are perfect examples of where someone has come in, disrupted and completely turned that industry on its head.”