Earlier this week we shared a great post on Facebook from Marketing Week that explained what it means to be a disruptor, with insights from six market disruptors themselves. Being a market disruptor is all about changing the game, setting the agenda for others to copy, and meeting needs better than they’re already being met.
That sounds a lot like innovation, doesn’t it? Though upfront they may sound like the same thing, innovation and disruptive innovation are quite different. The definition of innovation is simply “a new method, idea, or product,” which means that a company that comes up with a new way of doing things is an innovator.
Where disruption comes in is in just how different your method, idea or product is and whether or not it has the ability to change the industry itself. As Forbes writer Caroline Howard puts it, “Disruptors are innovators, but not all innovators are disruptors.”
Airbnb is a great current example of a disruptive innovator. Where websites like Expedia and Hotels.com once changed the market by offering a new source for booking hotels other than the hotels themselves, Airbnb took the idea of travel lodging and completely spun it on its head to create something nobody had seen before – an online service that doubled as a way for apartment owners to earn extra money by renting their space short-term, and an alternative to staying in a hotel for travellers on a budget.
Not only did Airbnb acknowledge a number of societal pain points and establish ways of alleviating them, they did so in a way that was different – and potentially better – than what was out there. This created a whole new market of people willing to rent their living spaces for nights or weekends at a time, and people willing to stay in a stranger’s home instead of at a hotel.
There are a number of online services similar to Airbnb that have started to fill this new market of renters and travellers, but none quite so well known among consumers as Airbnb, the original disruptor. Excellent branding, timing, and partnerships are to thank for that. Airbnb’s long list of strategic partners include the American Red Cross which has helped deliver emergency preparedness training for hosts, Lollapalooza who created a contest where Airbnb hosts could win VIP passes to the festival as well as a private concert in their Airbnb-registered home, Virgin America which granted flyer points to guests and hosts who used Airbnb through the brands’ joint portal, and many more.
So while at the heart of disruption is innovation itself, innovation becomes disruptive when it’s taken to that extra level, leveraging multiple channels to create something so unique that a whole new market is opened up, and success begins to flow in.