Creative Destruction in Marketing

Mess: Crayon Crumbs
Image by Lost Star

The movement towards data-driven marketing makes creativity the most important asset they can offer.

Specifically, great marketers will engage in creative destruction of data driven norms and disrupt market standards to stand out.

It’s not that they will ignore their customers and their feedback, the fruits of marketing automation’s analysis of big data. Rather, they break the established marketing norms of their peers and competitors built around those tools.

Schumpeter’s economic theory of creative destruction means more now as we seek to apply norms and rules to all that is social and the way we interact. For those unfamiliar with Schumpeter, a watered down version of the theory is that economic development arises out of the destruction of prior order.

With marketing becoming intrinsic to all brands’ long-term health in a distributed world of relationships and interactions, breaking through cluttered “me, too” marketing matters more than ever.

Great marketers don’t play it safe. They literally shake up everything we expect, and delight us with shocking and pleasing approaches, design and yes, words that sing to our hearts.

How Nike Defies Convention

Nike blog

One of the most unique campaigns we have seen in recent times was the use of neon shoes by Nike at the Olympics. It was a brilliant tactic, literally and figuratively, breaking through an over-sponsored event with the best endorsement possible, athletes across the globe with different jerseys but one brilliantly colored shoe.

Let’s be clear. People traditionally don’t buy neon sneakers. The risk was significant, but it paid off. The shoes stood out on consumers’ various screens, from mobile to big screen TVs.

“The Volt is our signature color for Nike,” Martin Lotti, global creative director at Nike said. “It’s our Tiffany Blue. Of course, it’s no accident that we picked that color. The whole point of this was to create impact.”

It should be no surprise that Nike had the guts to try this. While a huge brand, Nike continues to destroy the norms of marketing in sports as it moves forward. Consider that the sportswear giant undermined adidas in its strongest sport to become the most well known brand associated with the 2014 World Cup.

Creative Destruction Applied to Our World

Mess: Smear
Another image by Lost Star

Creative destruction matters now more than ever.

What will certainly cost online marketers is the opposite, a decision to stand pat. Consider that even though we all knew mobile and tablets would matter, two years ago they were relative non-factors in marketing. The same goes for Instagram, Pinterest, etc., etc.

Without creativity, we cannot differentiate from the machine of automated digital communications and me, too approaches to search, social and content.

When everything is commonly accepted practice we have to look at defying that convention to stand out.

It’s one of the reasons I like Triberr so much. It flies in the face of the social media purist’s beliefs about how it should be done, from automation to semi-private blogger gatherings. And it works, too!

Stay hungry, break the mold, get beyond static meme-based marketing. Disrupt the market and delight your prospective customers with something they wouldn’t expect from you, but certainly want.

What do you think? Do we have to break the norms to stand out?


  • Geoff – “What will certainly cost online marketers is the opposite, a decision to stand pat.”

    Given the success of brands like Nike, it is difficult to unde4rstand why anyone would want to stand pat. Status quo is a sure fire way to stop growing and to become stagnant.

    Considering the very nature of marketing, I would imagine that marketers would always be thinking of new ways to test the limits of the market’s tolerance for innovation and creativity. Sadly, I see so much standing pat in today’s B 2 C and B 2 B markets that it is no wonder why some companies never achieve their goals. Ward and June Cleaver have not been our target markets for a long time. Today’s customers expect more pizzazz.

    And, especially now more than ever. When times are tough, it is time to be bold. You are fighting to gain the attention of a smaller crowd. It is difficult to stand out when your message is old and tired. Your standard, tried and true approach may not be what it once was and there is only one way to find out. Be creative, be innovative, be bold, be different.


    • So true, and yet when times get tough you see so many more people get conservative and its the exact opposite of what they should be doing. Tragic really.

      And you are right, that is why we have so many companies who become stymied and don’t advance.

      • I agree with both of you, but I think the issue is fear of boldness gone awry. Case in point, Pizza Hut’s aborted “Ask the candidates whether they prefer Pepperoni or Sausage?” and win free pizza for life, campaign.

        I mean, seriously, Sausage is the best…I wouldn’t vote for someone who said Pepperoni…I digress. Actually, I thought it was a funny idea and am not sure why people got upset, but they did.

        Still, your points are valid, and standing pat is much worse than going for it.

  • So enjoyed reading this and I totally agree with your point! Those who are brave and take risks will win the marketing race.

    • I don’t see many companies who establish a first place lead doing it hedging their bets! Thanks for coming by, Sherry!

  • I’ve been using Triberr for two days. There is still much I haven’t learned, but I do like one thing. There are TONS of blog posts to find and read, not just the ones from my tribemates. I just spent an hour talking with a woman on Twitter.
    I found her blog in the Global Stream, read it, laughed and then left a comment. She found me on Twitter, and made a comment about a post of mine. It turns out she is from Iowa, originally.
    I wouldn’t have ever found her, otherwise.
    There are a lot of really dreadful writers who blog, so when I find one who is smart and funny, I feel like I’ve struck gold.

    As for standing out in marketing, I love the subject. For a number of years I worked for GEICO, where a 15 minute call, could save you 15% on your car insurance. I was in the marketing department and it was great to see how the sausage is made.

    The Nike example was a great one. I agree, we do have to break the norms to stand out.

    • GEICO actually has done this a couple of times with the Cavemen and the Gecko, though it’s been a while since we’ve seen something crazy out of Chevy Chase.

      Triberr itself is just a playground of new bloggers I would never have found through my old circles. It’s really been enjoyable for me over the past four, five months, and I don’t think I’ll ever look back!

  • it’s really simple: give the people what they want. sure, it may sound “risky and edgy” but it paves the way for greatness. what’s so scary about that? the only thing scarier is that some companies do things “the way they’ve always been done” without questioning why. great post, Geoff!

    • It’s all what you want, right? When we operate out of fear, we lose, when we want to win, we take risk. These four things are very interrelated. Good to see you, Jessica!

  • Although I’m not a marketeer, I do believe in breaking the norm. It can be applied to many things.
    Basically, you only stand out when you break the norm. Your Nike example proved that perfectly.
    I really like the post, Geoff. Makes me think.., thanks…

    • Thanks for the comment, Rogier. Status quo always seems to suffer on and offline. It’s hard to distinguish your ice cream if it is vanilla ;)

  • I LOVE this post Geoff.

    We all have to decide when to be conventional and when to break all convention. I think we tend to play it too safe too often.

    For instance, I’m working with a political candidate right now — just volunteering for a small local race. The main thing we have to do is position against one other candidate. My guy is favored. He has next to no money for production and media. So what we’re doing will never win any awards, but I think it’s rock solid strategically.

    On the other hand, I’ve had so many clients in crowded markets who look at all the competition and want to look just like all the other: software developers, IT consultants, banks, communications providers, security companies, etc. etc. etc. They say things like “We want to be taken seriously in our industry, we have to belong in our industry.”

    The problem is, no one will take them seriously because no one will notice them.

  • This is a well written article but there is no revelation since this theory has been put out such as the “purple cow” and the HEC business school with the blue whale. This goes back 20 years when the California raisin ad did Heard it through the Grape Vine.

    • Well, actually, I would argue Schumpeter preceded the Raisin, that’s why I gave him attribution for the theory. Thanks for the compliment on the writing.

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