When to disrupt

This month

When to disrupt – Breaking patterns and creating strategic change.

In this month’s Patterns of Business, we explore why understanding where your business and brand currently sits in the Risk, Trust, Status Quo (RTS) change cycle, has never been more important.

We’ll share an overview of what RTS is and give some classic examples of brands that failed (and succeeded) in responding to that cycle of change. Also, how the current health, cultural and economic crisis has impacted the acceleration of this cycle. In simplest terms, the Risk, Trust, Status Quo pattern is underpinned by evidence that if brands only go through evolutionary (and never revolutionary) change cycles, they have significantly greater risk of brand and price denegation or even becoming obsolete/irrelevant.

RTS is about how to understand whether you are in a:

Risk cycle – Disconnected brand idea, competition is superseding and sales collapsing.
Trust cycle – Loyalty is high, differentiation is strong, margin is protected.
Status quo cycle – Competition is infringing, stand out is failing, discounting is growing.

Patterns of progress

Successful brands follow this pattern again and again. They’re able to identify the moment when trust begins to slide into the status quo and explore the need to revolutionise and increase risk rather than continue to evolve.

Blockbuster, Dove and Vodafone – two classics and a current example.


Dove – continuity in product, brand revolution

When it comes to rejecting the status quo, taking risk and moving into trust, redefining the category on the way, Dove’s Real Beauty campaign is the classic. Before this campaign, health and beauty brands relied on picking apart women’s flaws to sell products. But Dove rejected this completely, opting instead to empower women with real, relatable role models.

Blockbuster – Failure to revolutionise the model, brand irrelevant

On the flip side, there are the brands that fail to see it’s time to change, or simply refuse to. Back in 2004, Blockbuster was patting itself on the back for successfully making the transition from video to DVD in all their stores. Meanwhile, a tiny start-up was shipping DVDs directly to people’s homes, on the lookout for the next big thing. And when a new technology became viable, Netflix was ready. They took a big risk in moving away from their already successful business model, swapping mailing movies to streaming them.

We’re probably all familiar with the tale of Blockbuster CEO John Antioco rejecting a partnership offer from Netflix, calling it “ridiculous” and “too niche”. Netflix is now worth an estimated $125 billion, and Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Vodafone – Evolving a brand to stay current

The brand left behind its famous ‘Power to you’ campaign, and their revolving rhombus brand mnemonic, opting for an optimistic take on what the future may hold with ‘The future’s exciting. Ready?’ Championing “Future Optimism’. The new visual identity will place much greater emphasis on Vodafone’s iconic ‘speech mark’ in the biggest change to one of the most recognisable symbols of Vodafone since the ‘speech mark’ logo was created in 1998. This new campaign taps into the positive impact emerging technology and digital services can have on people’s lives, and on a larger scale, the potential it has to transform society for the better.

Changing patterns of behaviour and accountability through Covid19 and Black Lives Matter

There are brands that have navigated this storm well. Nike released a campaign encouraging people to play inside with the words: “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance.”And there were those who didn’t do so well. For example, the tone-deaf plea from billionaire tax exile and Virgin CEO, Richard Branson, who asked the government to bail out his airline.

When the murder of George Floyd prompted thousands of Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations around the world, there were brands who took a stand. Ben and Jerry’s released a powerful statement emphasising the “urgent need to take concrete steps to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms”. Lego donated $4million to the cause and asked stores to remove police officer sets from their shelves. But there were many who missed the mark, responding with meaningless quotes, black squares on Instagram or not responding at all.

As brands behave and are judged increasingly like people (and people like brands), existing in the same spheres, engaging in the same way (sharing and creating content), they become evermore accountable for their behaviour – in the same way people are. Evidence of group action to perceived poor behaviour by business has been everywhere, as we move through this cultural, economic and health crisis. Brands doing good are feted and lionised, brands doing wrong (or seen to be doing wrong) eviscerated. The Cancel Culture that so dominated the news agenda at the end of 2019 has expanded and deepened to create a society of consumers that are willing, ready and able to hold brands to account. This is putting a clear Environmental Social Governance strategy at the top of the agenda for business and brands everywhere.

We’re not going to labour the point. But in era-defining moments like the one we’re living through, the chance to step back, take stock and re-evaluate shouldn’t be overlooked.

See some examples of our work here, Or email us if you are interested in where your brand is sitting in the Risk Trust Status Quo cycle. We are always happy to share ideas and experience…

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