- “Disruptive” marketers challenge the status quo with new business models, unique customer experiences, informed insights and idiosyncratic approaches.
- Disruptive marketers listen carefully to learn what consumers want.
- Disruptive marketers combine analytical and creative abilities and are expert at strategy and execution.
- Most are generalists who can do data analytics, video production, website design and search engine marketing.
- They tend to be iconoclasts who think and act differently than traditional marketers.
- To stay current, marketers – and everyone else – must become lifelong learners.
Disruptive marketers include “data punks, designers,” video producers, statisticians, psychologists, “start-up data scientists,” and “outsider marketers,” as well as other cutting-edge professionals – all with “hacker personalities.” Disruptive marketers would agree with David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett Packard, who said, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
Disruptive marketers approach marketing from a new perspective. They focus on the “customer experience” and “social business models,” not “hierarchical” organizational charts. They adapt to the often-confusing nexus of “business, human behavior, technology, and communications.” Many lack MBAs, but they build expertise in strategy and execution. They blend analytical and creative talents. Disruptive marketers excel at search engine marketing, social media, website design, and “inbound marketing.” They prefer “analytics, design and philosophy” to “traditional business studies.” These pros understand the capabilities of today’s remarkable tools: “data visualization, mobile analytics,” and the like, and they know how to use them.
Disruptive marketers don’t sit at their desks. They operate outside, in touch with consumers, trying to learn what people want. Workplace culture expert Jennifer Moss believes disruptive marketers see themselves as “the voice for people.” They imagine a new future and ask, “What could be possible in my industry?” They ask what they can accomplish now, and then they ask, “If it does become possible,” what comes next. They consider how to market that “future state.”
Disruptive Marketers’ Traits
Disruptive marketers’ distinctive skills and operational toolboxes include:
- “Listening skills” – Conventional marketers believe in repetition and amplification. They believe that if you say something long and loud enough, you will get consumers to believe your message and buy your goods. Disruptive marketers believe in listening. They practice the “ABL” approach – “always be listening.” You can’t learn what your targeted audiences care about if you don’t pay attention to them.
- “Curiosity” – Focus on ideas, social moments and developing products others may consider “obscure, silly, embarrassing or irrelevant.” Having an open attitude about new developments in images, products, tech and the web spurs additional innovation.
- “Emotional intelligence” (EI) – These marketers recognize that the intense competition in the modern business world makes marketing by the numbers superfluous. Messages that penetrate today connect empathetically with consumers. Such empathy requires a high degree of emotional intelligence (EI), the ability to intuit what others think and feel.
- “Creativity” – Disruptive marketers seek rich experiences and connections. As Apple founder Steve Jobs once said, “creativity is just connecting things.”
- “Abundance” – In his book Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Wired editor Chris Anderson explains that the abundant supply of free content offers a great avenue for building your business. Disruptive marketers use free content as a source of inspiration and materials for their campaigns.
- “Story-making” – Disruptive marketers use different media forms to tell compelling stories that earn the affection of their targeted audiences. Such stories avoid “mind tactics, manipulation or persuasion.”
- “Generalist experts” – Disruptive marketers understand “social targeting” and pay-per- click; they can create compelling video.
The top trends in disruptive marketing include:
- “Mobile” – “Tablets, watches, wearable gadgets, glasses…HoloLens,” and other mobile devices will dominate marketing.
- “Transparency” – Consumers demand it, and they reward firms that demonstrate it.
- “Content” – The “most disruptive content” is content that users generate. The way you distribute content is as important as the content itself. Consider the tremendous influence of Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Snapchat as content providers. Ian Schafer, founderand CEO of the Deep Focus creative agency, calls these companies “power players.”
- “Brands” – Collaborating closely with consumers, brands will become self-ownedmultimedia platforms. Branding will be something consumers directly shape by what they communicate and what action they take in the market. The most successful branding will target generation Z.
- “Products”–Goods,notservices,willbethedominantdisruptiveinfluenceinmarketing in the future.
- “Personalized data-driven disruptive marketing” – Modern marketing involves relating to people, not shouting intrusive messages.
- “Tracking metrics” – In the future, consumer metrics will be impressively accurate.
Although the book was written in 2016, many of the author’s concepts are still valid. Marketing IS changing because of the pandemic, and consumers are making new choices because of inflation. Another key element of disruptive marketers is that they are prepared to fail to try new approaches to reach consumers.
One of the biggest issues for disruptive marketers is to balance their disruption with corporate culture. I agree that most corporations need a new culture, but to move quickly can equal havoc for a disruptive career.
To me, the biggest takeaway is that disruptive marketers keep learning.