Disruption. It’s one of the most commonly overused euphemisms in marketing today. It’s been applied to everything from Fortune 500 innovations to one person startups specializing in… well, no one’s quite sure what. And no one seems quite sure just how to define disruption as a marketing principle adequately.
That’s because disruption is primarily based on context—not necessarily a product or service. It’s a process that largely depends on the relevance of your competition. Not simply their relevance, but their industry standards. Their benchmark. And their ultimate redundancy.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the Blue Ocean strategy is that it’s predicated on industry disruption. When successful, its very nature is disruptive by default. That’s because the strategy itself revolves around untested markets—markets your competitors would have never even considered.
But what if you’re already leveraging an established storefront like Amazon? How can you differentiate your product line and maintain innovation in an ever circling sea of your competitors?
It’s a lot easier than you might think.
Differentiation—It’s Not Just Your Product Line
Here’s a hard truth for some companies to face. Your product line may simply not be innovative at all.
It may be superior. In fact, it may be best in class. But take a close look at how it compares to your competitors. What sets it apart—Its quality or its innovation?
The opposite also holds true. Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean high quality. In fact, it isn’t always a great idea to break any new ground whatsoever. There may be no market for it, realized or unrealized. The proverbial better breadbox became irrelevant as a result of built in kitchen pantry cabinets.
That analogy may be a bit of a stretch. But take a close look at your competitors. Are they succeeding with a differentiated product line that’s a radical departure from similar offerings just five years ago? More importantly, where are they falling short and how can you improve on those weaknesses? Capitalizing on the shortcomings of a competitive product is one way to distinguish yourself in what seems to be a rapidly homogenized retail sea.
But differentiation isn’t just about the competition. A key element of the Blue Ocean strategy is predicated on making competition irrelevant because of one critical fact: differentiated products sell faster. Service. Distribution. Image. And value. These are the basic cornerstones of your differentiation. It’s not about the price advantage but the quantifiable growth of your business.
In eCommerce, growth can be nurtured by three distinct factors:
- Basic need: precisely what your customers demand from both your product and your order fulfillment processes.
- Expected need: industry standards which your customers have learned to expect from you as well as your competitors.
- Desired need: the random factor which sets you apart from the competition.
Of these three distinct factors, it’s the latter which is fundamental to understanding the Blue Ocean strategy. And it’s one which demands keen insight into your own weaknesses, as well.
Disruption, Continuity And Alignment
Product differentiation can be a two edged sword. On the one hand, disruption encourages businesses and markets to adapt and evolve to the increasing diversity of consumer needs. On the other, you may find yourself scaling your business to a level where it threatens its chief selling point: identity.
Brand awareness drives marketing. But it demands cohesion. And cohesion has historically been a thorn in the side for many brands attempting to scale to digital platforms. Social media is a great example. If you review the feed of many top-name companies, there’s a good chance you’ll come across more than a few blatant attempts to pander to younger audiences already nurtured by social media. Attempts which don’t merely ring hollow. They’re downright condescending.
If brand disruption is going to have any effect by causing fundamental market change, it needs to be organic. It can’t simply be a case of rebranding as a result of market research insights. If your brand is going to affect that change—the very crux of the Blue Ocean strategy—it needs to be thought of during pre-launch; not when your brand narrative is already established. If you’re old enough to remember “New Coke” or “Pepsi Clear” (and, yes…. some of us are), you’ll understand our argument.
What goes for marketing also goes for your customer engagement. Not every product is suitable for omnichannel strategies. They’re expensive. They’re not always effective. And you can waste valuable time implementing them for very little return. Much like differentiation, learn the channels which prove to have the highest level of engagement. Learn to integrate your sales, marketing and customer service more seamlessly to provide a coherent form of customer experience. One which builds a connection with your audience that’s based on intimacy, not industry.
Connection: The Mother Of Continuity?
Customers don’t just want to purchase a brand. They want to feel like they’re a part of its life cycle. Which they are. In fact, the single most vital part.
A recent case study from the Harvard Business Review indicated that the average number of active customers can increase by as much as 15 percent as a result of emotionally based marketing strategies. Emotional connectivity doesn’t necessarily mean a Hallmark card moment. What it means is a certain level of relatability with your customers. A relatability that can get lost in digital translations. And a relatability you can use to your advantage.
You can’t market an emotion. But you can market your connectivity. When you think of your ideal customer, what picture emerges in your mind? How can your product affect their lives? And how does your overall customer experience affect the identity of your product?
Don’t try to boil down the ocean to extract insight into your customers. We don’t. We never have and we never will. That’s not merely because their needs and habits are constantly changing, but because it will rarely provide you with a deeper understanding of those needs and habits. Learn what affects them the most and what they truly need, expect and desire from a brand—and fulfill it beyond their wildest dreams. That’s the essence of connection. And that’s what ensures your differentiation.
Continuity. Connection. And above anything else, adaptation.