Moving from ‘dealing with disruption’ to ‘being the disruptor’

Andy Markovitz of General Electric gave one of the more interesting talks at the Marketing Summit at Web Summit 2014 with a nod to the story of David and Goliath.

With the constant shifting of the technological landscape, companies focus too much on ‘dealing with the disruption’. They need to ‘become the disruptor’, he says.

It’s all very well for ‘Davids’ to handle disruption. Their job, by definition, is to disrupt so they can gain a reasonable share of a pie that they currently have very little of. For ‘Goliaths’ it’s a far bigger challenge, though one they cannot ignore if they are to avoid the fate of our favourite biblical giant.

‘I don’t even know what I don’t know’

Markovitz made the valid point that digital is so complex and moving so fast that many marketers are overwhelmed. Many feel that they don’t even know what they don’t know. They know there is opportunity out there but have an overwhelming sense of #fomo (fear of missing out – a dominant emotion at the Web Summit, by the way, as you try to decide between the 8 things you want to see at any given time!).

So, what exactly is ‘disruption’?

The definition of disruption is ‘an event that results in a displacement or discontinuity’.

It  is shiny, smart and fearless. It is what enabled Hailo to revolutionise the taxi market and for Skype to revolutionise the long-distance calling market, amongst others.

In the case of GE they used Content Marketing to disrupt perceptions of the brand that was best known for lighting and appliances. Examples of their Content Marketing work include the Instagrapher Contest and the Spring Break when they filmed their machines breaking household objects.

GE went on to really think outside of the box when creating engaging content when they teamed up with musician Matthew Dear to create a composition with audio samples recorded from the world’s most powerful machines. 

The result is an original music track titled “Drop Science.”

Key Precepts in ‘Dealing with Disruption’

For a large corporation such as GE, however, there are key precepts that they need to apply in order to deal with disruption.

Owning and Enabling

It’s no use asking who was responsible after a competitor outfoxes you.  You need to assign ownership to various elements of what you are doing. Who ‘owns’ the website in your organisation? If it’s everybody’s, then it’s nobody’s. Who is responsible for it? Once you have assigned ‘ownership’ then you need to ‘enable’ them. This is where many organisations are falling down.

Don’t just give social media to the young kid who is a social native, but hasn’t got the authority or chutzpah to drive things through or get buy-in at a senior level. This is often about educating the senior people about what’s going on and its importance in the overall scheme of things.

Leading by Example

The people in your organisation who have been assigned ownership and been enabled must lead by example. They won’t get buy-in for something that they are not living themselves. So don’t assign the social media management to someone who isn’t active on social media, who doesn’t tweet or know the difference between Pinterest and Instagram.

Get External

Not all of the answers lie within the organisation, so you need to work with external agencies whose function is, in part, to be plugged into the latest thinking and how to apply it.

Accountability

With ‘ownership’ and ‘enablement’ comes ‘accountability’. So the golden age of marketing heralds the dawn of the age of accountability. Markovitz defines three imperatives of marketing accountability:

1. Strategic Currency

Whatever you are doing, it must have relevance to your organisation’s or brand’s strategic framework.

2. Repeatable proof points

There comes a point when you have to stand in front of the finance guys and be able to show them proof that what you are doing is working. So define what those proof points are and go back to them again and again.

3. Smarter and Smarter

Try things and learn from them. Pretty soon, you’ll have a base of knowledge to work with which means you are getting more and more out of your investment of time and resource. But you need to be able to show that you are getting smarter and smarter. After a while, as an organisation, you’ll move from ‘avoiding the disruption’ to ‘being the disruptor’.

Start the disruption today. Get in touch with us, Ireland’s First Content Marketing agency (a disruptive phrase, if ever there was one!)

256 Media are experts in Content Marketing and work across multiple platforms. Just saying.

Read more about GE’s use of Content Marketing here.

About Adrian O'Farrell

Adrian O’Farrell is Head of Client Services for 256, Ireland’s first dedicated content marketing agency. He has worked in marketing for over twenty years, having had his own award-winning marketing agency. He has worked in advertising in both agency, media owner and client side. He is a former Chairman of the Association of Promotional Marketing Consultants.