Marketing Disruption

Does your marketing disrupt? That is, are you using ideas that change the outcome of your marketing?

Disruptive technologies can fundamentally shift a business’s trajectory. But what about disruptive marketing ideas? 

Continuity-marketer Dollar Shave Club didn’t disrupt the technology of razors, but they disrupted the distribution channel with monthly shipping of razor blades direct to the consumer. DSC chipped away at the dominance of retail competitors even if DSC sales were only five percent of the U.S. market with 3.2 million members.

Unilever is purchasing Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion.

Procter and Gamble sees the writing on the wall of disruptive marketing and is testing a continuity program named Tide Wash Club, where P&G will ship Tide Pod capsules via an online subscription service. The question is: is P&G perceived by consumers as too entrenched in retail distribution? Or will Amazon beat them to the punch with something better, like Amazon Dash?

Amazon Dash buttons enable the user to replenish a growing list of consumables in the home, bypassing the phone or computer. Just press the button you stick on most any surface in your home and Amazon will ship your order. Here’s a pretty good summary article on the Dash Button.

As direct marketers, we might say to one another that these are more examples of a shift in distribution channels, going direct-to-consumer.

But I think there’s a bigger message for marketers of all kinds:

Someday, you and your business could be blindsided with a disruptive technology or disruptive marketing from a competitor. 

What does it take to get in front of the kind of change that can put you out of business? You must vanquish entrenched establishment thinking and determine how to get in front of either disruptive technology or marketing approaches.

The thought process I suggest you begin with is to lock yourselves in a room, offsite if you can, taking zero interruptions and have a deep discussion covering at least these six topics:

  1. What new big idea—technology or marketing—could disrupt your business? Think big and let your imagination roll.
  2. Will the big idea you identify change behavior? An idea is only as good as your strategy to change behavior from “the way it’s always been done” to a new approach. Dollar Shave Club created a marketing video that went viral and launched their direct-to-consumer business. Consider that once someone had the Amazon experience of purchasing a book or other merchandise online, it changed behavior. Same with Uber: the first time riding in a stranger’s private vehicle may have been a bit uncomfortable, but once you had a good experience, why would you go back to riding with surly cab drivers and unpredictable fares?
  3. What are your competitors thinking? Unless you have sources inside a competitor or other public information, project their past actions into the future for possible insights.
  4. Think broadly between qualitative and quantitative. That is, what is the intangible emotion you might produce from a new idea, and at what point do you monetize and quantify the change?
  5. What do you anticipate as the core emotional response from your prospects and customers from a disruptive technology or marketing? 
  6. Go on offense. How can an emerging, disruptive technology help you leapfrog your competitors before they get wind of it, or have committed to testing it?

If you’re serious about getting in front of disruptive technology and marketing, start now before you find yourself losing market share and sales. Find a meeting moderator who can challenge your entrenched thinking and bring out the best and brightest ideas from your staff or consultants. And don’t stop there: customers are often your best resource for ideas of how you can serve them better.


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.