Disruption: A Concept to Embrace Out of Love or Fear
This higher usage of “disruption” in our vocabulary is not a re-statement about change, it’s about the magnitude of that change. Change is incremental. Disruption is game changing. Disruption today is seemingly everywhere — in politics, in social and economic ebb and flows, in business — and certainly in marketing.
Are we ready for disruption? Do we not only accept disruption’s emergence, but also expect it, learn from it and truly embrace its challenges (and opportunities)?
That’s not always easy to do. However, disruption is the new normal. Did those of us in the world of direct marketing — who perhaps knew from the start that digital marketing was “direct marketing on steroids” — truly foresee the disruption that digital business models would wreak? Venture capital and Silicon Valley certainly placed bets on monetizing data and they have prospered. Still, traditional direct marketing has had to adapt to digital, social, local and mobile — our marketing discipline’s “own” digital disruption. We’ve had to anticipate disruption or pay the price, much like everybody else.
Most CMOs have to manage disruption, digital and otherwise, but today’s CMOs are rarely recruited from the data-rich realm of direct marketing. Branding still dominates CMO ranks. Branding budgets still drive the bulk of ad spending — even as data collection and analysis now influence more and more of that spend. The labels of “direct marketing,” “digital marketing” and even “integrated marketing” are now simply “marketing.” CMOs, with their dashboards, need to account for all they spend and the value that spending creates. Labels tend to reflect silos that stubbornly hang on but can mire the overall customer experience. Managing customer experience is managing disruption.
Millennials in the workplace are another disruptor. I thank them for the insights they bring to our business, and for the focused coverage and research their presence creates. They should dominate our imaginations as Baby Boomers and Generation X before – but we should resist classifying them with our prejudices, and rely on the data that the marketplace provides (as a target market) and their insights (as members of our marketing team).
Next week, Marketing EDGE will bestow its inaugural EDGE Awards in New York City. Lester Wunderman, MediaMath, Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative and six “Rising Stars” will all be in the spotlight. The first three honorees are disruptors in their own right, while the six "Rising Stars" actually have “disruption” as a criterion for their recognition. Marketing in the age of disruption may scare, carry risks, spur failure – but survival is the payoff if you’re lucky, and true innovation if you’re really lucky. What choice do we have but to embrace disruption?