Business Operations: Building a Disruptive Brand, Part 6

Brands that rise to the top of their industry are the ones capable of operationalizing disruption throughout their business operations.

In the final installment of this six-part series, creative strategist Tyler Leahy suggests healthy habits that hopeful disruptive brands should bake into the way they do business — spanning company culture, to goal-setting, to customer feedback, to operational analysis.

These healthy business operations habits require the entire company to operate with an entrepreneurial mentality. Becoming a disruptive brand requires a day-in, day-out commitment to innovation!

Alas, the final installment of my series for second-stage companies looking to grow disruptive brands. Links to all parts can be found here! Thanks for reading.

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Qualitative Research, Done Right

Part 3: Study the industry academically

Part 4: Audit your own company

Part 5: Big adjustments, minimized risk

Rinse and repeat
You can’t do a deep dive once, and hope for the best. If you want to disrupt your industry, this thinking needs to be baked into the way that you do business.

Operationalizing disruption is the best way to keep it going (you may find the flywheel concept to be a helpful framework). Here are my recommended steps, which will engage your whole team.


Collect multiple forms of feedback from existing customers on a regular basis — not just about their customer experience, but how your product or service fits into their lives, their unmet needs, their buying habits, and their preferred methods of communication and media consumption. Incentivize this audience in ways meaningful to them. Feedback vehicles could include:

  • Social media dialogue (response to customers’ private messages or public commenting)
  • Surveying through a loyalty program or email list
  • Interviewing particularly loyal customers 

Complete an annual brand, marketing, and customer experience competitive analysis of your industry. That whole learning process we talked about? Your team needs to be chipping away at it on a rolling basis to keep a pulse on where you are, and where you need to go. Otherwise, it will be too easy to fall behind. 

Create internal processes for new insights to be shared with your whole company and keep the communication lines open with everyone — not just the executive team, the CMO, or the head of sales.

Re-grade existing products annually on how well they’re meeting customer needs. 

Maintaining a clear vision and mission

  • Determine your non-negotiable brand values, even if aspirational, and re-evaluate annually.
  • Set criteria for your ideal retail partnerships, and use the criteria to vet opportunities. Re-evaluate criteria and existing partnerships annually.
  • Constantly re-assess your ability to fulfill your vision and mission, annually or more frequently. This will require company-wide input.
  • Re-sharpen your partnership pitches to be in service to your vision and mission on a rolling basis.

Launching new offerings

  • Start with “why” when assessing product details for new offerings — from distribution model, to pricepoint, and profit margin — to branding, packaging, and promotion. Every decision needs to have a clear reason.
  • Test all new products in a familiar market, collecting customer feedback, before a mass-market launch.

Playing offense

  • Set aggressive goals (quarterly, one-year, three-year, five-year)  and use timelines as accountability tools.
  • Build company culture standards and business operations processes that drive innovation, assigning employees to assess effectiveness going forward.
  • Attract talent interested in doing challenging work for a mission-driven, scaling brand. Doing transformative work isn’t for everyone!

The takeaways

There’s a lot to do! No doubt about it…but this is it what it takes in your business operations to think and act like a highly disruptive insurgent brand. The good news is, it’s doable.

Have questions? Ready for a rebrand, but not sure where to start? Send me a message. Thanks for reading!

Strategic Moves: Building a Disruptive Brand, Part 5

Disruptive brands make substantial adjustments when they’re needed, but they do so carefully through strategic moves that minimize risk. Never bring a product to market without testing it in a familiar market, or without the confidence that product quality and consistency will not be an issue.

In part five of this six part series, creative strategist Tyler Leahy explains how to bring your well-informed brand adjustments to market with strong returns.

Need a refresher? Say no more: 

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Qualitative Research, Done Right

Part 3: Study the industry academically

Part 4: Audit your own company

Make big changes

One of the most remarkable traits of disruptive brands? They make big 
adjustments over time as they continue to learn, but they do so carefully through strategic moves that minimize risk. 

If you know the target customer, you know the state of the industry, and you know what brand you’re building and why, all of this plays to your advantage when making changes. 

The below to-do list? It’s part of what all insurgent brands have in common. 

Here’s what you do:

  • Test new products or modified products in your most familiar market and do extensive testing in that market before launching mass-market. This is called shopper visibility.
  • Ensure scalability before growth. Get quality control down before introducing a new product to your entire distribution network.
  • Focus on hero SKUs“. Build your products with maximum profitability. Create buzz for these select offerings through consistent quality and product memorability. Avoid product complexity too early in the life cycle as you build consumer mindshare.
  • Build brand ambassadors through targeted marketing and earned media, maximizing your limited budget.

Here’s what you don’t do:

  • Rush products to market. It only takes one mistake to cut down your brand.
  • Bring a product to market if it’s not scalable, or keep it out in the market if the quality is a serious concern.
  • Assume that more is better. Having “more” products doesn’t necessarily strengthen your value proposition to distributors, retailers, or the end consumer.
  • Spend on mass media exposure until you can afford it, are prepared to expand your brand’s audience, and are prepared to expand distribution.

The why

Playing offense, as all disruptive brands do, requires strategic moves through a game plan. To disrupt your industry, you need to be ambitious, but you also need to shield yourself from vulnerability. Test your products in the marketing you know best before a full launch. Even after the brand began to get traction, Noosa continued testing products in the Denver metro area, refining as needed, and then taking them national. At the time of its first big break with Target, Noosa remained focus on just five SKUs it knew were primed for success.

The whole purpose of all of this action, after all, is to scale. If a product isn’t scalable and you know it, don’t try to scale it. Figure out how to make it scalable, or focus elsewhere.

If you know your target audience, the good news is you should be able to spend less on marketing. In the early days, Halo Top promoted trial through highly-targeted social media ads that put coupons in the hands of the fitness buffs they needed product trial from. That was the extent of their marketing at first, and these strategic moves worked.

The takeaways

You’ve been really patient and calculated in your learning. Now be thoughtful about what you’re bringing to market, and how. If you have a product you stand behind, and you follow these steps each time you launch a new offering, or to a new market, you’ll be confident about the likelihood of success using these strategic moves. 

Company Audit: Building a Disruptive Brand, Part 4

Step three towards becoming a disruptive brand and a market disruptor, after you’ve researched your primary target customer and become a student of the industry, is to complete a company audit.

Everything you control that affects the value proposition of your product or service should be analyzed at this time — from the business plan to operations to brand identity, messaging, and product positioning.

In part four of this six part series, creative strategist Tyler Leahy outlines how to audit your brand, your operations, and the customer experience effectively.

Need a refresher? Say no more: 

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Qualitative Research, Done Right

Part 3: Study the industry academically

Always look inside

Study your company through the lens of what you gleaned through qualitative and
quantitative research. Maybe you’ll find that your product or service offerings need tweaking. Or that operations needs a process overhaul. Or, perhaps, the entire business model needs to be revisited…and that’s not necessarily cause for panic.

Everything you control that affects the value proposition of your product or service should be analyzed in your company audit — from the business plan to operations to brand identity, messaging, and product positioning.

Here’s what you do:

  • Naturally, start with the business plan. Based on what you learned, does your mission hold up? How about your vision? If the answer is no, begin to engage your leadership team in a larger discussion about what fundamental changes are needed, and what time frame is appropriate for working on that shift.
  • Audit your brand, holding up your own brand standards against the research you’ve collected. Now’s the appropriate time to challenge these standards. Is this really impactful on the audience we just learned so much about? Why or why not? How does our creative, our voice, our brand presence evoke a different feeling than our competitors? Great brands are the summation of very calculated decisions that all work together towards the same goal.
  • Audit operations. Brand and operations naturally intersect (packaging, for example, or even customer service). Are your operations driving your brand’s aspiration, or holding it back? Is your vision following through to execution, in packaging, branding, and voice? If you’re still unsure, conduct focus groups, customer surveys, and customer interviews.
  • Create a rubric for your products or services, and grade against it. Are they meeting the needs of your target audience? Why or why not? Are there gaps a new development could fill?
  • Gather employee feedback. Treat them like the experts you want them to become. Listen deeply. What observations do customer-facing employees have? What questions do back-of-the-house staff have about considering the customer in their own roles? How will making significant changes affect team morale, positively or negatively?

Here’s what you don’t do:

  • Panic or make knee-jerk changes. If you’re the founder, this will be particularly difficult — but any big changes to your way of doing business should be given a realistic timeline and communicated clearly to your team, just like any other critical project. 

  • Discredit the brand equity you’ve already built. There are many factors to consider before jumping into a complete rebrand, if you decide that major leap should be considered. 

  • Weigh brand over operational cost, or vice versa. The two can coexist, and you can make smart brand decisions without breaking the bank when you have the right information.

  • Forget your competitors. Hold their products up against the same rubric, if you think it will help. If they receive higher marks, you know your team will have work to do.

  • Favor certain job functions or titles. Again, innovation requires a company-wide effort. 


Why: If you’re growing a company, you understand how leadership, brand, and operations interlock. They’re not stand-alone efforts. They’re interrelated — and by completing a company audit, you can make an action list for improving the whole.

The takeaways

You’ll likely walk away with a laundry list of action items from your company audit. Make a priority list or pecking order. Make a project plan, with a process for addressing each area of need. Assign project leads. 

Assuming that there’s substantial work ahead, use this as an opportunity to rally the whole company around a common cause. 

If your brand is in a place of uncertainty right now, this step will help you work towards certainty.


Need some entrepreneurial resources? Feel free to contact us! We have a library of tools, programs, and systems that we use with our clients, and with our own team. 

Industry Landscape: Building a Disruptive Brand, Part 3

Your customers can tell you why they buy, but they can’t tell you how the industry landscape is changing, which conglomerates are entering the market to steal market share, or what the biggest threat is to your profit margin.

To be an insurgent brand and a market disruptor, your company must be a student of the industry, all the time.

Part three of this six part series by creative strategist Tyler Leahy focuses on how to observe the market and the competition once you have already done research to gain insights about your target customer.

This is part three in a series of six about what it takes to be an industry disruptor. Need a refresher? Say no more: 

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Qualitative Research, Done Right

Market trends, untapped opportunity

Changing market trends keep many of us awake at night…but they also present untapped opportunity. If you truly want to disrupt your industry, it’s your company’s responsibility to have an ongoing industry pulse. Forecasting “what’s next” requires being a student of the industry, all the time.

Why: If you can compare what buyers are saying with the inner workings of your industry, you’re essentially reading between the lines. Sometimes that in itself presents the opportunity.

Here’s another food example (food is particularly trend-driven). Noosa Yoghurt founder Koel Thomae was already passionate about her idea of bringing an Australian favorite to an American audience when Noosa was launched in 2010…but she knew the business opportunity by understanding what was happening in the yogurt product category.

“Everybody is doing Greek yogurt, as it’s what has driven the growth in the category. But people want to try something new.” — Koel Thomae, Dairy Reporter, 2015



Chobani had paved the way for Greek yogurt; droves of other brands followed. Greek yogurt became a saturated category subset, quickly. Industry insiders were looking for “the next big thing,” and consumers were, too. That’s where Noosa’s timely disruption came in, by design. 

Your customers can tell you why they buy, but they can’t tell you how the industry landscape is changing, which conglomerates are entering the market to steal market share, or what the biggest threat is to your profit margin. 

  • What’s the five-year industry outlook? 
  • Where are competitors investing for the future, and why? 
  • What are the most prevalent talent and resource gaps? 
  • What are the industry’s current “best practices”? 
  • What media is your target demographic consuming? How is new technology influencing their buying behavior? 

Here’s what you do:

  • Make a list of common practices shared across the industry and hold it up against the qualitative data you’ve already collected. What do the inconsistencies tell you? How can they help you forecast what’s ahead? Where are “best practices” failing to make consumers happy? 

  • Embrace cognitive dissonance. You’ll likely find conflicting information when researching, which will be good food for thought for you and your team. 

Here’s what you don’t do:

  • Make on-the-fly changes. Just study. You’ll be taking action soon! 

The takeaways

By also building traditional quantitative research into your business’ culture and comparing it with qualitative data you collect by talking to your target audience, you’re seeing the whole field.

Building a Disruptive Brand, Part 1

Small consumer brands have more opportunity than ever to challenge category leaders for market share. Leading brands have more resources, but they’re often still slower to innovate or adapt to change in consumer behavior.

Researchers like Bain & Company and David Morey have followed the behavioral patterns of the most successful industry disruptors to uncover what they all have in common.

In a six-part series, creative strategist Tyler Leahy breaks down the playbook you should follow if you want to be an insurgent brand and market disruptor.

Insurgent brands are disrupting left and right, by seeing what’s hidden in plain sight.

Amazon. Tesla. Noosa. Halo Top. Impossible Foods. We can all rattle off disruptive brands. They’re fascinating, and they’re idolized in our business culture.

Their secret to brand building? Not so secret after all. They’ve exploded by nailing really simple brand-building tactics that we all know, and fail to execute to perfection.

These industry disruptors, now coined by researchers as “insurgent brands,” have patterns in their behavior we can learn from. Collectively, these insurgent brand patterns come together as a playbook of tactics you can use in your own business.

Insurgent brands \ in-‘s∂r-j∂nt ‘brands \ n: Dynamic brands with a clear vision and an entrepreneurial mission, committed to fulfilling an unmet need

Researchers like Bain & Company and David Morey have captured a mountain of data, case studies, and findings. I’m making it digestible and giving you tasks to bring back to your team.

If you own or manage a small company trying to claw your way to the top of your market — locally, nationally, or even globally, this six-part article series will outline everything you need to know to get started…

And why do all of the hard work I’m about to detail in the next five articles? So your brand can be the next major disruptor in your market.

Before we jump into all of the work you need to do, here’s what all highly industry disruptors have in common:

1. Commitment to fulfilling an unmet need. 

To insurgents, product or service differentiation isn’t a marketing gimmick; it’s integral to every business choice made.

2. Clear vision and mission. 

Utmost clarity (and teamwide transparency) of entrepreneurial vision and company mission are critical if you’re trying to achieve insurgent status.

There’s a balance to strike. Insurgents make informed growth decisions and exercise restraint when needed. At the same time, they maintain a willingness to “break the rules” in their category, innovating in line with company vision, mission, and consumer behaviors, (not with the competition).

Fueled by continuous learning about the customer, they challenge their own assumptions and adapt accordingly.

3. Playing offense. 

Insurgent brands don’t wait for market change and then play defense. Rather than fall victim to market trends, they create market trends, putting to use all that they’re learning about their customer base and the market segment. That’s how they aggressively carve out market share.

4. Brand memorability. 

Build brand advocates, at a low cost. Insurgent brands maximize limited marketing budgets by hyper-focusing on a core customer base, which drives word-of-mouth recommendations within that customer base (and beyond).

5. Shopper visibility. 

There’s nothing wrong with testing and refining products (or services) in the marketplace while building consumer advocacy. That’s what shopper visibility is all about — and insurgents use it to maintain high price points and retain control over their brand, before hitting national or international distribution.

6. Focus on “hero SKUs.” 

More products don’t necessarily mean better products, or a more compelling value proposition to retailers or to end-users.

In scale-up mode, successful insurgents are aware of this and strongly emphasize a few select “hero SKUs,” instead of trying to grow by launching more and more new products (or services).

The benefit? A simple value proposition, and the ability to maintain a high price point.

Seem like a code your company can live by? You might be cut out to disrupt after all. But there’s some up-front work to do before implementing this model.

Step 1? Do the right kind of research.

Six-Point Creative’s flagship brand development program, Solve for Y, builds authentic brand identities and educates organizations on how to strategically implement them.

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