Lessons from a sandwich spread on the importance of disruption in your category.

By Luke Sklar and Amber Hudson

Apparently a couple years ago Stephen Colbert mercilessly mocked the hipster Miracle Whip commercials during his show. You remember those commercials:  uber-stylin’ Millennials prancing around with mayo.  I only bring this up now because of what I saw on reddit.com last week. It’s AWESOME!  Here’s the text version of the letter to Mr. Colbert:

Dear Mr. Colbert,

Recently on your show, you tapped into a sore spot in our nation’s psyche: the eternal struggle between mayonnaise and Miracle Whip. And surprisingly, for a man of your impeccable intellect, you’ve chosen the wrong side. A side doomed to a painful, drawn-out, utter and complete defeat. Like the Plantagenet’s in the Hundred Years’ War. Or whichever one was the cat in “Tom and Jerry.”

Mr. Colbert, we found your attacks a little harsh, occasionally funny, and at times, wholly inaccurate (for the record, our target is 18-35, not 34). But unlike most advertisers who are so mayo, who would back down at the slightest whiff of controversy, and pull their advertising from not just your show but from your entire network and all its sister entities — we intend to do the opposite.

On Thursday, November 12, we will dominate the airspace on your show. With every commercial break, your viewers will be exposed to hardcore Miracle Whip attitude and revelry. You will see our legion of (as you call them) “mayo nay-sayers” snarfing sandwiches topped with our one-of-a-kind flavor in a very cool and totally hip way. They will be in your face and massively dope. It goes without saying, they WILL NOT TONE IT DOWN. And you will begin to see the soft, bland white walls of the mayo empire begin to collapse under the weight of its own whipped-egg pretentiousness.

Think about it Mr. Colbert. In a sense, we will own you.

We’re on a mission. We’re taking no prisoners.

We’re raising Hell, Man.


It deserves a HELL YEAH! 

And this, from the sandwich spread company Kraft.  BTW, yes, they did as they said they would, reworking their ads to direct their message at Stephen.

I don’t know if it did anything for the brand but THAT was some disruptive thinking.  And that got us thinking about brands that had the guts to disrupt. Netflix did it. So did Zappos. Virgin, Dollarshaveclub.com and Dyson did too.

Disruptor brands create new markets, or at least new segments.  They move consumers forward.  Sometimes just a bit at first, but then they give them a big ol’ shove.  Each of these brands understood genuine consumer needs and gave them what they wanted.  Every brand must eventually give consumers what they need even if it shakes up the business model or drives the shareholders bonkers.

The tenet is you must disrupt, or you will be disrupted.

What happens if you don’t?  Kodak, Commodore, Sony, Eaton’s, AOL, Oldsmobile are what happens if you don’t. Wow, these are brands I grew up with. Destroyed. Huh.

So what could you do?  Well, not every brand has to disrupt in a spectacular way but you may have to.  And if you do…

  • Flip off the autopilot and reinvent.  Nike, Apple, McDonald’s, Harley Davidson all went  through a process of redefining their brands
  • It doesn’t have to be a brand overhaul. Brands can disrupt through creative, media, packaging, or promotions
  • And fortheloveofgawd, stop playing it safe. TAKE A RISK FOR ONCE!   Read Manoj’s blog “Be Brave, Go Fail at Something Today!”


Ready to learn more? Download our Sklar Wilton Plan on a Page for a template that will help you bring together all elements of the marketing plan on one page – from who to win with all the way through to measuring success. Or, learn how we helped Whiskas uncover insights about the stagnant wet cat food category to launch a breakthrough innovation that became the fastest growing brand in the category.