How existing brands can survive in the age of disruption

by Dr Ken Hudson

Published on
September 9, 2016

Digital disruption is everywhere.

The taxi industry has been disrupted by Uber, likewise the hotel industry has been challenged by Airbnb.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now anyone who has $500 or so, a large dollop of imagination and can solve a consumer problem in a powerful way can potentially disrupt any incumbent brand or business.

This begs the question.

What can existing brands do to meet the challenge of disruption and how to go about it?

There is no sure-fire success formula but there is one strategy that can greatly increase the chances of not only long-term survival but new ways to grow.

It’s called reinvention.

The approach takes what has worked in the past, rearranges the pieces, then adds something else to create a fresh and new proposition.

Think of how Lego has reinvented itself.

Or how Cirque du Soleil has reinvented the circus experience.

Or how Dyson has reinvented every category it has entered – fans, hand-dryers, and now hairdryers.

Let’s take McDonalds for another example.

In the past 20 years it has reinvented itself numerous times.

When they introduced the Breakfast Menu, for example, they built on what existed and was working (e.g. the store locations, staff, brand design etc) and mixed it with some new items (e.g. a new menu, opening hours, advertising etc).

Hence they had reinvented themselves and in the process had created a new offering and revenue stream.

They then repeated this process with Drive Thru, McCafe and Create Your Own Burger campaign.

The great advantage of this reinvention process is that it continually develops new ways to grow and engage a customer base using existing assets.

I believe the lesson of McDonalds reinvention is one that any leader of an established organisation can copy.

How and where to start to reinvent a product, brand or business?

The reinvention journey begins by asking 3 questions:

  1. What should we not change?
  2. What can we let go of?
  3. What now can we reinvent?

In the McDonald’s example the leaders decided that they should not change their store layout, company name, branding, locations etc.

Yet they could let go of the mindset that they were only a hamburger business that was open at lunch and dinner-time.

This is a crucial question because it often means letting go of what has been successful in the past.

Answering the first two questions meant that the McDonald’s leadership team could reinvent their menu, opening hours and create a completely new eating experience for their current and new customers.

Reinvention is everywhere.

Think of how the leaders of the game of cricket have reinvented their 100 year old game (e.g. 20 – 20 Big Bash) or lawn bowling (e.g. from an boring, slow game for older people to a fun, different experience at birthdays or corporate events).

Products, brands and organisations all have to be continually reinventing themselves if they want to survive and flourish.

Want some other examples?

Think of how Madonna is continually reinventing herself to ensure her continual success and longevity.

It’s a sign of the times as we as individuals also have to reinvent our careers again and again.

Reinvention, I predict, will become the new buzzword in marketing, advertising & communication circles. It reduces risks and builds on the organisation’s current assets to generate growth.

If you are an established business or brand leader and you are not doing it you will be disrupted!

Dr Ken Hudson

I help leaders to create, reinvent & disrupt.

International Author, Facilitator & Speaker