Disruptive Marketing

“Marketing is not the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make. It is the art of creating genuine customer value. “                                                                                                                                                                     – Philip Kotler  

Marketing Author, Consultant, and Professor       

It is rather befitting to start an article on Marketing with a quote by Philip Kotler, aptly considered as the “Father of Modern Marketing”. For those of you who are not aware, the reason you learn Marketing, also referred to as the heart of Business, in academics is the above mentioned great man, the author of incredible more than 60 books (yes 60, you read that right!!) on Marketing.

In the era of blooming technology and an unstable world, where existing skillsets become obsolete by the day, each of the domains has had a makeover and apparently, Marketing hasn’t been an exception to this trend. Rewind back to ten years, a customer wishing to buy a product will just go to a few sites and zero in on his choice. But now the customer (dare I say, The King) has an opportunity to go through overwhelming number of websites, read countless reviews coupled with a long list of vendors, effectively assigning the purchasing power to the customer.

Interestingly, it would not be an understatement to say Marketing has evolved more in last five years rather than last 60 years. That says a lot about the pattern of change and the pronounced effect it had on the marketing strategies. Of course, the basic mantra of providing value to the customer and content being the king has thankfully remained intact, but varied supplements have shaped up well, particularly in this decade, Artificial intelligence, Big Data, Chatbots, Augmented and Virtual reality to name a few which are much more than buzzwords presently!!

Apparently, devising an effective marketing strategy and implementing it efficiently with the accessible high-tech is the key focus of any business. And there comes the catchy concept of Disruptive marketing which will make you revisit and rethink all the marketing strategies who you have heard and practiced diligently. A company opts for Disruptive Marketing either for designing its offerings for matching the emerging market demand or to reshape an existing offering to improve customer satisfaction.


Disruptive marketing demands getting out of your comfort zone. Are you ready?

Interestingly, in a world where everyone is contented to stay within their shells and have developed the genuine habit of resisting change, how did Disruptive marketing emerge in the first place? It surely points towards modern customers’ exponentially increasing needs and Disruptive marketers’ ability to satisfy their requirements. Geoffrey Colon is spot on when he says, “The root of Disruptive marketing lies in creative disruption and disruptive innovation” Well, Creative disruption means doing things in a different way creatively while Disruptive innovation creates a new market affecting the equilibrium of the existing markets, subsequently phasing them out over a period.

In fact, much before Disruptive marketing became a norm, Disruptive innovation had already been around for quite a long time. It was coined by Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen in 1997, though it is another matter that the concept had already been implemented elsewhere. If you go by the Harvard business review (HBR) definition, it calls it a process where a smaller company with rather fewer resources can successfully challenge well-established incumbent businesses. This coaxes us to believe it is a simple underdog story. Surely, it has much more to it than is perceived. For the starters, Disruptive innovation makes things accessible, focusing on things that only certain segment of customers could do. And Disruptive marketing, firstly ensures every conventional idea about marketing is out of the way, and crucially gives the customers that much-needed access, ultimately connecting customers with brands at a more human level.

Disruptive marketing ensures people’s attention by being different and taking risks. The most appealing theme of Disruptive marketing happens to be the fact that, it can take something simple and make it engaging and unique giving the customer, exactly what he wants. Interestingly, this unique marketing imparts uniqueness to that brand thus helping it to forge its own identity and effectively ruling out the possibility of other brands duplicating the idea.

As a matter of fact, you can go on endlessly talking about Disruptive marketing, but I am afraid it doesn’t really add value to that we know. Taking a cue from astute students (who learn to solve problems just bypassing the theory!!), let’s try to understand how disruptive marketing is executed, what are its merits and pitfalls and how it is expected to shape up in next few years by using some prominent examples.

It is perfectly true that you relate to and understand those things that are very dear to you. That’s the reason I tried to understand Disruptive marketing from viewpoint of sports (which is far easier for me). Remember that Nike’s ad campaign on YouTube “Better for it”, based on two adopted sisters Margot and Lily, two markedly different characters. One of them loves working out and the other one, let’s say has different strengths! So, how disruptive marketing has to do with this ad? The exciting part was each of the women could relate to this ad. Leave aside the video part, the disruptive aspect of the campaign was Nike didn’t push for the use of its products aggressively, as is the norm elsewhere. Rather, it appreciated the fact that each of us has our own likes and limitations and it is perfectly fine to have so.

Another enlightening example is that of HBO Go platform where customers can have the service wherever they go. The ad contained a family watching a TV show together and highlighted the awkwardness that comes along with it, which I am sure might have been experienced by every youngster at a certain stage in his life. The platform allowed people to have a single subscription with multiple logins allowed from different devices effectively ruling out discomfort and respect the privacies of different age groups proving an enriched viewing experience.

When you go through the list of most disruptive brands of recent years, some obvious names will crop up. But refreshingly and rather surprisingly, it is a combination of some big brands along with some newcomers and that surely tells a story. Let’s start with a brand that set the benchmark in this regard, Apple. Apple came up with iTunes in 2007, which proved to be a defining phase, after identifying the customer’s troubles in having to purchase a complete album just for the sake of having the song that they desire. Apple managed to come with a portable mp3 player at a time when a Discman was the ultimate music gadget.

One of the distinct characteristics of these successful Disruptive brands is they understand and implement trends much before their competitors do thus taking advantage and forcing others to catch up with them. What better example than Uber cabs, a much-feted company who has revolutionized and changed the dynamics of the Transportation industry to illustrate this.  Going by the way in which Uber has put taxi industry in complete disarray makes us to believe, that Uber is a disruptive brand. Nonetheless, as highlighted in an enlightening HBR article, Uber neither tried to originate its business from low-end nor did it make an impact by focusing on new market footholds, where you try to morph non-consumers to your consumers.

Unarguably, Uber has been way too successful in increasing the total demand – obvious because that’s what happens when you come up with a better, well thought out solution to a widespread consumer need. Now, the fact to wonder about is Uber, who has been seemingly used as a synonym for disruptive innovation has ironically charted a path that is exactly opposite of what we conceived. So, can Uber straightforwardly be looked upon as a disruptive brand? Let’s leave that debate for some other day!

Netflix, launched in 1997 will help to understand the mystery behind Disruptive marketing even better. Initially, Netflix didn’t prove to be too appealing to the customers and Blockbuster, the firm which rented movies to the customers on impulse and Netflix ‘s competitor, didn’t consider it as a harmful rival. Netflix, whose business model was based on an exclusive online interface and a large inventory of movies appealed only to some customer segments who were fine with large response time – typically movie buffs who didn’t care about new releases and believers of online shopping.

At the same time, Netflix appreciably changed its strategy, beginning with expanding its focus on diverse customer segments and with new technology, serving as its ally allowing it better internet streaming. That is the reason it was not surprising to witness its emergence as a customer-pleasing brand presenting a one-of-a-kind experience of all-you-can-watch, on-demand, low price, high quality and highly comfortable approach. Perhaps this highlights the point that Disruptive innovation does shape up over a period. Apparently, if Blockbusters would have been more flexible to change and given due respect to Netflix as a competitor, probably it would have landed up in a much better position. However, that preaches one more lesson as far as Disruptive marketing is concerned. Any Disruption must be judged based on how it performs over a period, effectively making it a process rather than a one-time product or a service.

In 2015, when Forbes listed the top 25 disruptive brands, apart from usual suspects, some relatively small firms also made it to the list, reinforcing the fact that Business competition has become far more fierce and volatile. No wonder then majority firms are doing away with the traditional form of advertising, coming to terms with the fact that one who responds fast is already in pole position. Astonishingly, many legacy brands and companies like Proctor and Gamble have given up on the mantle of being leaders in innovation and Disruption.

So, moving forward what can we expect from Disruptive Marketing?  If you extrapolate the existing data, results are for everyone to see. Intelligent devices, with smartphones being the lynchpin of all, will ensure that marketing will strike up an even more personalized relationship with customers. Authentic companies, with more transparency, will be the one customers will rely on as they tend to make an immediate connect with the users. Content is being flaunted as a new currency and rightly so. In future upcoming technology would empower it and content co-creation between brands and consumers will become a more popular trend. Data-driven Disruptive marketing could emerge as a trump card for future managers as it is more relationship-oriented and the content might act as a currency to build trust. One of the issues with recent times is using hollow, vanity matrices like shares, likes etc. to measure your marketing success. With Data analytics revolution on its way, we might not be far away from the emergence of quantitative analytical tools based on emotional and cultural relevance to help marketers gauge their success.

Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat, Instagram and the list grows on. It is always comfortable to look at the successful firms and boast of Disruptive marketing as one of the tools to stand out in the volatile market. What we tend to forget is there might be innumerable firms who tried for the same and returned empty-handed. Success always dazzles and makes you take notice, but the fact is failures tend to tell you a much larger and more revealing story which no one cares to listen! One of the common blunders is to believe what works for others is also going to work for yours. With your innovation strategies and structure spot on, one can explore new marketing methods to create your own customer base.

With increasing number of brands realizing the strengths of social engagement, we only expect Disruptive marketing to evolve further, turning out to be a game changer in business models and at the same time empowering the customers, enriching their lives in the process. And as we look forward to the next rung of technologies, one who adapts faster is going to be the survivor and probably the winner! (though for a short time). And as Philip Kotler has rightly said,

“Marketing is a race without finishing line”







You might also like More from author