Fad, Trend, or Movement: Is Disruptive Marketing Still Relevant?

Shannon Correia September 21, 2021

Disruptive marketing is a term frequently exchanged in marketing circles of recent years. In this article, we investigate whether this all-important approach to marketing remains relevant as a marketing movement, or if it holds a space as no more than fad or passing trend.

Understanding Disruptive Marketing 

Disruptive Marketing is all about going against the status quo. In other words, it is anti-trend in that it seeks to take the route less travelled. Popular marketing techniques and platforms are left alone, while unusual and unique alternatives take centre stage. This draws attraction and by offering something different and new, piques the interest of audiences.

The rise in this type of marketing came about due to overly saturated markets. With so much competition, and competition producing the same level of content, brands were finding it difficult to differentiate themselves. If your brand doesn’t have a clear USP, then you’re losing out on business. 

As a concept, it is similar to disruptive innovation, a term used to describe newcomers who target neglected audiences as a means of establishing themselves. We’ve seen many of these kinds of businesses peak, often providing a solution to the market in a new way, without taking on the traditional burdens of doing businesses, like pouring investments into assets - think AirBnb, Uber, and Netflix.

Here are some classic examples of disruptive marketing:

    • Opting Out: Businesses who do not participate in consumer culture trends or ways. An example of this is not participating in Black Friday. It is an opportunity for your business to showcase a strong stand on its values.
    • Control the Conversation: Businesses can guide consumer conversations about a brand through campaigns and nudges. Word play is important here and can easily result in a trending topic or steering attention away from competitors.
    • Creative Apps: Businesses that create innovative apps can easily become a firm favorite. You just need to identify a way that technology can provide a real solution for customers. An example of this is a paint company that draws paint color samples from images. The best ways are to use technology to help people virtually visualize things to substitute the experience of trying things on. 
Essentially, it refers to anything that’s the opposite to what everyone else is doing for a marketing campaign, although the key is that it offers something better. You tug on the emotional strings by bravely venturing off road, caring for the neglected, or have a better solution altogether. 

Is Disruptive Marketing Still Relevant?

The reality is, people are bombarded with marketing daily. The average person takes in an enormous amount of ads daily, seeing all sorts of content in various ways. That means there’s a lot of noise online - and businesses would resonate with more people if they were able to cut through that in a meaningful way. It is about more than standing out, though. It is about offering a better solution, and who could say no to that? 

In the climate of the moment, however, there is less room for risks (for both consumers and businesses). There are greater worries and fears, hence we’ve seen this becoming less relevant as a marketing technique. 

There comes a time and place for disruptive marketing. When done well, it can be hugely successful for businesses. However, marketers cannot always rely on this all the time, otherwise that forms part of their brand identity and defeats the purpose, in the sense that the very thing that frees you ends up entrapping you. 

There are times when doing the opposite is not the best idea and will result in wasted resources, and times when a technique is popular because it works. Each marketer will have to judge for themselves on an ongoing basis, depending on the campaign and the market. There will always be times when change is needed, especially in an ever-evolving industry like marketing. 

Final Verdict: Fad, Trend, or Movement?

For some insight from a consumer culture perspective, disruptive marketing works in a world where standing out is necessary and welcomed. And that is why it may well find its place in a couple of years again, when it becomes necessary for businesses to differentiate themselves through digital marketing.

Disruptive marketing is also not all that new - we’ve seen it before, albeit under a different guise. If you think about it, it’s pretty similar to guerrilla marketing, where surprise and unconventionality is used to attract and delight consumers. 

The approach also requires there to be a great deal of competition, which was the case a few years ago. Currently, many businesses are finding their feet again after being in COVID-19 survival mode and or had to face closing their doors. There is less competition on the market and the world leaders in terms of global companies have strengthened, like Amazon. This means the market for the moment has seen a dip in disruptive marketing (and a focus on these digital strategies instead), and one might attribute it to being a trend or fad. But let’s dig in deeper to find out if there’s a space for it to come back, shall we?

With Gen Z’s coming to the forefront as the newcomer consumers, there are new needs to cater to. This is a generation that is hyper-focused on feelings, with businesses having to carefully find balance as to be inclusive and careful not to offend. This is a shift away from the generation just before theirs, which is vastly different even though not that great of a jump in terms of time. Millennials took it upon themselves to be different and distort the status quo. Their goal was to be unique and start apart from the pack, whereas Gen Zers are more firm on their stances, and if you aren’t with it, you’re against it, which can be a problem for marketers who do not fully understand their audience. 

As a concept, disruptive marketing seems to check out as a movement, one that will ebb and flow with the times. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below. 

You can also reach out to us at Nexa to chat more about the future of marketing and which trends matter for your business. 

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