Innovative disruption: The key to relevance in 2019

The world is changing at a faster pace than ever before — which means companies of all kinds must find new and innovative ways to differentiate themselves while maintaining consumer trust in an ever-evolving marketplace.

The digital age has presented companies across all industries with both great opportunities and a wide range of challenges — and in today’s fast-paced environment, how organizations anticipate and respond to those challenges, and how quickly they do it, will be a key indicator of future success.

To become and remain relevant, brands today must do something new and unexpected that causes people to stop and pay attention – and ultimately, get involved (i.e. buy).

And you need two things to make that happen: disruption and innovation.

Read more: Why and how disruptive marketing can be your brand's catalyst for success

Disruptive innovation

Disruptive innovation is defined by the Harvard Business Review as “a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses.” In other words, disruptive innovation takes place when a new product or service displaces a well-established one by anticipating the unique, and often unnoticed, needs of the consumer and offering something the old product or service didn’t — in short, it fills needs that have been overlooked. This is typically accomplished by offering something better, cheaper, more useful or more convenient — or a combination of all of these (or more). Disruptive innovation makes things more accessible to more people, and very often, it even adds new words to consumers’ everyday vocabulary.

Innovative disruption

While disruptive innovation means revolutionizing an industry with a new product and/or technology, innovative disruption is about revolutionizing the way that we as consumers think. By taking a new and innovative approach, brands can transform how consumers derive value from products and services, whether they, themselves, are new or not.

Creating and maintaining relevance in 2019

Innovation is what opens the door for disruption – the opportunity to do something that changes consumer behavior and/or perception. And not just in terms of a new product or technology – a truly innovative business strategy touches all aspects of an organization – from internal processes and workplace culture to customer service and marketing. It flips the traditional way of doing things on its head and challenges the status quo across an entire organization and everyone involved.

As a result, when innovation drives your strategy, you’re able to constantly evolve what you do and how you do it — along with how you communicate that with consumers.

And that last part — how you communicate with consumers — is arguably the most important piece of the puzzle in terms of winning relevance in the digital age. Regardless of how innovative a company may be in its products, technology and other business strategies, innovative marketing is what pulls it all together and makes a business stand out, and become/remain relevant, in today’s marketplace.

Relevance is the key to not only thriving, but also surviving. And the way to make a business relevant today — either in revolutionizing an entire industry or simply evolving to meet the needs of a changing landscape — is by effectively communicating its position and unique value to the target audience in a way that hasn’t been done before.

So, when it comes to standing out — and maintaining relevance — in 2019, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Consumers trust content, not ads

The digital age has given consumers more access to information — and power — than ever before. What that means for businesses is that in order to cut through all the clutter and actually catch people’s attention, they’ve got to do something innovative. They have to disrupt the status quo.

Traditional advertising has been losing its effect for years. In fact, a 2015 survey found that the top-trusted sources of advertising were: people you know, branded sites, editorial sites and reviews. On top of that, more than 30% of internet users now use ad blockers — meaning traditional ads won’t even reach 30% of the potential audience. This doesn’t mean ads don’t work, they just need to offer more these days.

People want to feel a deeper connection to brands, which means you must find new and engaging ways to give them just that. To be effective, ads must be relevant and offer consumers a unique value. The most successful marketing strategies today are rooted in content and storytelling — they tell a narrative that resonates so well with the target audience that it could be theirs.

Internal framework designed for success

If you want to be disruptive, you gotta disrupt the way things have always been done — starting with internal structure. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum — it’s product of collaboration — which means organizations must establish an internal framework that provides, and encourages, this type of environment.

Here’s why: content doesn’t just help marketing. A piece of powerful content can be useful to sales, recruiting and many other areas of the business. This is why successful organizations no longer limit their employees’ access to other teams and departments. It boosts morale, motivates your people, streamlines work, and most importantly, allows you to implement one clear brand message throughout every aspect of the company.

A successful strategy begins with the audience

In a consumer-driven society, old-style advertising that simply throws a message in front of as many people as possible no longer works. If a consumer doesn’t feel like you’re talking to her, she’ll move on. You can’t be everything to everyone, so don’t try.

When you get to know your audience inside and out, you can identify some very important trends that will allow you to market to them more effectively. Here are just a few:

  • Needs and wants

  • Device preferences

  • Platform preferences

  • Values

  • Similar interests

Once you understand who it is you’re talking to, you can communicate with them where, how and when they prefer — which in turn, allows you to fit your brand seamlessly into your audience’s lives.

Importance of transparency and authenticity

On one hand, innovative technology and marketing automation have made the lives of marketers much easier — allowing them to work more effectively and even reduce costs. However, if you aren’t careful, too much automation is exactly what will drive consumers away.

American shoppers want to know that there’s a human behind the curtain — someone who understands their needs and wants and genuinely cares. With more access than ever before, consumers now expect brands to be helpful, whether it’s via email, phone, social media or something else. They want to know you’re listening, and they want a transparent and authentic response.

True creativity is what sets you apart

Innovation and disruption don’t mean do something just because it’s uncommon, unheard of or unexpected. Sure, those elements are necessary, but there must be a greater purpose behind why you’re doing it in the first place.

This is where creativity comes in and allows you to speak above the noise. Whether it’s a new method of communication that no one else in the industry is using or a new way to engage more with the right people — being unique and creative in your approach is the only way to actually get people to pay attention.


Passion plays a big role in both creativity and innovation, which means it should be an underlying theme across an entire organization. If your people aren't passionate about the work they are doing, it will show.

Passion fuels people to do their best, because they actually care. And as a result, everything your company does will exude that same excitement that's needed to get consumers on board.

Alex Thomas