buzz word: disruption

by Eduardo
August 7, 2020

What comes to mind when you think of the word: disruption?

It was a negative thought, wasn’t it? I don’t blame you… it implies change and no one actually likes change. COVID-19 has caused some massive disruption across all facets of our lives. It’s caused a dramatic shift in education, complicated the lives of essential workers, and on an individual level made us reconsider our future plans. Everyone’s, and I mean everyone’s, lives have been disrupted by this pandemic.

But what does disruption actually mean?

Before we dive further into what disruption is, let’s establish a clear and objective definition. According to the Oxford Languages, disruption is defined as “a disturbance or problem which interrupts an event, activity, or process.” I want to stress two particular words: disturbance and problem. Yeah, disruption doesn’t sound like a very good thing now does it…

So disruption is bad?

Not in the advertising world. It’s important to point out two different lenses through which one can perceive the effects of disruption to be: chaos or opportunity. Marketers choose the latter.

You see… marketing provides the “opportunity” to be bold and create messaging that has the power to impact the minds of millions around the world. Remember that “disruptive” Nike ad about Colin Kapernick? The one critics said Nike would later regret to have launched?  Well... that marketing campaign ended up being one of the most influential of recent times as it highlighted social issues pertaining to the Black community. It shed light upon issues like police brutality to consumers, and provided a platform for these Black voices be heard.

Disruption should be easy to achieve, right? Seems like all you have to do is go against the norm...

Yea, not quite. Everyday we are bombarded with thousands of messages across various different communication channels. Emails ads, ads on Instagram, billboards, old television ads - all of these different digital touchpoints present opportunities for disruption. However, notice how easily you dismiss most of those messages. Pretty often right? They are more like negative “interruptions” to your day.

This is where disruptive innovation comes into play.

What is disruptive innovation?

True marketers work towards creating messaging that not only sells products or services, but has the power to have a positive impact on society as a whole. To reiterate, the best marketing work done in the past decades have caused “disruptions” or massive shifts in the mindsets of consumers.

Take Apple’s “Think Different” campaign that changed the course of the technological landscape and positioned Apple as the pioneer of the digital era. Such was the impact of this advertising campaign that it shifted consumer’s minds to adopting technology as an integral part of our lifestyle. It also saved them from bankruptcy, but that's besides the point… It caused society to “Think Different” about technology while paying homage to historical figures who caused “disruptions” that moved humanity forward. The campaign successfully removed a barrier that was limiting the growth of the technological sector: fear.

As marketers, we see disruption as an opportunity for innovation. There is no reason we shouldn’t do the same as humans.