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Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker ranked top disruptors

Aaron Pressman
Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker ranked top disruptors

Buying men's razors is a drag -- and an expensive one at that. With most of the market dominated by a few huge players, prices are sky high. And if that's not bad enough, the high prices make the tiny packs of blades a top target for shoplifters, prompting pharmacies to lock up the merchandise behind wacky, hard-to-reach dispensers.

It's an industry ripe for a little creative disruption -- and that may be on the way. Same goes for a couple of other unhappy market niches dominated by a few giant incumbents, such as eyeglasses and diapers. An elixir of online selling, lower prices and simpler products has created some breakthrough brands, according to a massive consumer survey done by marketing firm Siegel+Gale.

Online razor seller Dollar Shave Club, eyeglass innovator Warby Parker and actress Jessica Alba's Honest Co. diaper supplier were among the highest-scoring "disrupter" brands in the survey, which polled some 1,750 U.S. consumers about their attitudes toward hundreds of brands. The survey measured major brands as well, with Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google, Netflix (NFLX), Publix Super Markets (PUSH) and Amazon.com (AMZN) coming out on top.

The difference between the two lists was that the up and coming winners weren't ranked by national awareness, just positive attitudes toward their brands, products and communications.

The new brands are gaining traction because "they address an existing consumer pain point and solve it in the simplest way possible, putting consumer experiences first," says Margaret Molloy, chief marketing officer at Siegel+Gale. "This focus on simplicity was directly reflected in their performance in the rankings."

Not all of the top-rated "disrupter" brands were attacking staid, consolidated industry giants, however. Some aimed for staid, fragmented markets made of too many competing players instead. That included food delivery startups GrubHub (GRUB), Seamless (which is owned by GrubHub), and Blue Apron along with taxi replacement service Uber.

Early success is no guarantee of eventual dominance, of course. There are plenty of challenges for small, fast-growing companies beyond attracting customers and crafting a winning brand identity. Some may continue to succeed on those marks while stumbling in other key areas with poor planning, overspending or botched inventory management.

Aside from GrubHub, just two other publicly-traded companies are ranked on the top 10 disrupters list and both have had stumbles lately: sports camera maker GoPro (GPRO) and online radio service Pandora (P).

Shares of GoPro have dropped 59% in the past three months as customers ignored its latest mini camera and sales growth plummeted. A surprise patent lawsuit from Polariod last week didn't help matters.

Pandora was a screaming success for several years as it took on the tired traditional radio industry with more varied (and less advertising-laden) channels available online. But lately competition has intensified from all directions as everyone from Apple (AAPL) to Google to Amazon has come out with their own streaming music service. After almost hitting $40 a share early last year, Pandora shares have slumped to under $14 lately with user growth waning.

Shares of GrubHub have cratered 40% in the past six months, as growth has slowed. The problem extends across the company's entire offering, as growth in the number of customers, average number of orders per day and order size have all slowed dramatically.

Full "Top Ten Disrupters" list:

1. Dollar Shave Club
2. Warby Parker
3. Seamless
4. GoPro
5. The Honest Co.
6. Spotify
7. GrubHub
8. Pandora
9. Uber
10. Blue Apron