Disruptive marketing: here’s why it’s the best marketing!

disruptive marketing: image of Honest Ed's
Image: Honest Ed’s

Yes: disruptive marketing matters. Why? Consider this…

In the year of 2016 in Toronto, Canada, it was a very special New Years Eve.

It wasn’t for a particularly joyous reason. No, instead, one of the city’s iconic department stores, Honest Ed’s, was closing down for good.

Honest Ed’s was a cultural landmark. The enormous department store was home to many discounted goods, knick-knacks, baggy clothes, and their iconic, loud signs. Even after the store closed, the signs went up for sale — becoming local treasures.

But why were these hand-made signs so popular? Because they were disruptive. There’s something about the blaring red, blue and yellow signs that call for attention, and the clever messaging that makes them stand out.

“HONEST ED HAS NO TACT. BUT HIS PRICES ARE NAILED DOWN!” Does it get any better than this?

It’s important to be disruptive

If there’s one thing we can learn from Honest Ed’s, it’s to be disruptive. The style of messaging, the aesthetic, the tone — it all worked together to create successful, disruptive marketing.

It’s important to be disruptive — whether through something shocking, or something profoundly unique — because there’s just so much competition for attention. People are struggling with information overload and can’t pay attention to everything that flies in front of their eyes each day.

So this is where disruptive marketing comes in. Successful disruptive marketing manages to break that threshold of necessary excitement and surprise so that people pay attention, absorb your message.

Disruptive marketing: image of Great Nations Eat logo
Image: greatnationseat.org

Great Nations Eat

Being disruptive with your marketing is somewhat of a difficult task. It requires tact and careful execution — it must be both familiar and outlandish.

To get a better picture of disruptive marketing, we can take a look at a recent TikTok video. It illustrates how a video series made in 2015 went viral in 2021.

It started as a mistake. A person had seen a video from the 2015 campaign to end U.S. hunger called Great Nations Eat, depicting a German woman helping a child, and speaking (in German) about food insecurity in the U.S. This person really thought it was about Germany fundraising to help improve food security in the U.S. But in reality, it was an American-made video, and Great Nations Eat is an American initiative.

The video campaign posed as foreign countries helping the U.S. The videos were like any other charity video; footage of people experiencing poverty, someone helping a child, narration of poor circumstances, and a call to action. 

If you take a look at the video linked above, you can see how the TikToker could mistake the video for something genuine. After all, it’s really well made.

So when the TikToker expressed how shocked they were to find out that Germany was raising money to feed people in the U.S., it understandably spread and became viral, gaining 9 million views.

The disruptive marketing tactic was a hit 6 years after its creation. The way they took a swing at disruptive marketing, it was quite genius wasn’t it? Few people would think there’s food security issues in the U.S., and that’s exactly where Great Nations Eat found their disruption.

How to be disruptive

Disruptive marketing: image of a marketer pointing to a performance message on an iPad
Image: Envato

In this case, the disruptive marketing was shocking, but familiar. When it comes to fundraising and charity videos for children, the children hardly ever look American. This campaign flipped the script.

In terms of familiarity, the format of the video was very similar to what people are used to seeing, so it wasn’t so outlandish as to not relate to the audience. And then there’s the factor that people often overlook — the voice over.

When you’re attempting a disruptive marketing tactic, there has to be a strong anchor to ground the audience. Otherwise the disruption might seem like extraneous noise. A voice over makes for an excellent anchor.

Although in the video series the voice over is in a foreign language (either Mandarin or German), the power of the human voice conveys the emotion, message and tone of the topic. There are subtitles to go with the videos, but even without them, we can get a sense of what they’re about from the visuals, and from the voice over.

Are you looking for a voice over to help anchor your next project? Pay us a visit at Voice123, we’ve got one of the biggest selections of professional voice artists who are more than capable of connecting with your audience.

Final thoughts

In a way, you’ll always want to be disruptive with your marketing. After all, nobody ever got anywhere meaningful by copying everyone else by the book. 

If there’s a successful marketing tactic that’s trending, great, hop onboard. But remember to add your unique twist, and disrupt the market!

And remember to always reinvent your disruptive tactic, because marketing is always being reinvented. Lest you end up like our old friend Honest Ed’s.That’s all for this time! We’re wishing you the best as the year wraps up, and are wishing you a safe and happy holiday season!


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