No strategy, no disruption
Editorial

No strategy, no disruption

It’s the buzzword every marketer knows, but even the most disruptive of disrupters needs a plan.

How many features have you read in the last year commenting on the incredible success of 21st-century upstart Uber?

There’s a reason for this ubiquity, of course; the company is almost matchless in how quickly it has been able to turn a whole industry on its head. All across the globe it has totally transformed the minicab business, providing marketers with a go-to example of what disruption looks like in action.

‘Disruption’ and ‘transformation’: what words those are! Who wouldn’t want to be associated with them? And yet both have become overused. What, exactly, are they shorthand for? If the answer is simply ‘success’, then you need to ask yourself what type of success. And let’s make this personal; if you haven’t defined what ‘success’ would like for your own organisation, then it’s also likely you haven’t defined your business strategy – and that you won’t achieve the disruption you’re looking for.

Disruption is often defined as initiating a radical change in an industry, transforming it through the introduction of a new product or service that creates a new market. Delivering disruption, in theory, will lead to growth for your business. No one plans for their brand not to grow. Little wonder, then, that disruption is the buzzword on many marketers’ lips.

Overuse of the term, however, along with a loose definition, obfuscate the day-to-day realities of what it means to be truly disruptive.

The Ubers or Airbnbs of the world exhibit incredibly rapid development and growth, along with a strategy that – to traditional models – might look undisciplined. That’s nothing new for companies that might be termed ‘big bang disrupters’. But not every company can, or needs to, match them.

It’s sometimes difficult to remember this when a combination of new tech, the proliferation of consumer channels, and exponential growth in data analytics has the power to destroy mature products and markets almost overnight. Game-changing disruption, however, really isn’t the only way to survive. It’s not as simple as being either the disruptor or the disrupted, with no navigable area in between.

While the hyperbole proliferates, organisations sometimes fail to take a long, detailed look at the whys and wherefores of market disruption, or to formulate a pragmatic view of their own disruptive capabilities.

Real analysis of disruption is key to strategic realignments, either in the face of disruption inflicted on your business, or because you think you can achieve it before your competitors, leaving them trailing in your wake. But before you set your compass for transformation, it’s imperative that you are clear and honest about what it really takes to disrupt a market and why you want to do it. If you can’t achieve it, don’t set out to do it – or waste time pretending that you can, or that you want to.

Remember, too, that disruptive marketing doesn’t just mean disrupting the market, it means making core changes to what you do in order to achieve that impact.

Whatever market measurement you have conducted, and whatever the insights you have gained, when it comes to reviewing strategy for disruption you need to ensure it reflects your company’s overall business plan, and that you truly have the ability to change what you are doing to make it happen. Strategic realignments must follow this. If you are unsure you can make them, then maybe it’s time to change tack.

Disruption comes in many forms. Whichever you choose, ensure it’s applicable to your business first.

Martin Bewick Content Lead CPL
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