These Disruptive Marketing Examples Will Inspire You

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  • Tamara Olori
  • 18 March 2023
  • 6 Min Read

“Disruptive innovation can hurt, if you are not the one doing the disrupting.” – Clay Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and disruptive innovation expert

Proctor & Gamble Co., “the world’s biggest advertiser,” cut its digital ad spending by $200 million in 2017. The reason? The multi-national consumer goods company lost control of ad placement. Its ads were showing up alongside “controversial” content, in addition to showing too often as well. So far, the company has reported that the dramatic reduction has “had little impact on the business.”

Last year, CNBC shared disappointing stats on the effectiveness of online video advertising. Sixty-five percent of people “skip” these ads “as soon as they get the chance.” And, it’s nothing personal; seventy-six percent “do so because it’s an ingrained behavior.” This means advertisers’ efforts and dollars may go to waste if their ads have little chance of being seen. Brands have assumed online was the place to be. Instead, perhaps they should’ve been looking to disruptive marketing to maximize their marketing return.

How Disruptive Marketing Helps Business

A Forbes article says we spend 75% of our screen time on connected devices, driving digital strategies “front and centre of most marketing plans.” But, it also questions whether the approach is enough. Though consumers spend their time with technology, the truth is that being constantly plugged is altering buyer behaviours. It’s no longer sufficient to put an ad in front of them; “getting through to customers will take some radical rethinking.” The answer for many forward-thinking brands is in disruptive marketing.

A recent book explains disruptive marketing as the point where “selling is dead, but ongoing conversation thrives.” It’s where consumers create better content about brands than brands do. It’s where people go with their feelings, not the noise, because of marketers’ curiosity and creativity. And the most successful experiential marketing activations are also made of these things.

Experiential marketing often uses ingenious means to engage consumers and initiate two-way conversations. A recent Chief Marketer article names this ability a disruptive marketing trend, saying consumers’ “expectation of transparency” will only grow. And, rising to the challenge will bring rewards beyond direct sales. These rewards will also be in the form of consumer content that is generated based on authentic brand engagements and newfound relationships. The benefit is sharing this content via social media and realising maximum return on engagement. In short, experiential marketing is time and again considered one of the best disruptive marketing examples.

These Experiential Marketing Activations Make the Best Disruptive Marketing Examples

Look to these two brands for out-of-the-box disruptive, experiential marketing ideas.

Warby Parker

From the start, the prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses retailer set out to shake up the eyewear industry. Dave Gilboa, company co-CEO, says, “We wanted to disrupt a system wherein glasses are marked-up hundreds of dollars for no value added. That may be a great deal for the industry, but it’s terrible for the consumer.” And, disrupt is what they did. It wasn’t only in their low-cost pricing model that brought them 500% growth in the first year. Their strategies to get in front of consumers provide some of the best disruptive marketing examples to date.

That first year, the company used grassroots marketing tactics that consumers had yet to see from eyewear providers. The brand took to the streets of Miami, during the city’s Art Basel weekend, on tailor-made bicycles. These branded bikes featured display cases with up to 15 different frames over their front wheels. Yet, this wasn’t the only time the company went mobile with its marketing efforts. The following year, its promo staff hit the road to visit nine U.S. cities in a yellow school bus, its inside outfitted to look like a library.

It’s clear Warby Parker left nothing to chance as it launched an innovative, and what was then an online-only, approach to the industry. It knew what to do to turn consumers into brand disciples.


Red Bull

Consumers may know Red Bull as a pioneer in the energy drink category. Yet, a Mashable article tells of the notorious brand differently. It says its “universe is extreme sports and adrenaline-junky stunts.” It’s “a publishing empire that also happens to sell a beverage.” This is the truth indeed. And the company came right out of the gate with disruptive marketing many only hope to emulate.

The founder’s “philosophy is that marketing requires ‘only a clear mind and bright eyes’.” For Red Bull, their success has been built on marketers’ curiosities and the feelings consumers have as a result.

It all began with grassroots marketing efforts, which unleashed brand ambassadors on college campuses. These promo staff handed out free Red Bull drinks, which came in handy for students both day and night. From there, the brand took its no-pressure approach and built on its energetic concept. It partnered with high-energy sporting events and athletes to bring fans exactly what they want to see. One notable and disruptive effort was “Red Bull Stratos.” The campaign took a pro skydiver on a “mission to the edge of space,” from which he set the world record for highest altitude jump. Views of one YouTube video of this PR stunt total more than 43 million. And, though the energy drink wasn’t the focus, you can bet the brand was on the minds of most of these viewers.

What Marketers Need for Success in Experiential Marketing

These two brands show simple to elaborate experiential marketing activations can cause disruption. And, while interactions originate from curiosity, they transform into time to have two-way conversations, incite consumer feelings, and encourage content creation and sharing. This puts huge responsibility on the shoulders of event staff, who are tasked with taking the disruptive concept into reality.

When choosing event staff, it’s imperative to understand their role in disruptive marketing. In the grassroots marketing activations of Warby Parker and Red Bull, event staff needed to be outgoing to engage passers-by. They also needed to be knowledgeable and passionate about their products. And, with the latter brand especially, they would need to relate to the target audience. This is important for showing authenticity and being transparent to create relationships.

Other criteria include activation-specific skills. These may call for tech-savvy event staff for virtual reality demos or social media influencers to amplify a message. In the end, it’s these capabilities that can cause the most disruption.

At Elevate, we provide the event staff brands need to succeed in outdoing even these disruptive marketing examples. Our services can protect your brand and propel your campaign to reach its objectives.