Disruptive Marketing’s True North

Geoffrey ColonAugust 29, 20174 min

Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. BSI readers know, we regularly answer questions from marketers everywhere. Today we hear from Jennifer a VP of Marketing from Toronto, Canada who has this question about disruptive marketing.

What goals and objectives should marketers adopt as they take on disruptive marketing or look to strengthen it within an organization?

Thanks for your question Jennifer. Here are four that I believe should always be the true north of disruptive marketers:

1. Designing products, services, solutions, or causes that meet the demands of an emerging market. It’s no longer enough just to market products, especially products nobody wants in the first place. Marketers must help in the actual design and user experience, based on their understanding of people’s emotions. This spills into…

2. Reshaping or reengineering an existing product, service, solution, or cause so that it meets the demands of customers unsatisfied by current offerings. Many companies give up on customers who don’t like their products. But that attitude could stunt your sustained growth and put you out of business. Sometimes this means blowing up your old products (PowerPoint) for new ones (Sway) that fit the new norm. You do this via…

3. Customer-centricity. Every move you make needs to be from the point of view of the customer, even if it might not benefit the company’s bottom line. This is where the art of immersion or enchantment fits in. Customers want to go deep into your world, not simply be told about it. The best way to understand that customer is through…

4. Emotional intelligence. The most disruptive marketers combine the concept of design thinking with a radical way of operating—that is, they don’t think of their business simply as a cohort of employees and their target market as a segment of customers. Disruptive marketing blurs that line to the point where customers and employees are one and the same, and they use communication tools to create products in tandem.

That last point is forward thinking. I can’t name one company that has reached that state of nirvana yet. But if we pay more attention to human behavior, design, and psychology than to technology, this is ultimately what customers want and crave, and what disruptive marketing can deliver. A movement like this will ultimately produce some of the most innovative solutions the world has seen. But how do you make that happen?

Through emerging communications. Disruptive marketing won’t work if the entire company isn’t along for the journey. You can’t just have a few people in the marketing department trying to do this. According to a 2014 Gartner report, “Digital business success will require organizations to take bold actions, including inventing new business models and changing the way they function. Gartner predicted that this year 70 percent of successful business models will rely on deliberately unstable processes designed to shift with customers’ needs.”

Resistance to this new way of thinking and acting can be costly. Eighty-nine percent of the companies that were in the Fortune 500 sixty years ago are now gone. That is the force of creative destruction, or apathy about doing things differently, or thinking punk rock about how to shake things up.

Ray Wang, author of Disrupting Digital Business, uses scarier terminology to describe what may happen to companies that don’t adopt disruptive marketing: “Since 2000, 52 percent of the names on the Fortune 500 list are gone, either as a result of mergers, acquisitions or bankruptcies. The changes are the result of digital business models creating disruption in the marketplace.” While about 5 percent of organizations are leaders in proactively transforming their business models to adapt to the latest technologies (Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Uber among them), Wang says about 30 percent of companies are laggards who don’t want to change their business models. “Digital Darwinism is unkind to those who wait. Anybody, even the smallest startup can overtake a large Fortune 500 company because it’s the non-traditional competitors that are creating new customers and new customer classes.” Wang adds that while the average age of a company on the S&P 500 was sixty years old in 1960, it will continue to shrink and be twelve years old by 2020, a compression of five times.

While all of this may appear scary and fill some people with unease, it should make you feel excited. With a new normal comes the potential for new opportunities.

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