The author will expand on these issues and concepts at NEXT - Presented on a Virtual Platform, June 1-3.

A single abbreviation was written high upon the whiteboard, functioning as a keystone to support all the rest of the conversations the strategy group would have that week: KETO.

As I entered the CPG company’s conference room that morning and turned around to face the workspace they’d occupied the prior session, it was clear from the previous day’s brainstorming that this brand team knew WHAT was disrupting their business. The newest food fad, the Ketogenic diet, was clearly the major disruption on their minds and was the call to arms for the breakfast industry. The Keto diet called for a complete elimination of sugars, a staple of most of this brand’s products. It was easy to pinpoint the major trend sweeping over the cereal business these days, but it was also clear from the team’s scribbling below the main headline that finding a path past Keto was challenging and not as easy as stating the main disruption they were facing. 


It was easy to call out the disruption. It was monumentally harder to know what to do about it. How should the Insights team design the next 12-24 months of insight gathering, and what should they take back to their teams to help them plan out research objectives that might unlock the key to combating this disruption?

It doesn’t really matter what industry you are in these days; disruption is a major force you are likely dealing with.  It could be a disruptive trend, like Keto, a disruptive company that’s come to take your market share and erode your margin, or a disruption in how consumers behave that has dried up your previously generous revenue streams. Something out there is likely making you think long and hard about how you deliver your core product to your core consumer, and this “disruptive” force likely occupies a large amount of your research bandwidth.

However, we’re willing to bet that for all the talk about disruption within your organization, there’s probably a lot less real, focused action.

Through a multi-phase research endeavor of our own, the team at 20|20 discovered that brands are great at calling out the major disruption; they can identify it, quantify it, and fear it, but they fail to understand it.  They fail to understand what to do next to combat these challenges in the marketplace because they’re so focused on the major disruptive force – the company who disrupted the industry or the major shift that changed consumer preference. 

Through our work with hundreds of disruptor brands, and just as many disrupted brands, we’ve learned that disruption doesn’t actually come from the major, clearly identifiable shifts in consumer preferences. Disruption starts with minor shifts in consumer behavior that are trained expectations borne from other verticals or industries. These “ripples” of disruption start in an adjacent space in consumers' lives and ripple out, affecting the expectations of customers in a variety of categories.

At 20|20, we’ve worked with the worlds’ leading disruptive brands to define five core disruptive forces.

• Serve the segment of one
• Know the story, have a villain, be the hero
• Earn it every time
• Eliminate friction
• Own the experience

These ripples of disruption are the 20|20 framework we use to understand not just the major disruptive force in an industry, but also the lenses we use to focus on the minor ripples that permeate the consumer experience.

For example, when Netflix taught all of us that media and entertainment can ‘serve a segment of one,’ we began to expect all kinds of companies to tailor their products just for us as individuals. This expectation didn’t stop at entertainment, but eventually became an expectation of products and services far outside of digital media.

Using the disruption framework we’ve developed, we help companies navigate past the easy-to-identify macro tends like Keto and get underneath to the minor shifts in customer expectation that led up to this major trend – in a way they can capitalize on. While Keto might be the headline, we help brands understand what underlying expectations from other verticals support the growth of the Keto movement, what new ripples might be setting new expectations for the coming years, and how to use this insight to boost business. 

In my online session at NEXT, June 1-3, I’ll dive deeper into the ripples and share a live case study, leaving with you an understanding of how to identify the most relevant ripple for your brand, effective approaches you can employ to better understand each ripple, and how to build a research plan that will capitalize on disruption to drive growth.