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.