The Thing About Disruption

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How good is your brand when it comes to disruption?

For my money, disruption is the current big bad wolf of business today. It’s everywhere. B2B, B2B, small, medium and large enterprises. Everyone is feeling the huffing, puffing and heavy breathing of disruption on their shoulders. I often laugh when reading articles in places like Fast Company about these major brands, who insist that they could never be disrupted, because they are too busy, disrupting themselves. There’s a really fast, simple and easy litmus test to see if this is true: simply go and check out their website on a mobile device. Look and see how many apps this brands has published. Try to connect with them on one of the many social media channels, and pay attention to how long it takes them to respond (if they even respond at all). The disruptors are starting in those arenas as most brands have either fallen behind or are racing to catch up. 

Brands are a little delusional. Brands should be less delusional.

Being disruptive in your industry means that you are doing something completely different from what you are presently doing, and the results are pacing at a better clip than your current business model. Go for it. Please. List below the major brands that have truly disrupted themselves. You can probably list them on the hands of a bad high school woodshop teacher (to steal a classic joke from Dennis Miller). Why? It’s like asking newspaper publishers why they didn’t embrace the Internet sooner or why companies like Yellow Pages allowed Google to overtake these mighty institutions. Disruption is hard, because it means that you, in effect, are doing something completely different from what you had been doing to date, and this new effort is the one that will become the industry standard. Uber didn’t become another kind of taxi company. Tinder isn’t just another online dating site. Ask any entrepreneur, this is not easy. Especially, when there is a legacy of success, growth and opportunity.

It’s hard to kill your darlings, while they’re still developing into darlings. 

I’m bullish that more and more industries will be disrupted. I’m bearish on the current slew of industry leaders that are able to make that leap. History doesn’t tell a kind story here. Still, a few days ago, eMarketer published this fascinating article: CMOs Are Safeguarding Their Businesses from Market Disruptors. This is what the Chief Marketers Officers believe:

“During February and March 2016, Accenture surveyed 847 CMOs and 535 CEOs worldwide about the impact of disruptive growth on their businesses. According to the data, 97% of respondents said they are placing emphasis on safeguarding their business from new competitors that have not traditionally been a part of their industry. The research, though, also revealed a slight divide on just how much of a priority this is for CMOs; while 43% agreed it’s greatly taken into account, another 54% said only to some extent.”

97% of Chief Marketing Officers believe that they are safeguarding their brands from new competitors.

Because they’re buying startups? Because they are developing new products and services? I find this hard to believe. Innovation is not the same as disruption. Have we seen instances when buying an emerging startup has stopped an industry from being disrupted? If yes, was it something that stuck? Have we seen instances when launching new products and services has stopped an industry from being disrupted? Isn’t disruption an inevitability? What do these safeguards look like? Especially if, as a consumer, we’re not seeing them currently in the marketplace?

Disruption is a tough one to beat. 97% percent think they’re focused on it. Do you agree?