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Business as usual can be bad for business. This is why disruption and innovation often go hand-in-hand. Companies that are willing to take risks and make radical decisions make history.

What does it mean to deliver business disruption? Disruptive brands are the rebels that challenge industry norms with new ideas, enhanced brand content, and services. They make waves and find success in uncharted waters.

To deliver disruption means a brand isn’t afraid to launch something unconventional to expand their brand’s influence, grow their revenue, and reach new heights.

So, our hats are off to these five brands that delivered business disruption over the past year, leading the pack, paving the way, and kickin’ butt while making an impact.


The growth of e-commerce is unstoppable.

In the wake of a pandemic-driven boom in e-commerce and increased social media consumption, online sales skyrocketed in 2020. Consumers spent a massive $791 billion online with U.S. merchants. Online sales now represent almost 20% of all retail spending. And, in the middle of all this growth has been the rise of social commerce.

US eCommerce vs Total Retails sales chart

What is social commerce?

The concept of social shopping developed from the earliest days of social media. Pioneer platforms quickly discovered the potential in turning the user’s social engagements into revenue. And soon, all social media companies followed with new ways for social shopping

Today, customer shopping trends have evolved to include social commerce.

Studies show people are more comfortable buying items through a social media platform or from someone else instead of directly from a company’s website. Poshmark is a platform for doing just that, connecting buyers to sellers and fostering social interaction in the same place.

Woman sitting in a tree.

Poshmark supports sellers with big dreams.

While some big social brands are losing engagement and trust, Poshmark is establishing confidence with its users with enhanced brand content. In Spring 2021, they announced the Poshmark “Heart & Hustle Community Fund.” Poshmark gave 500 thousand dollars to over 150 sellers who have sold items on the Poshmark platform.

So, they’re just giving away money? Not quite.

These grant funds are given to Poshmark community members to support their business goals and help them achieve their dreams. Sellers apply by meeting eligibility criteria, which requires creating 60-second videos to tell their stories. Winners are selected by the Heart & Hustle Community Fund Executive Committee, which includes Poshmark executives.

You might be wondering, "How is the Heart & Hustle Community Fund going?" A quick online search shows thousands of applicants sharing videos about their experience selling on Poshmark. This campaign hasn’t just funded dreams, but it’s created valuable user-generated content (UGC) for Poshmark.

What makes UGC so compelling? Because real customers create UGC. Research from TurnTo suggests that 90% of shoppers make a purchase decision based on user-generated content. Seeing content from genuine customers serves as social proof that a brand is credible, trustworthy, and worthy of a purchase.

An example of business disruption is the rise of ecommerce.

Build trust without the gimmicks.

Today’s brands often look for influencers and promotions to appeal to new online audiences. But, customers want authenticity. 90% of consumers say authenticity is important when choosing brands to support and buy from. So, how do you show that you genuinely care for your customers? Invest in them.

Poshmark is using its revenue to inspire customers to buy and sell on their platform and curate authentic brand content in the process. By showcasing real sellers, selling real things, and telling their stories for the Heart & Hustle grant, Poshmark is simultaneously increasing its brand trust while also supporting its customers in an impactful way.


Workers feel burnout amid uncertainty.

The past few years have been rattled by uncertainty. Beyond the enormity of a global pandemic, millions of Americans filed for unemployment benefits, parents coped with unreliable childcare, and people are concerned with making rent, paying bills, and surviving.

So, it’s reasonable that many of us are feeling some level of stress and anxiety, leading to burnout.

What does burnout look like?

Employee burnout doesn’t happen overnight. And, unfortunately, there’s no easy fix. Employee burnout is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that begins during long periods of constant and unrelenting stress. Think: toxic work environment, workplace inequality, global pandemic stress, etc. (You see where we’re going here?)

a close up of an employee experiencing burn out

Burnout renders you feeling depleted, discouraged, and downright depressed.

While workplace burnout has been a common problem for decades, the prolonged mental anxiety and pressures due to recent events have been a tipping point leading to higher levels of employee burnout. This is a critical problem across all industries. Indeed’s Worker Burnout Survey showed that over half of employees are experiencing burnout in 2021—up from 43% in the pre-Covid survey. Yikes.

Burnout affects the bottom line.

Many companies overlook workplace burnout or shift the responsibility of prevention to employees. But, workplace burnout can negatively affect a business. Exhausted and stressed employees don’t perform well, and they often quit. Replacing an employee can be costly (up to 213% of an employee’s salary) and companies risk losing top talent.

Enter Stage Left—The Great Resignation

Data shows that pandemic-weary employees are now leaving their jobs at some of the highest rates ever. According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index report, some 41% of the workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer in the next year. One of the main reasons? Employee Burnout. It’s called the Great Resignation for a reason; great employees are leaving.

It’s time to try a different approach. To retain talent, you need to put people first.

Relax and recharge, brought to you by LinkedIn.

While most companies were addressing employee burnout with a single day off for “mental health,” LinkedIn went even further, being the first company to initiate a whole paid week off to help encourage workers to unplug, relax, and recharge.

Paying your employees an extra week of PTO can be a considerable expense. So, how did LinkedIn make that decision?

LinkedIn didn’t come to this decision overnight. They did an internal analysis and spent time surveying their workers during the pandemic to find out how they felt. What did they find out? Workers were stressed, anxious, and burnt out.

LinkedIn met their employees’ needs by giving them time to decompress, relax, and disconnect, so they could return to work more committed, focused, and engaged. And it worked. Their earnings in 2021 have increased 46% from the prior year.

Empathy matters.

“Employee engagement” isn’t just a buzzword term. The benefits of employee engagement are almost unmistakable. Engaged employees perform better, work harder, have lower turnover, and increase profits. So, how do you keep them engaged? The answer is through empathy.

90% of employees in a recent study say empathy is essential, yet only 68% felt their organization was empathetic, despite 90% of CEOs believing their organization is.

Over 90% of employees say empathy is essential for organizations, but in 2020 only 68% felt their organization was empathetic. At the same time, 90% of CEOs believe their organization is empathetic. As you can see, there’s a bit of a disconnect between leadership and employees, contributing to higher turnover.

Either way, you can’t ignore the importance of empathy to retaining top talent. Businesses that align to the values of their employees retain and engage their employees.

Employees want to be part of organizations that care about their total well-being during uncertain times, from physical wellness to mental health to financial stability. Creating a company culture of empathy is the first step.

LinkedIn took a chance on empathy, and it worked.

03—Ulta Beauty

Consumers crave sustainable goods.

As instability persists, people consider what is important. We ask ourselves, “What values matter to us? Do we want our purchases to align with those values?”

Across all industries, it’s been loud and passionate, “Absolutely.”

Woman farming in a field.

Consumers want to see brands commit to environmental sustainability, and this past year has been a turning point. The effects of climate change are rearing their ugly head across the country (wildfires and hurricanes, to name a few), and consumers are motivated to change their habits to help the environment.

Does that mean customers are buying less? No, not at all. But, it does mean that they’re buying differently.

A good product is no longer good enough. Consumers want more than a good deal. They want products that align with their values. The McKinsey State of Fashion Report indicated that 66% of all respondents considered sustainability as a factor when making purchase decisions. And environmental sustainability is a value that is becoming increasingly more prominent amongst consumers.

The prominent beauty leader makes a bold move.

This year, Ulta Beauty went from America’s largest beauty retailer to the first beauty brand to launch a sustainable beauty platform.

With so many online platforms out there, what does an eco-friendly beauty platform look like?

Ulta Beauty partnered with Loop and created an online marketplace featuring beauty products in returnable and reusable packaging. Considering that beauty packaging is one of the most significant forms of waste polluting our oceans, this is a tremendous step towards a sustainable future.

Today’s product launch leads to tomorrow’s cleaner future.

It’s easy for a brand to commit to reaching sustainability goals in a decade. It’s harder to make immediate changes to your operations for a business transformation today. That’s why Ulta Beauty’s actions speak volumes about what they’re willing to put on the line in the name of its brand goals.

It’s not just about one product launch, but Ulta Beauty’s commitment towards sustainability has been pervasive throughout their organization. They’ve pledged to ensure 50% of all packaging sold in every part of their stores will be made with recycled or bio-sourced materials by 2025.

As environmental conditions exert a stronger influence on buying decisions across all industries, companies must invest in enhanced brand content and sustainable innovations to be more resilient in the long term. Ulta Beauty showcases a commitment to pivoting to a new demand for sustainable beauty. For them, when consumers spoke, Ulta Beauty listened.

04—The BodyShop

Jobseekers seek inclusivity.

One of the biggest challenges for most companies right now is finding employees. People want to work, but do they want to work for you?

Woman wearing a headdress and looking into the camera.

Today’s job seekers are looking for companies that provide more than a paycheck. They want an inclusive and equitable working environment.

According to a Deloitte survey, 80% of respondents said inclusion efforts were important when choosing a company. Inclusion matters to employees, and it matters at the beginning of hiring.

Inclusive hiring reimagined with BodyShop’s Open Hiring initiative.

The BodyShop is the first employer in the United States to embrace Open Hiring practices as a critical part of their recruitment strategy to help promote a fair and inclusive environment. So, what is Open Hiring?

For the BodyShop, Open Hiring means there are no background checks, drug screenings, or a need for previous experience. You answer three questions, and you get the job.

Only three questions? Yes. There are only three questions you need to answer during an interview—

  1. Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?
  2. Can you stand for up to eight hours?
  3. Can you lift more than 50 pounds?

That’s it. By removing societal barriers in hiring, such as a criminal record, poor interviewing skills, and an incomplete work history, Open Hiring leads to a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Challenges and Triumphs of Open Hiring

There are challenges to be had with the BodyShop’s hiring strategy. Mainly, in a day-in-age where there is a treasure trove of information on every job candidate available, it can be hard to ignore what is readily available online. Safety and liability are just two reasons many companies hesitate to embrace Open Hiring.

However, the turnover rate in the retail industry is high (almost 65%), and competition is fierce. Reports from the BodyShop show that Open Hiring has worked. The BodyShop reported a 60% decrease in monthly turnover after embracing Open Hiring.

In a daring move, BodyShop aligns its company culture with its hiring practices to increase its workforce and deliver its brand value.

survey responses for culture in the workplace


A Plant-Based Revolution

Whether it’s nut milk, meatless meat, or vegan dairy, plant-based food is not just a fad, it’s here to stay. Over the past two years, there’s been a 29% growth in plant-based food sales (nearly twice the overall food and beverage market). Plant-based foods are now a hefty 5 billion dollar industry and growing. Plant-based food is catching fire, and the food industry has noticed. Many companies are introducing one or two plant-based items on their menu. However, Starbucks, a leader in plant-based menu options, is going all-in.

Get ready for an entirely plant-based Starbucks.

Before “soy chai tea latte” was commonplace, Starbucks offered them on their menu. In 2004, even before the shelves of stores carried multiple non-dairy milk options. Remember those days?

Well, skip ahead 15 years, and now Starbucks tested a 100% plant-based menu at a Seattle location. What were the results? Starbucks is keeping quiet, but their year-end report shows they’ve opened 538 net new stores in 2021 and increased store sales with 11% growth over two years with expanded plant-based menu options.

Although many people seem interested in plant-based items, meat consumption is not decreasing (in fact, it’s expanding). Given this, an entirely plant-based menu is daring, it’s bold, and few companies are willing to take that risk. But Starbucks is going there, maybe not everywhere today, but soon.

Why are they doing this?

It’s not just about appealing to the plant-based food craze that’s taken over the country (or just some of the dairy section of your grocery store). Starbucks has a deep commitment to sustainability, and producing environmentally-friendly products is at the heart of decision-making.

By taking the next step towards an entirely plant-based food operation, they are simultaneously living up to their brand commitment and appealing to customer interest.

Woman smiling and holding a jar.

Business disruption delivered—what next?

Many of these companies are industry leaders who succeed due to their unwavering ability to see potential where competitors aren’t looking.

How do they know what will work or what won’t?

Top companies don’t rely on chance or luck. Instead, by doing brand research, listening to their customers, and keeping an eye on the competition, they take risks and feel confident in those choices.

However, the disruptors today could be complacent tomorrow. Not every brand can innovate and succeed continuously.

So, research trends, push boundaries, and survey your customers. Success awaits if you are willing to be bold and rebel a little.

Are you ready to deliver business disruption?

We love working with ambitious brands to disrupt their industries and achieve success. How do we do it? We provide insights into your organization by challenging the status quo and asking tough questions.

Let’s work together to help your brand find truths in places you wouldn’t expect, to take you to places you never thought possible.

Have a question?

We answer big questions. We answer small questions, too. Whatever your Q, chances are it’s on our FAQs page.

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Give us your most wicked business challenge. And we’ll find truths in places you wouldn’t expect. So, whaddya say?