Is disruptive marketing good for your brand?

What to consider before you disrupt your customers.

Diana Lillicrap 5.12.2015

You can’t go anywhere these days without being told you need to be disruptive. Disruptive marketing, disruptive technologies, disruptive tactics. What gives?

The premise to disruptive marketing is that people are so overwhelmed with, well, everything, that they don’t actually notice anything unless they are “disrupted” from their normal experiences. Marketers have always been looking for the best ways to cut through the clutter, but this takes it to a new level. By virtue of the definition, disruptive is intrusive, distracting, and sometimes downright upsetting. Is that good for your brand? Maybe, but only if you do it right.

Learn from disruptive technologies

Take for instance the positives that have come out of disruptive technologies. These are new forms of technology that don’t try to improve upon something that already exists; they change the rules and create a new market entirely. Oftentimes products or services emerge from things we maybe didn’t even know we wanted or needed. Classic examples include the personal computer, email, and social networks. These advances in technology forever changed the way we work, socialize, and communicate.

Most disruptive technologies are often initially perceived as a waste of time and resources, or simply just a fad that will pass. But the difference between something that is a fad and something that is truly disruptive, is that a disruptive technology creates access to something of value to a whole new audience—a new marketplace to sell something that could never reach those people before. Disruptive marketing can work in much the same way.

Find your new marketplace

To reach new people, you need to start with effective targeting. Not only do you need to breakdown your audience group into granular levels to figure out how to effectively communicate to smaller groups, you need to think outside the box. Take for example when Green Mountain Coffee, a producer of coffee beans, realized that its biggest competitor wasn’t another bean producer, it was Starbucks. They had to think about how to provide customers with their coffee in a new way. By merging with an engineering group that could produce single-cup servings of coffee at home, the Keurig K-Cup was born and Green Mountain Coffee had created an entirely new marketplace to sell its beans.

What new audiences can you reach? How can you promote your product or service for a new use or in a new context? What new marketplace can you create? The best place to be disruptive is in a place that is not expected.

Rethink your offering

The most effective marketing campaigns have never been about a product. They have always been about an experience. A way of life. An emotional connection the buyer has with your brand. Disruptive marketing works in the same way. If you want to be jarring, you need to be emotionally charged. Figure out what about your brand makes people cry, scream, or laugh. Then own it (good or bad). It will be authentic and if done appropriately, it will be disruptive to your audiences in a positive way. Everyone likes a company that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Use humor, real stories, and memorable experiences to create an emotional response.

Do what others won’t do

If you want to stand out from your competition, you need to be something they are not. And I’m going to venture to say it’s not about your product or service. If you were really selling something that no one else could, you wouldn’t have competitors. So it has to be about the experience your customers have with your brand. You need to represent more than a product. Say things they wouldn’t. Be places they can’t. Offer experiences that they would never even consider. The result might polarize your brand into those that love you or hate you, but that’s ok. Just ask Harley Davidson, Miracle Whip, and Marmite (being married to an Englishman I know this one all too well!). These polarized brands are successfully not trying to be all things to all people. They have found their sweet spot and are cashing in on it.

Be strategic

In the end, remember whatever it is you disrupt your audiences with is going to stick with them—good or bad. So be sure to be strategic about what you are doing. Will a disruptive tactic help you accomplish your goals? Have you considered all the risks? Are you creating new value or just adding more clutter that no one wants to hear? The best advice we can offer is to strategically consider all the options before you rudely interrupt your valuable audiences.

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