Friday, August 12, 2011


4Ps B&M Monojit Lahiri Probes this Bizarre root to consumer connect!

Advertising has often been described as a calling that deals single-mindedly with the business of ideas... ideas that connect with their prime constituency and influence them to leap towards products or services advertised. In this exciting play, several routes, avenues, devices (humour, insecurity, charm, fear, pride, envy, snob-appeal, rebellion) have been successfully developed to seduce the prospective customer, but the one that has bewildered, shocked, intrigued, even provoked several zillion people is the use of “disruption” as bait – that is, in one straight shot, completely change or reinvent the positioning message of the product. Disrupt and destroy the images one might have built up over years – and the devil;s advocacy propagated that that was the way consumers would re-notice your brand. But can disarray, disorder or disruption, as I put it, ever be successful in wooing customers into an affirmative or approval mode? Isn't it unsettling and fundamentally frightening to even the marketing mavericks that a positioning statement that one would have built up after investing millions, even billions of dollars, is played around with to satisfy the test of theory? Can disruptive positioning really be a dynamic, yet positive force?

TBWA's moving spirit Jean-Marie Dru believed it could. The objective of this revolutionary approach (according to the great communication visionary) was: Re-frame the brand in a manner that is so startling that the market begins to look at it differently. De-familiarise or re-complexify it in a way that force consumers to see and notice brand characteristics that they had overlooked earlier. This leads to a fresh renewal of interest in the brand. And there are emphatic success stories to peddle too. Brilliant examples include McDonald's selling fast food to the “snooty” French. PlayStation selling computer games to adults. Most hilarious, the US buying Absolut Vodka thinking it is a Russian drink (it isn't; it's swedish)!

Some companies have made disruptive marketing a habit. Apple's disruptive positioning strategies slung out the time-tasted, sacrosanct notions which pronounced that communicating product features were the key to selling hi-tech products. Apple's maverick visionary leader, Steve Jobs believed that a brand was not solely about “bytes or boxes but values” and proceeded to provide the perfect example of an organisation that knew how to constantly reinvent itself by disrupting the status quo. The introduction of Macintosh is an outstanding model. Its premise rested on challenging the hallowed premise that “people should be computer literate”. Jobs' startling and revolutionary import was “computers should be people literate and designed to work the way people do!” What followed was pure, high decibel marriage of theatrics, showbiz and hard headed selling. For 60 second during the 1980 Super-Bowl (the mother of all major events in USA), he unleashed the (by now legendary) 1984 TV spot which promised everybody a brave new world, free from the de-humanising effects of computer technology.

They words were simple yet cataclysmic... “On January 24, 1984 Apple launches Macintosh. And you will see why 1984 won't be 1984,” (a chilling connect with George Orwell's ominous book). It was reported that the very next day, over 200,000 people stormed showrooms across the US and within six hours, sales reached over $3.5 million! A decade and a half later, Apple disrupted again with its landmark “Think Different” campaign featuring great creators of the 20th century who were/are not fond of rules and have had no respect for the status quo.

Apple, Jobs announced, was a company that made 'Tools for Creative Minds'. So if the consumer was convinced that Apple was an IT company, Jobs immediately entered the music industry with the iPod and iTunes. The moment one was convinced Apple was an IT and music company, Jobs positioned Apple as a cellular phone innovator. Today, Apple continues its path-breaking disruption mode with its could endeavours.

To celebrate disruptive marketing, creativity has to happen at strategic levels before real creative work begins. The “Big Idea” is the answer is to look to the outside world for cues, guidance, hints, tips, inspiration. Look to the world of history, science, business for ideas that drove dramatic changes in perception. Before Nicolaus Copernicus (for example) the heavens rotated around the earth. Before Louis Pasteur there were no germs and so no immunisation. Before Henry For automobile transportation was relatively expensive indulgence and the privilege of a select few. Disruption changed it all...
Copernicus and Pasteur are said to have had intuitive feeling about theories they went on to prove... and Ford had very definitive ideas about democratising automobile transportation.

Jean-Marie Dru generously offers a simple four-step guideline. One, identify the conventions and unquestioned assumptions that shape and form an organisation's blue print. Two, look at how the different facets of its activity fit together. Three, enter disruption – challenge these conventions to find flaws in its thinking. Four, identify a vision or a projection of the company that represents the future. This vision is much more that a proposition or positioning statement. It's a total culture – a destination again­st which all strategic and marketing decisions are/will be measured.

At the end of the day, disruptive positioning or disruptive marketing is neither a seismic shakeout, dramatically lobbed gimmick nor myopic anarchy. Of course, it works fantastically in industries where it might never have been possible to differentiate your product (carbonated drinks, cellular service providers, fuel) by providing a dynamically new way for the audience to recognize your product. But disruptive marketing also works pretty fantastically in understanding that no creative and unique positioning can remain creative and unique over the long term. One time or the other, the competition will catch up with your so called disruptive positioning – and that's the time you learn to disrupt again. Beyond a mere formal procedure or process, disruptive marketing is a strategically-directed shakeup, a perceptive way of both thinking and looking at that killer opportunity. It's about engaging with the world, with an open and curious mind accepting nothing on face value and taking on odds, fearlessly... The basic point about disruptive marketing is – Disrupt before the world disrupts you! Invent the future instead of being evicted by it.