On Disruption: Read This Marketing Article & You’ll Be Sayin “Sweet Baby Jesus!”

On Disruption: Read This Marketing Article & You'll Be Sayin "Sweet Baby Jesus!"
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Disruption. It’s one of my favorite marketing concepts. It involves initiating a disturbance in your market that draws attention to your products or services while pulling attention away from your competitors.

Jesus + Beer = Disruption

DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus Six PackThis weekend I fell victim to disruptive marketing. As a result, I bought a product that I had never tried instead of buying the product that I had intended to buy.

Saturday afternoon I went out to buy a six pack of beer. I have a short list of beer that I like because I have a very specific taste. Regardless of how many brands are available at my local shop, I typically always go for the handful of brands that I like.

Except this time.

While I was reaching for the one I wanted, the phrase “Sweet Baby Jesus!” caught my eye.

Micro And Craft Brewing

If you aren’t familiar with the micro brew or craft brew space, here’s all you need to know: There are so many craft and micro brews (e.g., non national name brands) that the only way they can compete is to come up with clever names and packaging to get people to buy and taste them. For example, one of my favorite beers is Arrogant Bastard Ale. The reason I bought it in the first place was because of the name and packaging.

There I was facing the moment of truth. To buy or not to buy. The name in a large bold white font against a dark background was enough to capture my attention and more importantly to draw it away from the six pack I already had my hands on. The words “Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter” were enough to seal the deal. Kudos, DuClaw Brewing Company. Now shut up and take my money!

Did The Product Live Up To The Disruptive Marketing Win?

As it turns out, Sweet Baby Jesus is right down my alley. It’s dark, flavorful and delicious. To quote my drinking partner, Carol Lynn, “This is really good.”

It’s exactly the kind of beer that I like. But had someone said, “Hey, try this beer,” I likely would have passed. After decades of drinking beer, I know what I like and I’m sticking to it. But apparently, DuClaw wasn’t playing that game and it’s a good thing for them because now they have a new customer.

A Win For DuClaw

DuClaw BrewingWhy is this a win for DuClaw? After putting thought into their packaging and brand, DuClaw was able to stand out amongst an army of competitors. They made a consumer (e.g. Me) shift their hyper focused intended buying behavior. And finally, they produced a good product that will result in repeat business.

By way of disclaimer, up until this Saturday I had never heard of DuClaw and they are not paying me for this testimonial. But this article isn’t about Sweet Baby Jesus – even though I’m drinking one while I write this. It’s about you, your business and how you can disrupt your market.

The Down Sides Of Disruption

Disruptive marketing techniques are fleeting because consumers get bored quickly. Consider Super Bowl ads. Traditionally, the day after the big game has been allocated to discussion about the ads that ran the day before. But lately the luster has worn off and the commercials are no longer being universally recognized as entertainment.

Has any modern Super Bowl ad been able to capture the essence of disruption of Apple’s 1984 commercial? Probably not. As quickly as a disruptive force can challenge the status quo of a market, it can also become irrelevant.

Marketing disruption can also have a dark side, albeit it a dark side that can teach valuable lessons in an unintended way.

Al Qaeda’s September 11th attack was at least partially a disruptive marketing event. At a crossroads, Al Qaeda had fluctuating market share in a marketplace that was becoming more competitive throughout the region. The destruction of the World Trade Center and strike on the Pentagon showed those sympathetic to Al Qaeda that grand scale attacks were possible by the group. More importantly, the attacks had tremendous marketing value and probably swayed those undecided between the western and terrorist ideologies to pick a side.

What the Super Bowl and Al Qaeda have in common is that neither has a sustainable model. The disruption of yesterday is the ad fatigue of tomorrow. In the case of the later, that’s a good thing.

The sustainability of a disruptive campaign can probably also be predicted based on the technology support that it needs. Augmented reality, for example, likely has the ability to act as a disruptor, but as the technology advances and becomes more economical and widespread then it will lose its ability to disrupt.

Disruption That Works

One of my favorite disruptive campaigns is Bodyform’s video response to a man named Richard who posted a rant on his Facebook page about how women are portrayed unrealistically in commercials about their periods.

Bodyform responded with this.

Bodyform challenged conventional wisdom by addressing a complaint that was essentially true and using it to reshape and disrupt the conversation. In tongue and cheek fashion, Bodyform admitted wrongdoing and apologized.

Not long ago, the Miley Cyrus brand was the darling of Christian Conservative America. As the brand aged it faced the possibility of transitioning from Disney child star to former child star. So the brand did something brilliant. It became hyper sexualized. Just the other day, my mother-in-law and I had a conversation about a photo in the news that showed Miley simulating fellatio on an anatomically correct blow up doll while wearing a thong in front of thousands of people.

I know what some of you are thinking. “That’s terrible!”

Well, maybe. But here’s the thing. Miley made the transition and has managed to displace wars, crime and murder on the front page of most news outlets. Is it sensationalism? Sure. But Miley is making bank, all while she controls her marketing and creates the perception that she is a victim being unduly attacked.

A few weeks ago I made an unfavorable comment on my personal Facebook page about Miley’s behavior on stage and a few moms with teen daughters not only disagreed, but attacked me for “attacking Miley.”

That’s the brilliance of the Miley Disruption. People that would otherwise find her behavior objectionable now shout the mantra of “she’s one of us.” That message has tremendous power and resonates with teens.

How Can You Disrupt?

How can you be disruptive to your market in a way that draws business towards you instead of away from you, without the whole anatomically correct doll thing?

Find Your Polarity. Figure out what separates you from your competitor and use that as “us versus them.” Create the perception that using a competitor’s product would just be silly. Think of the “I’m a Mac. I’m a PC.” commercials. After watching those, who wants to be a PC?

Speak To Your Audience’s Feelings. Sometimes what people say publicly or out loud is different than what they really mean and feel. My company recently was reviewing a software product we wanted to purchase. A number of our colleagues purchased the product and raved about it. As it turns out, they all raved about it, but hated it. The reason they were raving was because the cost of entry was so high and the contract was so restrictive that they had to love it. Even if they didn’t love it. Discovering and using what people think but are afraid to say can be a powerful disruptor.

Take The Gloves Off. Are there things that you would not say in front of clients or competitors? Maybe you should. Maybe your potential customers are pissed off about or concerned about the same things you are. If you can figure out how to tap into those things in clever ways, you might build a bridge between you and new customers. With the right language and tenor, you can position hard language or ideas as a benefit.

Convert Your Customers To Allies. Sculpt your marketing message so that your consumers feel that an insult to your brand is an insult to them. Political parties are masters at this. Have you ever attacked the position of a political party only to have a person feel offended? That’s an extremely powerful tactic.

Market To Your Niche. You cannot create a disruptive marketing message by crafting that message to everyone. Marketing is most effective when it is hyper targeted.

Don’t Be Afraid To Offend. The Miley Cyrus brand knows exactly who they are targeting and doesn’t care about the rest. They fully understand that my mother-in-law will never spend a dime on Miley Cyrus products so they don’t care one bit about offending her. Admittedly this is an extreme example, but as with the note about niches above, you can’t please everyone. So focus on what you want your message to be to your prospects.

It’s Sweet Baby Jesus Time

So here I am at the end of this article wondering if disruption can work as a marketing strategy. Carol Lynn is sitting across from me, we’ve both finished off three beers each and now the six pack is empty. My next act is to wrap up this article and go out and buy another.

So the answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

Before I get started on my next six pack, let me remind you that you don’t have to go at your marketing alone. My team and I are ready, willing and able to help you disrupt your market. If you’re local, we’ll even buy you a beer.

Cheers!

Ralph M. Rivera
Hi, I'm Ralph! I'm a web developer at Rahvalor Interactive, a creative marketing services company that I founded in 1999 with my wife and business partner Carol Lynn. In January 2012 we created Web.Search.Social as a branded service offering that brings enterprise-level services to small businesses in an affordable way. I'm also founder and CTO of Podcaster's Toolbox, a SaaS platform designed to help podcasters plan, produce and promote their shows. I teach web development at Manhattan College in New York City. Carol Lynn and I are home based near the Jersey shore but we're currently location independent and traveling the country for a year, working and podcasting. I'm also trying to build a flux capacitor, but that's not going as well as the other stuff I do.
Ralph M. Rivera
Ralph M. Rivera