Uber and Airbnb Prove Brand Disruption Is Not Just For Show

Guest blogpost by Dak Dillon

Every market has a leader. Whether it’s hospitality, online shopping, car parts or media, you can easily name the company with the highest market share, the company everyone wants to compete with and hopefully surpass. From Amazon to Chevy, they are usually brands that have been household names, or at least on customers radar, for decades.

As creatives, we yearn to embody the leaders marketing ability (and market share), while crafting a unique perspective for our clients and their brand positioning.

It’s never fun to follow someone else.

Sure, they may have done the groundwork for you, maybe have a marketing strategy you want to “borrow” or maybe they have the type of customers you want in an ideal world, but when does being second feel good? Enter the disruptor, brands like Uber, Airbnb and Postmates.

Just a few years ago, the word disruptor was thrown around like an overused buzzword with little intrinsic value, having lost its meaning in a tech bubble of self-adulation. Today, however, many brands have risen to the forefront, differentiating their business models and branding, avoiding the trap of complacency and bringing real value to the market. These disruptors aren’t just for show. They’re altering what’s next and where whole sectors are headed, such as Uber with its autonomous car project.

Airbnb, for example, is causing traditional hotels to quickly rethink brand engagement, with Hyatt completely relaunching its guest loyalty program March 1 as the “World of Hyatt,” aiming to offer guests more than freebies with an emphasis placed on experiences and moments. Along with this change comes a complete rebranding of design, marketing and communication, hoping to jolt a lagging hotel industry. A new logo playfully places pictures and vignettes between lettering, helping give the brand a bit of personality in an otherwise corporate and buttoned up world.

This year specifically, as our country faces challenges from multiple perspectives, brands are looking to become more than just “honest,” another phrase often thrown around in meetings and pitches. Brands are having to give a damn; taking on principles, personalities and beliefs, all accompanied by a manifesto of thoughts and voices.

They’re being challenged to take a side on major issues, speak up during injustices and become political. Brands are also having to rethink how they cut through the noise to reach audiences, as TV ratings continue to decline and major companies scale back on certain advertising methods.

Brands are having to disrupt their thinking and status quo, adapting and growing to meet constituents and consumers at their level, on their device.

It use to just be the upstarts that had to think with this mentality to gain share, but as brands focus more on having a voice, all have the chance to disrupt and reinvent.

In this new age, it’s experience first and metrics second as consumers embrace change and as the election jolts companies to find a voice.

As designers and creatives, this means thinking beyond how a campaign looks and what kind of engagement it creates. Instead, we must think about perceptions, feelings and social impact, understanding more than just “will these increase sales.”

Honesty and perception are more important than ever before, making content and proper messaging key, with the overall design helping to tie it all together.

As brands continue to find their voice, we, as creatives, can be there to tell their story with focus and clarity. Help be the disruptor by taking brands to that next level of engagement, where nothing is safe or sacred.


Dak DillonDAK is the principal and creative director for Hub & Spoke, an award-winning digital creative agency. Dak also serves as managing editor of NewscastStudio, a trade publication covering the television creative services sector.