How does market disruption occur? Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t begin with technology. For every super successful company, there was nearly always someone who did the same thing before. For YouTube, there was Shareyourworld. Before Dropbox, there was Microsoft SharePoint. And before Uber, there were plain old yellow cabs.

What allowed these brands to blossom into household names and disrupt their markets even when they weren’t first? The answer, at least in part, is their use of disruptive storytelling.

This is the process by which you reset the public narrative by telling a new story—one that makes your competitors look obsolete—and align your product with that story.

Here’s the formula:

  1. Tell the old story
  2. Tell why that way is deficient (highlighting people’s frustration with it)
  3. Suggest a solution

Now, you could suggest your product as the solution, but then the idea won’t travel quite as far. It carries an inherent bias. Instead, suggest a solution in broad terms.

Take for example how Salesforce turned a disruptive story into a multi-billion dollar company.

How Salesforce Made it Big

When Marc Benioff left Oracle in 1999 to found a competitor, Salesforce, he didn’t want to just promote the idea of cloud-hosted software: he wanted to own the narrative. Unlike Salesforce’s new cloud-based solution, Oracle’s software had to sit on servers in clients’ offices, and Benioff highlighted that difference by inventing the term “on-premise.”

By promoting the idea that on-premise was inefficient compared to the cloud, Benioff put Oracle in a semantic box and forced Oracle’s sales teams to fight an uphill battle explaining why on-premise wasn’t so bad. Whenever customers thought of anything other than on-premise, Salesforce was top of mind. With disruptive storytelling, Benioff took a huge bite out of Oracle’s market share and Salesforce has grown to a $65 billion company.

Now, not all marketers have the resources, the network, or the writing chops to engage in a large-scale propaganda effort like Salesforce, but that’s part of the value of disruptive storytelling: it’s viral in nature. Once you plant the idea that whatever already exists is ineffective, word spreads—and fast. It becomes the zeitgeist in your category, and people begin seeking out solutions like yours.

And today, with the speed at which word travels online, it’s easier than ever, and more and more companies are doing this via video manifesto. Let’s look at a few.

Meet the Video Disruptors

Dollar Shave Club – Who really needs ten blades?

Perhaps one of the greatest disruptive videos ever to strike the consumer space was Dollar Shave Club’s “Our Blades Are F***ing Great.” Released in 2012, CEO Michael Dubin hits the nail on the head by calling out the veritable nuclear arms race of razor features with his line “Do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a backscratcher, and ten blades?” Beyond its humor, the video made a relevant point that landed well with audiences: old razor companies are expensive and unnecessary. According to Entrepreneur, within 48 hours of its release, the video netted Dollar Shave Club 12,000 new customers.

Airbnb – Why settle for ‘stay’ when you can belong?

What did we used to do before Airbnb? Oh yeah, we’d rent hotel rooms or vacation homes. But there is something disjointed and impersonal about staying somewhere new and exciting with people you don’t feel connected to. If you’re in Tokyo or Paris or Sao Paolo, and your first welcome is from an uncaring attendant, it dulls the shine on your vacation. What if there was a way to stay more cheaply with locals and feel more connected? There’s now a market for that in the ‘space sharing economy,’ aka Airbnb. With Airbnb, you stay with friendly people who offer local tips. “We imagine a world where you can belong anywhere,” their video says, and with that message, they’ve disrupted the hospitality industry and now boast 90 million users in 34,000 cities according to AdAge.  

Oscar – Wait, you can’t text your doctor?

There are few processes that are more arduous and more painful (no pun intended) than navigating the U.S. healthcare system. With most insurance, if you aren’t feeling well, you have to drive to see a doctor and wait in a waiting room with hundreds of other potentially sick people before someone with a medical degree can tell you, “You’ll be fine, just take some Tylenol.” But, what if you could reach your doctor like you reach your friends, and just text them? That’s Oscar’s answer.

What’s your story?

What really sets these video disrupters apart, aside from the success that’s so obvious in hindsight, is that their disruptive message isn’t partial, it’s total. Expensive razors, impersonal hotel rooms, and waiting at the doctor’s office are dysfunctional and unnecessary. If the consumer believes that, there’s no going back.

So, what’s your disruptive marketing story? How are you redefining your category and putting the competition on their heels? Better gather your team, craft that video, and join the ranks of the disruptive video marketing greats!

Chris Gillespie