Disruptive Marketing: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: November 9th, 2016 by bobmorris

disruptive-marketingDisruptive Marketing: What Growth Hackers, Data Punks, and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating the New Normal
Geoffrey Colon
AMACOM (August 2016)

How business, human behavior, technology, and communications intersect, “and how they are shaped by the world around us”

I wholly agree with Geoffrey Colon that “the power of imagination and empathy is more critical in the world than ever before. As a result, it is even more necessary for people to pay attention to their thoughts, beliefs, actions, and experiences. No thought, debate, debate, or ream is a waste anymore. There is a massive amount of power in being enthusiastically inefficient.” Prudent and continuous experimentation will usually not achieve the ultimate object (breakthrough innovation) but it can — and usually does — serve as a precious learning opportunity to understand what does not work as well as why it doesn’t.

In this context, I am remanded that in 1865, a German physicist, Rudolph Clausius (1822-1888) coined the term entropy during his research on heat. The word’s meaning “a turning towards” (in Greek, en+tropein), “content transformative” or “transformative content.” Claudius used the concept to establish a mathematical foundation for the second law of thermodynamics: without the injection of free energy, all systems tend to move (however gradually) from order to disorder, if not to chaos.

In their latest book, Repeatability: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change (published by Harvard Business Review Press, 2012), Chris Zook and James Allen observe, “In business, entropy often leads to waste and loss of focus in the daily operations of complex organizations, such as the emergence of self-contained, internal activities without direct linkage to, or value for, the customer. Yet, when organizations grow and become more complex, internal units proliferate…As the forces of entropy strengthen, more time is taken up with internal meetings, or written reports, or preoccupation with narrow, often political, agendas that come with complex organizational structure. The customer becomes less central and suffers, and the strategic priorities become less clear.”

This is certainly true of marketing. For several millennia, its essential purpose has been to create or increase demand for the given offering. That remains true. However, as Colon correctly suggests, disruptive marketing is significantly different from conventional and nondisruptive marketing marketing applications of that basic function. More specifically, disruptive marketing challenges the mindset that established and continues to sustain the given status quo. According to Colon, for example, marketers in old media “paid for space and time. In emerging media, marketers will pay for audience and attention.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Colon’s coverage:

o Disruptive mindset (Pages 21-34)
o Abundance of information (52-55)
o Impact of loss of control (53-55)
o Hierarchy in companies (61-63)
o Information jamming (65-69)
o Creative hybrids (74-79)
o Disruptive marketers (83-100)
o The End of the Marketing Department (112-119)
o Content creation: BuzzFeed (125-128)
o Connecting (141-147)
o Listening (153-165)
o Disruptive marketing vs. conventional and nondisruptive marketing (154-160
o Value of Big Data (168-170)
o Corporate social responsibility (178-183)
o Continual learning (186-188)

In Future Shock (1970), Alvin Toffler suggests, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” I agree and this may be what Colon had in mind when writing this book. Among his concluding thoughts, he says this: “Trust me, I’m no Luddite. But trust me, — reading another blog post [such as this review] or watching another piece of video content may not inspire you with creative ideas or flights of imagination. However, separating yourself from the world of digital devices just might. It can put into your perspective what you are trying to accomplish and what your life’s mission is in the creative economy – not as a marketer, but as a human being.”

Long ago, I became convinced that every person is a marketer, differing only in the nature and extent to which we attempt to create or increase demand for what we offer. It could be a product or a service. It could be an agreement or rejection of other offerings and options. Whatever, Geoffrey Colon urges us to disrupt our thinking “not as a marketer, but as a human being…Paint. Travel. Read. Observe. Love. Learn. Slam-dance. Rave. DJ. Feel. Solve math equations. Listen.”

The more we commit to personal exploration that is internal as well as external, gaining an understanding that is “enthusiastically inefficient,” we will experience what T.S. Eliot describes so well in his classic work, Four Quartets: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

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