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Ascent Limited

Marketing in The Age of Disruption.

When many hear the word disruption, they imagine an unsettling disarrangement of order. In a way, they are right. You see the meaning of the word according to the Cambridge Dictionary is; An interruption in the usual way that a system, process or event work. So now that we have established how unsettling disruption is, it is time to gauge how we are going to be affected by it in our respective roles in the marketing ecosystem.

Marketing has come a long way, from the era of two market days a week at the nearest market town to digital marketplaces that we carry in our pockets every day. If this industry has taught us anything, it is that marketing is in a constant state of morphism. However, this is an unforgiving industry. Competition is the relish of this truculent varmint. Merchants who do not acclimate to its continuous demands get devoured by oblivion.

When this age started, many companies were still making great turnovers and did not feel the need to board the disruption ‘bus.’ However, emerging companies felt the need to shout louder to get attention for their products and services in an already saturated market. In turn, industry giants quickly became cognizant of the course. Disruption in marketing came in multiple constructs, from the way corporations interact with the consumer to launching new innovations that refined life for their consumers.

New innovations have always been the most interruptive forms of disruption. In 2007, Kenya’s Vodafone and Safaricom telcos started a Microfinance revolution. M-Pesa! This is a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service. M-Pesa allows a user to deposit money into an account stored on their cell phone, to send balances using PIN-secured SMS text messages to other users, including sellers of goods and services, and to redeem deposits for regular money. Users are charged a small fee for sending and withdrawing money using the service.

M-Pesa is a branchless banking service; M-Pesa customers can deposit and withdraw money from a network of agents that includes airtime resellers and retail outlets acting as banking agents. Multiple countries around the world are still in awe of this finance solution. Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan, South Africa, India and Eastern Europe are currently the top consumers of the service.

In 1913, Ford Motors launched the industry’s first moving assembly line. This entirely revolutionized the motor industry placing Ford as an industry pioneer while also making the company a market leader for many years on. In 1958, the Bank of America forever changed how we purchase goods and services. Originally, they issued a card with a $300 spending limit in California. However, this introduced an entirely new concept. The chance to spend without worrying about cash. This caught on very quickly and by 1974, Visa was global.

While many attempt to chronicle the events of disruption in the industry, many fail to precisely record the beginning of it. You see, technology only but fueled disruption through innovation. Entrepreneurs and businesses were disrupting customary practices in marketing since the middle ages. A developing school of thought argues that marketing is not nor has it ever been autonomous of disruption. For an industry that exists on continuous need to make sales. Innovation is a fundamental part of it’s perpetuation.

Disruption is a ferocious hungry beast that feeds on lazy corporations. It is hard to conceive that 88% of Fortune 500 companies that existed in 1955 are all dissipated. These companies whose revenues topped in their respective fiscal years have now been kicked into oblivion by their incapacity to arrogate to the industry’s ever changing customs. Compaq was one of the largest personal computers retailers in the 1980’s. However, the company was unable to maintain price wars against Dell. This ultimately led to the company’s acquisition and eventual discontinuation. Other companies such as Kodak have all been guillotined at the same stand. Disruption always triumphed over brands that failed to reposition themselves.

On the other hand, disruption always rewarded those that embraced it. Companies that innovated new technology or repositioned themselves to meet market needs smiled all the way to the bank. Virgin, a company that was born out of pure innovation is on it’s way to pioneering commercial space travel. You see, Richard Branson has learnt the secret to being and staying at the top. Disrupting.

In 2008, a new innovation changed housing rentals forever. Airbnb is the poster child for disruption. We always had houses and apartments, we had phones way before 2008. All it took was an innovator to disrupt the entire industry. With 3,000,000 listings for over 65,000 cities, Airbnb is now a market leader for renting vacation properties.

Will disruption end? Shall there be a time where we should no longer worry about it? Unfortunately, No.

Disruption is here to stay. Disruption has always been in our marketing industry. It is now much more severe due to being fueled by technology. Innovations such as Big Data, Social Media and Automation platforms are disrupting marketing in real time. If anything disruption is now bigger than ever. She has now sharpened the blades on her guillotine. Will you get chopped?

By The Ascent Group for The Marketing Society of Kenya
Special Thanks to; Javier. J. Murichu, Tim Kagiri & David Malonza