Posted by Kristine Jacobson

Congratulations - you've made it to 2019! For the next three months people will be writing 2018 on checks, regretting and forgetting unrealistic resolutions and - most importantly - thinking about the future.

According to historical trends, 543,000 new businesses will start between now and the end of January: unfortunately, many more will close their doors. In a hypercompetitive economy of small businesses, innovation and startups, how can you compete to stay on top of your industry?
Here’s a resolution you can keep: try disruptive marketing.

What’s Disruption?

“Disruption” is has become a buzzword that is used more often than it’s understood. To some it’s a synonym for “innovation”; to others, it means bombastic, in-your-face marketing techniques that literally ‘disrupt’ a prospect (and possibly ruin their day).

In reality, disruption is not simply a way for brands to make a scene. It is a systematic strategy for marketing and product-development that emphasizes two outcomes:

  1. Reaching customers in new and surprising ways
  2. Providing a solution that overturns (‘disrupts’) older solutions

In both cases, the customer and the customer’s needs are prioritized. These are met by two kinds of disruption respectively:

Disruptive Innovation

Struggling businesses who try to be disruptors won’t find much success if their products are bad. As Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Craig Davis once said in an interview,

“No amount of clever marketing can compensate for a poor solution, but solve a problem for your customers really well, and they’ll do your bidding for you”

Small businesses can conquer giant corporations if they develop a superior product: this is the core idea behind disruptive innovation, and there are plenty of examples to illustrate it.

  • In less than a decade, Uber disrupted the taxi market by pioneering ride-sharing services. Traditional taxi services dropped from an 85% share of business to less than 20%.
  • Soon after the dotcom bubble collapsed, tax-filing services like TurboTax disrupted the tax preparation industry, and now 34.5% of Americans file taxes digitally.
  • Although Apple is not a “small business,” it had no share of the smartphone industry before releasing the iPhone in 2007. Very quickly, the iPhone became the 3rd top-selling phone of all time and created the mobile revolution.

Disruptive Marketing

Just like disruptive innovation is about meeting old needs in a better way, disruptive marketing is about meeting old customers through better means.

While the vast majority of businesses will continue to use traditional or digital marketing methods, stagnation often diminishes their impact over time. According to some estimates, the average Internet user is exposed to 5,000 ads a day – even the best ones have a hard time getting through the clutter.

If you think disruptive marketing means smashing through the noise and making an impact, you’re partially correct: but more importantly, disruptive marketing is about delighting prospects rather than infringing on them.

Here are some examples:

  • • Back in the 1990s, America Online (AOL) sent colorful discs to mailboxes around the country with free minutes to use dialup Internet. This creative idea made AOL the country’s leading Internet Service Provider (ISP) for many years.
  • • Purple Mattress had a disruptive product – a mattress made with gel-like polymer – and a disruptive strategy: advertise almost exclusively on social media using comedic skits. The campaign was extremely popular: getting people excited about a mattress is disruptive.
  • • In 2011, Ojai Valley Taxidermy in California contacted Internet entertainers Rhett & Link to create an ad for the business. The deliberately kitschy commercial became a viral fad, spawning the “Chuck Testa” meme.

Approaching Disruption

The best thing about disruption is that anyone can do it. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy: to start your year off with a bang, a few ingredients are essential for your business.

  1. Calculated Risk – A good disruptive strategy is risky by definition. It won’t just disrupt your industry: it will disrupt your organization. As the old saying goes, “Don’t risk more than you are willing to lose.” At the same time, companies must spend money to make money. Take the time to plan a strategy that’s just big enough to win, but not big enough to sink your business.
  2. Fast reflexes – Because disruption is all about the customer, disruptive marketers are fast on their feet. They gauge response and improvise to make improvements. As CMO Ben Eatwell says, “The trick is trying to balance the need to fail fast with the fact that as a disrupting influence on an industry, it takes time to build trust with your audience.”
  3. Cooperation & Teamwork – Old habits are not disruptive. In order to execute an unconventional strategy, a marketer needs to communicate well, ensuring that everyone is both on board and on the same page.
  4. Creativity – This one just can’t be faked. A disruptive solution involves out-of-the-box thinking. Whether it falls on team-members like a lightning bolt or slowly emerges out of long brain-storming sessions, sit down with your team and discuss ideas and act on the most inspired.

Trends You Can Follow

It might seem like the whole point of disruption is not to follow trends. But sometimes a business discovers a disruptive strategy that continues to work for others while it’s still a brand-new idea. If your prospects haven’t seen it before – or haven’t seen it very much – you can still make an impact by following other brands.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Shopper Bots

    The idea of chatbots that make recommendations and help customers to find deals isn’t brand spanking new, but it’s still not that common either. Gartner named it a “disruptive” trend as recently as October 2018.

    Thankfully, chatbots are not that difficult to create, even without a dedicated programmer. ManyChat, Chatfuel and Octane AI are all accessible tools for creating intelligent bots across a wide variety of social platforms and web hosting services.
  2. New Media Advertising

    The definition of “new media” changes from year to year, but in 2019 it means augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and multimedia messaging communities like Snapchat. 

Advertisers have barely scratched the surface on AR or VR, and while they’ve made more headway with Snapchat, its primary audience – GenZ – is still a hugely untapped market, simply because they have just become old enough to buy things.
  3. Social Media as The New Internet

    It would not be fair to say that businesses haven’t taken social media seriously. It would be fair to say that for many businesses, social media is only a supplement to their online presence.

This overlooks the fact that an increasingly large number of Internet users see social media as the Internet, visiting external sites with less frequency. Pew Research indicates that 76% of Facebook users login to the site every day.
  4. Multi-channel Marketing

    Pew Research also indicates that the median of Americans uses three of the eight most popular social networks on a daily basis. As such, brands that are active and present across them can make a more engaging and dynamic impact.

    Multi-channel marketing doesn’t end at creating profiles: it means engaging customers wherever they are, selling wherever they are, and integrating conversations across platforms.
Kristine Jacobson

Kristine Jacobson

Kristine Jacobson has more than 25 years of marketing and communications experience with notable corporate leaders as well as emerging market contenders. She offers expert marketing strategy with a touch of creative flair. Her extensive knowledge of strategic marketing, marketing plan execution, and branding illuminate the big picture without losing sight of the details.