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Disruptive innovations and their impact on marketing

Kaustubh Sharma
30th Apr 2015
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In May 2013, the McKinsey Global Institute (McKinsey & Company) published a report which estimated the impact of applications of 12 identified disruptive technologies to be between $14 trillion to $33 trillion in the year 2025. Later, in 2014, ‘Forbes’ magazine, at the launch of Big Bang Disruption, reported (in context to disruptive innovations):

“…continued exponential improvements in price and performance of core component technologies…has led to dramatically accelerated entry for new products and services that create new markets overnight, even as they devastate old ones.”

For something that has attracted a great amount of attention from extremely large organizations, the term“disruptive technology”, or “disruptive innovation”, has had humble beginnings. It was used by a Harvard Business School professor, Clayton M. Christensen, in his 1995 article Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave, and explained further in his1997 bestselling book,The Innovator's Dilemma. In the 2013 sequel of the book, he changed the term disruptive technology to disruptive innovation.


innovation

Put simply, disruptive technology combines with another sector to bring about a mutually beneficial partnership that disrupts the existing structure, displacing the pre-existing technology completely in a relatively accelerated timeframe. Christensen’s description distinguishes the term from the concept of Sustaining Technologies, which most large companies rely on as “historically tried and tested” methods, unknowingly and unwittingly opening avenues for small disruptive innovations to develop.

True, most of these innovations will not displace existing methods. But some have the potential to completely alter the status quo, given the variables of planning, execution, and time. Disruptive innovations are somewhat characteristic of entrepreneurs, much like sustaining technologies are of managers. It is essentially working up from the bottom of the market with limited resources, knowledge, and skill.

However, it is not just college graduates who are trying to make a mark and taking forward the idea of innovative disturbances in a paradoxically orthodox business environment. Companies and managers are, now more than before, recognising disruptions. A case in point is the language R, an irreplaceable (or so it seems) programming tool for big data analysis. R has changed the way companies manage and market their businesses and has ensured faster expansion. And now, disruptions are delving into the all-important sector of marketing.

Already a field with no written constitution or steadfast rules, marketing witnessed a complete overhaul with the introduction of online marketing. The exponential reach of the Internet and the simplicity of exploiting the tool effectively have created a huge role for it, especially in startups. It has made validation of virgin products or services and the collection of feedback unbelievably faster.

The historically fluid nature of the market has also allowed for new disruptions to come up every now and then. Social media, for example, has evolved from a set of independent business ideas to an amalgamated prerequisite for supporting new businesses, and has extended the reach of existing, so-called “big companies”. It has made businesses more interactive with consumers, with consumers supplying their feedback, grievances, and complaints directly to the company.

Consequently, in a compound effect typical of marketing, social media marketing disruption has given birth to a new infectious disturbance in the marketing atmosphere: growth hacking. The word, first coined in 2010 by entrepreneur, angel investor, and startup advisor, Sean Ellis, enchanted new businesses and has started to gradually impress entrepreneurs worldwide. Growth hacking is an array of techniques, employed online, which test, analyse, and ethically exploit consumers by stimulating their interest in a product, and in turn, marketing it to a vast audience base by taking the fastest route to growth (or hacking growth) virality.

Though businesses achieve virality due to their USP, companies also need to use techniques like A/B testing, search engine optimization, content marketing (and other undiscovered processes) to survive in a competitive environment. Take Buffer for example: Besides having an extremely effective business idea, Buffer used several growth hacks to reach 1.2 million users and made $2 million in just 3 years. They achieved this feat through the already mentioned techniques (content marketing, A/B testing, and the specific hack of a DiggDigg purchase).

These numbers are overwhelming by any measure. But when you also factor in the fact that a simple startup achieved growth rivalling many established companies, growth hacking becomes that much more impressive.

There are surprisingly less cases of exponential growth through marketing growth hacks. This can only be a good thing, in a futuristic sense. Growth will always be the focal point of all businesses, new or established. Marketing will always command centre stage. And if there are amateurs and professionals out there looking for rapid growth they will stumble upon this disruption, which is set to replace orthodox marketing.

That being said, the future is unpredictable for something as versatile as marketing. Though growth hacking seems to be possibly the most innovative disturbance in the past years, because of the inherent nature of disruptive innovations, we might encounter a disruption soon.

(image credit: Shutter Stock)

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