Lessons of Continuity and Disruption in Building Brands...


Disruption. It's been the one certainty in an uncertain world. Yet recent articles have suggested that concern with disruption has been overblown.

In The New Yorker, Harvard's Jill Lepore characterizes the theory of disruptive innovation as a “competitive strategy for an age seized by terror...it’s blind to continuity.”

While Roger Martin writes in the Harvard Business Review that  "Managers today are all obsessed with VUCA, an ugly acronym encapsulating the notion that business faces more volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity than ever before".

The idea of disruption is itself in danger of being disrupted.

Such comments can seem bizarrely out of touch with the realities of marketing today. New forms of marketing abound: content marketing, customer journeys, growth hacking, inbound marketing, mobile marketing, one-to-one marketing, proximity marketing, real-time marketing, social media marketing... They just keep coming. 

However, these articles reminded me that not everything changes. Indeed, in brand-building, the fundamentals for creating a loyal brand remain largely the same: 

  • Provide something that's useful to people in their lives. Save them time or money, perhaps, or give them a better experience.
  • Do it in a way that's likeable, and engaging. With human decision-making largely based on emotion, make a connection.
  • Show loyalty to those that embrace you. Over time, you'll earn their trust.

It's a useful wake-up call to keep these in mind.

Yet this connected world in which we now live has also brought a fundamental change to the nature of brand-building. 

The increasing frequency and variety of interactions that digital technologies have enabled, has put the behaviors of the company behind the brand on show. Customers can now sense what the company really believes in, and how competent it is... And then easily share their opinion with others.

Consequently, where once marketers could create an external image for the brand through advertising, a brand today is largely defined by the culture and competency of the company behind it. That culture needs to live and breathe the brand.

Rather than just the responsibility of the marketing department, brand-building is now a company-wide endeavor.

So with respect to building brands, there's no need to argue over disruption vs continuity, as it demonstrates both. The fundamentals remain the same, but the means of achieving it has changed forever...


Simon's new book "Creating Loyal Brands" out now.