Among the vast reservoir of hackneyed phrases that infect the marketing industry, perhaps none is more pervasive than "disruption." To be the foremost cliché in an industry that seems to thrive on clichés is quite an accomplishment.
In order to be taken seriously, every new product, new business, or new service must be described as "disruptive." It is no longer sufficient to be different or superior.
Of course, for every new product like the iPod that was truly disruptive, there are a
thousand Google Glasses that only disrupted the credibility of its parent company.
The reason for this is simple: People are far less enthusiastic about being disrupted than marketers are about disrupting them.
This may explain why in Silicon Valley, where disruption is a relentless mantra, the rate of start-up failure is about 90%
-- which is about the same as dry cleaners and falafel shops.
Marketers consistently overestimate our appetite for new schemes and underestimate our attachment to traditional buying habits.
In fact, the greatest disruptor of disruption is the average consumer who is often well-satisfied with the stuff she buys and how she buys it.
- Personally, I find online shopping to be amazing. And yet, about 93% of retail activity still occurs in a store.
- The percent of hybrid and electric vehicles on the road is under 3% -- and has recently been dropping!
- While there has been enormous publicity about the marketing potential of mobile devices, sales generated on smart phones account for less than 2% of retail activity.
- The web was supposed to have killed TV by now. Yet In the 4th quarter of 2015, over 95% of video viewing was done on a TV.
The point is, disruption is a dime-store platitude and a perilously difficult feat.
Every now and then an Uber comes along that truly disrupts an industry. But let's be honest here. In most cities the average taxi is filthy and dangerous. It was an industry desperately in need of disruption. (And yet, remarkably, Uber managed to lose over $1 billion in the first half of this year.)
Before you become seduced by the idea of disruption, it might be healthy to remember that disruption is very rare, and not always attractive to consumers . The wisest strategy for many companies might be to leave "disruption" to the dreamers, and invest in superiority.