Is to innovate to disrupt or is to disrupt to innovate?
One such fan theory from Paul Fabretti, Director of Communications at Microsoft hypothesises:
When did ‘innovation’ (positive word) get hijacked by ‘disruption’ (negative word)? We seem to thrive on the negative, ‘missing out’ implication of disruption instead of focusing on the opportunity that comes with innovation.
Innovation opportunity aside, for the time being, disruption is also incorrectly attributed as a bedfellow of marketing when the very essence of the disruption is not in the marketing techniques themselves. Two headline examples. Apple disrupted the media content consumption market with the launch of its iTunes product. Uber was disruptive with its approach to running a taxi service. So, yes, ‘disruptive’ rips up the rule book but all too often it is misaligned as ‘disruptive marketing’. In reality, it’s a discussion of a product or service which found a gap or an opportunity in the marketplace. Their marketing, overall, was formulaic and just fine.
So, with that in mind, let us really focus on the specifics of how marketing is disruptive and how it can challenge thinking, assumptions and ‘marketing as usual’, and even innovate on the ‘norm’. For marketing techniques and practices to be considered ‘disruptive marketing’ they need to affect a change in consumer attention because now more than ever, human attention is in short supply and the last consumer gatekeeper.
When you are disruptive with your product or even your marketing you are not selling, you are sparking a dialogue. Still, nothing innovative here, but an angle to work in your approach to establishing or maintaining a relationship – or at least cognitive real estate – with a person.
Why the need to disrupt attention?
Geoffrey Colon, author of the book ‘Disruptive Marketing’, suggests:
We’ve reached a certain convergence where everyday people have control of media, content, conversations and decision-making journeys once defined solely by brands
We have also reached peak digital noise and adblocking with purpose or rather, actively ignoring is now the consumer default.
According to PageFair’s Ad Block report 2017:
- 11% of the global internet population is blocking ads
- 615m global devices are blocking data
- 77% of Adblock users are willing to view some ad formats
This suggests there is a willingness to receive advertising if the creative is right, the strategic approach robust and it pays its dues to context. Paradoxically, the advertising industry would have room to declare that better and more relevant comms is harder to achieve when the feedback loop of data and its measurable signals and signs hit a dead end with the consumer.
Adblock usage is not the rejection of digital advertising itself, more a natural reaction to the friction caused by disrupting attention through pop-ups and other abrasive formats where there is disregard for user experience or worse still, concerns around security.
This cross-road of consumer attention, end-user consumption habits and the proliferation of channels means we need to think long and hard about how people behave (or rather, misbehave) in a world that doesn’t conform to linear customer journeys, or at scale.
In 2000, the attention span of a consumer was 12 seconds. It’s now 8 seconds. Compare that to the purported average attention span of a goldfish being 9 seconds and you might start to see why Facebook assert that you must arrest consumer attention in the first 3 seconds of video content or you may as well just forget it. And with the sound off too. Quite the challenge.
From the human behaviour side of things, you now must pick apart the chicken and the egg notion of the proliferation of snackable content’s ascension. Or is snackable content the one in the diminishing attention span driving seat?
The need for innovation in disruptive marketing
In the battleground for consumer attention it takes a new approach, maybe radical, maybe not, but at that initial stage of a customer journey when you want to excite, delight and crucially, attract, so does everyone else in your category. If you take the luxury experiential sector, by way of example and the direction of travel, people would rather buy into a memorable experience they had and talk about their Himalayan Trek experience than yet-another-new-watch they just bought. Materialism just got commoditised. But that requires a new way of interacting between consumer and brand. Every interaction needs to develop their view, understanding and appreciation of your brand story and values.
It’s time to step up, stand out and be a maverick. You won’t win their business if you don’t have their attention and so you need to give a digitally supported offline experience designed to arrest, engage and showcase the benefit of what you offer in a sea of choice. Sounds expensive. Sure, maybe. But the beauty of experiential is its ability to scale. Get it right for the few and it’s resulting content will resonate with the many. Heck, get it really right and you, the brand, won’t have to do all the legwork. The end user will be compelled to talk about it for you, and with greater authenticity.
Sarah Eck-Thompson and Brook Jay of All Terrain state:
These consumers are master aggregators and curators, digesting a constant stream of information. They embrace each new social medium, extending their own very personal communication channels and deepening their individual and fragmented network of influencers.
But thanks to this predilection to ‘overshare’ or the readiness to exchange more and more personal data every time they gain value from an interaction, the consumer is more likely to take on the role of aggregator and curator and advocator.
Give value and meaning to someone through experience and, by return, they will give custom and access to their super-connected communities. In his Presidential address at the 2009 Association for Consumer Research Conference, Chris Janiszewski stated:
Benefits are not in the products. Benefits are in the consumer experience.
When the bricks and mortar face of a brand is going through an experiential pivot to remove stock and increase their form and function to be more useful and interesting, Doug Stephens, in a recent CMO.com interview, suggests:
It’s becoming clear we don’t need stores for product distribution anymore. But we will need stores to learn about brands, try new things, and have fun. The physical store will become a form of experiential media whose purpose is to sell not products but the idea of a brand.
Apple hosting concerts, Ted-talks, and travel agents getting all AR in your face because the brochure died a long time ago. From Starbucks with its Roastery experiences stimulating all the senses, to Lexus and their Intersect concepts (with no cars present) or John Lewis and their £2million live-in London flat; through experience design, each is imparting more narrative, providing more value and orchestrating more conversation starters than their product-centric predecessor.
With the IPA Bellwether Report historically indicative of an increased event marketing spend, experiential is a key channel on the agenda of marketers. ROI will always be at the forefront of validation for experiential justification as a marketing tactic but closer alignment of business units, integration of departments, functions, people and purpose will help further to demonstrate results against the objectives and resulting strategies of a brand.
Finally, a little finesse on the definition of experiential
Anyone can have an experience. But experience of the experience needs to convert to a purchase if it is to be classified as experiential. Otherwise it’s just content marketing. Or worse, noise. When Felix Baumgartner jumped out of not much more than a tin can in space to promote not much more than a sugary liquid in a tin can, that was content marketing of an experience. To be truly experiential, for Felix, his experience would need to have converted into him making a purchase of the product itself.
Go forth, design and deliver digitally-supported, people-centred experiences that disrupt and arrest attention, convert into a purchase and empower the end user.