Trump and Hooters both use disruption and provocation to increase their brand exposure.

Regardless of what you think of them, or if you agree with their world view, you know who they are, and you know what they stand for.

Disruption has become a bit of a business buzzword. We hear it all the time, and it’s often used to describe game-changing companies that have obliterated their competition with a disruptive business model. Think of Uber for example. Does anyone even take a cab anymore?

But a disruptive business model and a disruptive brand are different. Uber’s tagline of “where technology meets logistics” is hardly eyebrow raising. Its brand promise is one of convenience and reliability, not disruption.

So what does a disruptive brand look like if one of the hottest and most disruptive business models we have ever seen isn’t one?

To show what we mean, let’s take a look at Hooters, the controversial but nevertheless highly profitable restaurant chain.

Hooters business model is no different than that of Chili’s, there is nothing earth shattering or disruptive about another medium priced wing and burger joint, but the Hooters brand is very different. It’s “in your face,” so to speak, and they are a disruptive force within their industry because of it. Hooters brand value is its biggest asset. Burger and wing joints sprout up and fail every day, but Hooters restaurants stay open due to their brand. It attracts a certain type of clientele and pushes others away. They know that, and are ok with that. More than ok actually, they actively pursue polarization as a strategy.

Donald Trump is a disruptive brand as well. Not his business’s brand per se, but his political brand. Many people are bewildered by his current lead in the polls, but any brander isn’t. He’s brash, opinionated, transparent and unapologetic. In short, he’s disruptive because he is the polar opposite of what we have come to expect from politicians.

Whether one agrees with his stance on social issues or proposed policies is largely irrelevant to his popularity. It’s not what makes him stand out. Many of his republican challengers have similar stances on immigration, economics, education and so forth. He’s nothing new in that regard, but he IS in his no-filter approach to politics. The difference is that The Donald is different, even if his words leave a bad taste in your mouth and make your temperature rise.

A disruptive brand challenges the status quo, and as such, will ruffle some feathers. It isn’t a strategy for every company and it looks different in every industry.

When analyzing whether disruption is a direction to take your brand, you must ask yourself these 4 critical questions:

  1. Are you comfortable being a disruptor? Meaning are you ok with not being liked? Even having some people despise what you stand for? It’s an important question, because if you can’t handle the heat, you should get out of the kitchen. If your business model doesn’t require lots of customers to like your brand, but instead requires a select few to deeply love it, then being disruptive, being provocative might be a great strategy.
  2. What does a disruptive look like in my industry?” Disruption in the restaurant industry looks like Hooters, but what if you are an accountant? What does disruption look like there (probably not like Hooters)?
  3. What brand message is disruptive? This is a challenge, but if you can identify how to say what no one else is saying, you WILL get noticed, and your brand will gain a tremendous amount of exposure.
  4. What does disruption look like visually? Being disruptive means looking different from your competitors, and one of the best ways to stand out is through color, typography and design. If you look vastly different from your competitors, you will stand out, and peak curiosity. Why is this brand so different? This jarring disruption of our visual process can be a powerful tool for differentiation.

The bottom line is disruption isn’t for everyone, but it might be for you, and if it is, it can be a powerful strategy for your brand. You may not like Donald Trump or Hooters, but you can’t deny that they each have raving fan bases, and it might just be the strategy for you as well.

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