How Industry Disruptors are Influencing Big Brands

Industry disruptors are not afraid of massive change.

Henry Ford is quoted as saying that if he asked the average American what they wanted when he first came up with the idea of building a car, they would have told him, ‘Faster Horses.’ Disruptive innovation, as a term, has been around since business competition was a phenomenon. A business disruptor, according to HuffPost, is a type of innovator, but one that changes the way we do business in a particular industry. They are the visionaries that shape a market around a completely different idea of how that industry should function.

The most efficient way for a disruptive business to make an impact on their industry, according to Inc. is to change how consumers think. Successful disruptors make customers notice that, just because they have been doing something a certain way for as long as they can remember, that doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient way to do things.

A perfect example of a disruptive company that has shaped major brands around its ideas is Tesla, which has fueled automakers’ interest in electric-powered vehicles. Many smaller companies have earned their place into the public eye because of how well they disrupt business within their industry. Here, we’ll explore a few of them.

1. Netflix

When the concept of Netflix first arrived, the idea of streaming media over the internet was not even a consideration. Instead, it competed against massive chain-stores such as Blockbuster for movie rental income. How they disrupted, the industry is a classic case study in making the consumer rethink how they do business. As the Australian Institute of Business notes in their Netflix profile, the company initially started off using new technological innovations such as the use of express post to compete against businesses that were dominant in their industry.

But technical innovations alone don’t guarantee success. It was the existing consumer base that Netflix forged through their movie rental business that enabled them to displace the current overlords of home video through their on-demand streaming service. Companies wanting to compete with Netflix now have to face them on their own ground. However, while Netflix still holds sway over a large volume of the market, competitors are rising on the horizon, most importantly, Disney and HBO, with their own original content.

2. Airbnb

A common adage is that a business can’t look to the future unless it understands its past. Airbnb managed to do both, and that’s why they’re currently the most disruptive enterprise to the traditional hotel business. Ad Week mentions that Airbnb’s success comes from their ability to provide a human need that wasn’t being addressed.

In the case of Airbnb, it’s the need for travelers wanting to experience living like a local instead of going to an expensive boutique hotel. Airbnb serves that purpose and offers travelers accommodation with such an affordable twist that more people can now afford to travel and experience things they would never have been able to before.

3. Uber

Some people don’t consider Uber to be a disruptor, but it has undoubtedly shaken up established taxi cartels around the world. Forbes notes that municipalities control taxis and artificial scarcity drives up the cost of public transport in cities.

Uber turns this idea on its head, linking drivers who want to get paid with people who want to get where they’re going without having to pay an eyeball for the privilege. Uber’s success again stems from giving people a service they want. It’s the perfect example of what a supply-and-demand based system works on. Based on the number of taxi associations that have started protesting Uber’s legitimacy, it’s definitely disrupting the taxi industry.

4. Spotify

The music industry has seen its share of attempts at disruption. When CD’s came out, they upset vinyl records. When MP3s became a thing, they disrupted the CD market. Spotify capitalizes on the tendency for the music market to embrace new, more convenient technology by allowing users to build their own playlists, stream them anywhere they go, and even share them with others in a social environment.

Spotify offers features consumers expect from their music provider, and by doing so, according to Harvard Business Review, they could become a thorn in the side of established music providers like iTunes.

Seeing Disruption as a Necessary Evil

Nothing lasts forever. Even the grand Roman Empire faded into obscurity with time. The only thing that persists across all eras is humans’ need for experiencing something new. It’s what drives innovation.

Curiosity and the need to see what happens if we do something different is what enables us as a species to survive, thrive, and innovate. If anything, industry disruptors are the purest expression of the human need to experiment. The disruptors of today will be the industry leaders of tomorrow.