• Phil Roos

DisruptorID: Consumer Expectations With Staying Power

Those of you who follow our work or have worked with us in the past know that we start every project with a question: how is your world going to change and be disrupted? Even on smaller scale engagements, we deeply explore the external shifts and dynamics that are emerging around any given ecosystem – and how those impact the people (potential customers) within it. This is the disruption analysis work I've discussed before, called DisruptorID. The approach goes deep and broad, including mining shifts in the cultural landscape, analyzing deal flow (big M&A and under-the-radar VC investments), conferring with experts, consumer social listening, and finding compelling cross-category inspiration.

We've been doing a lot of DisruptorID work recently, across a range of categories, from CPG Food, Beverage, and Pet Care, to Food Service, Health Care, Tech Accessories, Apparel, and Nonprofits. When we look across these areas, some common themes have emerged, despite the breadth of products and services we are studying. What we are seeing is that some themes, while not necessarily new to the world, are showing particular staying power. They have become something around which consumers have specific expectations, regardless of the category. Two of note I want to share with you:

  1. FROM BRAND COMMUNITY TO PARTICIPATIVE ECONOMY – The advantage of building brand communities is well documented; we talked about it ourselves in this blog post penned last year about making your brand irreplaceable. But with the digitization of everything, how that happens is an entirely new ballgame. No longer is this just about traditional programs focused on garnering awareness and brand loyalty over time. Communities today are built agilely via the digital world (social media, influencer impact, and the right messages). It is about more than just bringing the consumer into YOUR orbit. It is about an all-encompassing relationship, unifying, optimizing, and digitizing the entire consumer experience. Think participation, gamification, live streaming, always-on interactions, etc. In reality, the pandemic accelerated consumer adoption of digitalization, and brands that aren't fully engaged online with consumers may likely fall behind.

  2. MAKE IT BETTER – Consumers’ increasing expectations (and demand) for corporate leadership and impact will lead to a new economy around sustainability. Consumer movements around transparency, circular processes, corporate accountability, etc. will continue, with these efforts eventually seen as antes. But brands and organizations will have to play a bigger role, moving past "easier" sustainability challenges in the product lifecycle (recycling, improved production methods), to fully driving efforts upstream. In food and apparel, this may mean supporting regenerative farming, soil enrichment, watershed preservation, carbon drawdown, etc. and making it part of their new way of doing business.

A NOTE ON UPCYCLING: Food waste upcycling has experienced significant innovative strides in just the last year or two. ReGrained, using upcycled, spent grain from the beer brewing process to make snack products, is a recent example. An estimated 1/3 of global food production is wasted each year, with serious implications for food insecurity, management of resources, and environmental impact. Consumers' expectations around sustainability and all that encompasses make this an intriguing area rich with innovation potential across categories.


These are just two themes that we see playing out across many categories, at various rates of acceleration.


DisruptorID captures these themes (areas of energy) to build future scenarios and implications customized for each client. The work provides a lens into emerging opportunities and compelling grounding for innovation and other strategic growth initiatives.


As an aside, the MAKE IT BETTER area really resonates with me as a hands-on conservation advocate, but is also important to GrowthWorks in how we view our work and mission as a firm. Look for some big news on this front coming in future blogs!