Our daily lives are driven by repetition – what we have for breakfast, the way we travel to work, and what we watch on TV.  And while we tend to make considered choices when first considering a product purchase, over time we can develop purchase habits out of inertia or a desire to keep live running smoothly. A BrandHook study estimates that almost 60% of us tend to stick to a brand or product once we find it.

It’s these habits (which shouldn’t be mistaken for loyalty) which in part allow big brands to maintain their market superiority. So the question for smaller businesses is, how to disrupt ingrained buying habits?

“Good habits, once established are just as hard to break as are bad habits.”

— Robert Puller

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen suggested in his 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma that start-up enterprises can challenge established companies through a concept known as disruptive innovation.

When we talk about marketing, we so often default to considering the visible advertising and promotion, so here are a few examples which can show you how you can use some of the other Ps of the marketing mix to disrupt your market.

Change the packaging

Rafferty’s Garden is a familiar product to any parent. The range of baby food designed in 2007 by Adrian Pike pioneered mess free packaging, backed by a low-additive approach. From the beginning the packaging diverged from the ubiquitous and inconvenient glass jars into convenient self-serve squeeze packs for smaller children which could be taken anywhere.

Pike who had worked in hospitality, developed the range with food technologists and child nutritionists which also served to widen the market – attracting parents of older children looking for a convenient and guilt-free treat. By 2012 Rafferty’s Garden was estimated to have 35% of the of the $117.7 million wet baby food sector in Australia and has recently been acquired by PZ Cussons.

Change the place

Looked for a new job recently? Chances are, you found it on Seek.  15 years ago Seek took advantage of consumers adoption of the internet to change the way we look for jobs, taking classified job listings away from newspaper networks like Fairfax and putting them online.

Interestingly, while Seek reportedly has a 75% market share, it is itself now being forced to react to disruption from Linkedin, the world’s largest online professional network where over 60% of Australian professionals have a profile. Linkedin has leveraged our natural inclination to network and recommend friends. In particular, the social network is allowing companies to bypass recruiters and form direct relationships with potential employees, and critically are able to access people not yet actively engaged in a job search.

Change the price

Warby Parker has disrupted the prescription eyeglasses market with a very carefully thought out pricing strategy. Previously consumers were a captive market, forced to purchase each pair of glasses from an optometrist at a cost upwards of $400.

Working with the Wharton Business School, the team analysed pricing models and demand in order to determine a price point of $95 for any pair.  This price was set with both an eye to perception (any lower and consumers would doubt the quality) and to provide a sufficient margin to allow them to have the capacity to invest in a wider range of marketing activities including the funding of their buy-one-give-one program, where each pair of glasses purchased results in another pair being donated to charity.

Another benefit of the $95 price has been that customers are able to make their purchase decision about personal style and statement rather than price, and are therefore more deeply engaged in the process – a great precursor to loyalty.