Disruptive Marketing: What Growth Hackers, Data Punks, and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating the New Normal

Disruptive Marketing: What Growth Hackers, Data Punks, and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating the New Normal

by Geoffrey Colon


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Disruptive Marketing: What Growth Hackers, Data Punks, and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating the New Normal by Geoffrey Colon

Selected by Oracle Marketing Cloud as a Top 15 Marketing Book for 2016 Are you still marketing like it's 2006? Now that 75 percent of screen time is spent on connected devices, digital strategies have moved front and center of most marketing plans. But what if that's not enough? What if most people ignore company messages? What if consumer engagement never goes further than the "like" button? A sobering reality is hitting marketers. Technology hasn't just reshaped mass media, it's altering behavior as well. And getting through to customers will take some radical rethinking. First step is to toss the linear plan. Next is to strip away conventions, open your mind, and join Disruptive Marketing on a provocative, fast-paced tour of our changing world . . . * Where selling is dead, but ongoing conversation thrives * Where consumers generate the best content about brands * Where people tune out noise and listen to feelings * Where curiosity leads the marketing team * Where growth depends on merging analytics with boundless creativity Packed with trends, predictions, interviews with big-think marketers, and stories from a career spent pushing boundaries, this book will propel you out of your comfort zone and into the disruptive mindset you need for future success.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814437391
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 08/09/2016
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,217,588
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

GEOFFREY COLON is a Communications Designer and Social Data Expert at Microsoft, and was previously Vice President of Digital Strategy at Ogilvy Mather.

Read an Excerpt

Disruptive Marketing

What Growth Hackers, Data Punks, and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating the New Normal

By Geoffrey Colon


Copyright © 2016 Geoffrey Colon
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8144-3740-7



Create, Engage, Adapt

The true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.

-SATYA NADELLA, Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft

ONE HOT AND humid evening in late August 1922 a sound wave coursed through the New York City sky. Only those with a radio console tuned to 660 AM could hear the male voice, speaking in a "you'd-better-not-miss-this" tone, which traveled those airwaves.

The station was not WFAN Sports Radio, "The FAN," which currently inhabits that frequency, where on-air hosts spend hours talking about the failures of the Jets and the Knicks. This station, whose call letters were WEAF, pumped out a steady stream of talk, news, and cultural tidbits interspersed with jazz and swing — the popular music of the early 1920s. Who could have guessed that the one male voice, speaking nonstop for about sixty seconds at 5 PM on that August evening, would ultimately transform how electronic communications would operate for the next eighty years.

Friend, you owe it to yourself and your family to leave the congested city and enjoy what nature intended you to enjoy. Visit our new apartment homes in Hawthorne Court, Jackson Heights, where you may enjoy community life in a friendly environment.

Today, Jackson Heights is a densely populated area that pulses with the captivating odors of Colombian, Ecuadorian, and Argentinean cuisine punctuated by street-corner discussions on fútbol clubs like Deportivo Cali, Emelec, and Boca Juniors. In 1922, however, this part of Queens was still being developed and that early radio ad touted its virtues.

In the modern era, anyone who still listens to AM/FM radio anywhere in the world will find an on-air commercial like this commonplace. But in 1922, it was new. Why would a voice bark out a message about the Hawthorne Court Apartments? Was it part of the evening's programming? Or was something else behind it?

What listeners at the time did not know was that Hawthorne Court had shelled out $50, the modern-day equivalent of $678.64, factoring for inflation, to WEAF. Essentially what listeners heard that evening was the first paid radio advertisement.

Of course we understand that ads or content like this doesn't simply end up on the air naturally. During my daily drive home on the crowded Interstate 405 from Bellevue to Kirkland, Washington, the Ron and Don Show on 97.3 FM KIRO radio will, out of nowhere, say something like, "Hey, do you want to eat a fresh lunch? Subway, eat fresh," before continuing to talk about that day's news. They do it so casually it's as if they hadn't interrupted the flow of the news to promote Subway. But we all know that these on-air personalities didn't simply decide to talk about Subway or any of their favorite eateries without compensation to the station.

Third parties want to use media to reach audiences they feel will use their services or purchase their products. This is pretty common knowledge. The Hawthorne Court Apartments radio advertisement on WEAF was intended to appeal to a middle-class, radio-owning audience. But how did WEAF know to do this? Why did station management decide to take money from the Hawthorne Court Apartments in the first place?

To answer that, we need to look back to those who shaped radio into an advertising channel that would eventually influence its later cousins, television and the Internet. As is often true when something is done differently, it wasn't radio people who developed the idea that led to selling advertising time on the radio. In fact, like most disruptive scenarios, the idea of radio advertising came from a source outside the radio business.


Actually, the idea for radio advertising came from the telephone industry. Specifically, it was the telephone call, not the telephone hardware, that ushered in the radio advertising model. In 1913, Bell Telephone and its parent, AT&T, unwittingly joined the radio race when it acquired a patent for the vacuum tube, which turned out to play a central role in radio broadcasting. As a result, AT&T had a prominent stake in the radio in 1922 when the station it owned, WEAF, aired that ad. But how did AT&T come up with the concept of selling airtime to third parties? The answer lies in telephone usage and behavior.

In this era, there was no rotary phone. You would pick up the transmitter and an operator would come on the other end of the line and say, "Operator; how may I direct your call?" and you would tell the operator the number, and she would connect the call. The underlying technology of the telephone — that any message could be carried and connected to any place at any time — was the connective link. Once the parties were connected, the operator left, and all the caller would pay for was the length of the call from that moment.

Herein lies the centerpiece of the future commercial broadcasting industry. The mechanics of placing a telephone call today (if you even make a phone call using a landline, with all the available alternatives of email, SMS, text applications, social networks, Slack, WhatsApp, etc.) are camouflaged in the convenience of area codes and direct dialing. But even mobile phone users know that what we are still buying from the AT&Ts, T-Mobiles, and Verizons of the world is time measured in exact minutes and seconds on a communication system for hire.

A Solution out of Thin Air

WEAF essentially was one of the first disruptive marketers. It found an answer to the problem that was in "plain blind sight," also known as "inattentional blindness," which Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons discuss in their book, The Invisible Gorilla.

Thus, WEAF asked a "What if" question that the radio industry needed to solve: "What if we finance an endless stream of programming by giving airtime to businesses who will pay us for it?" This, of course, is an ongoing question for media; think of the freemium applications you download onto your smartphone. But in 1922, AT&T figured out a solution to a problem that others may have seen but hadn't solved: how to bring together space, time, and reach to create a revenue model. This financial structure, used by the marketing industry ever since, is how most media outlets became cash rich in the twentieth century.

In the 1920s, the radio was a consumer item, a piece of furniture housed in an attractive wooden cabinet, with simple controls designed for anyone to operate. Think of it as comparable to today's smartphone. But unlike your smartphone, which monetizes itself via data and calling plans, in 1922 the radio had a lot of time but, seemingly, nothing to sell to pay for the operating costs and technology.

The concept of time as revenue has always been used in economic models. In fact, AT&T was already using that model when, in 1922, it decided to sell what it called "toll broadcasting" on radio. The company simply brought payment for time and access from one technology (telephone) to another (radio). And it worked. Across many industries, time is the essential ingredient in the billing and revenue-generation process.

In fact, if you're reading this during work hours, technically you're going to have to make up that time later in order to earn your income. Even if you don't bill by the hour, time is what your annual salary is based on. And if you work a shift, you are effectively billing a particular rate per hour. This rate is one set by the government, the employer, a combination of the two, or by you if you are offering a service as a third-party vendor.

Time billing is how professionals such as lawyers, consultants, construction people, and even creative services make most of their income. Therefore, it makes sense that time is the essential value that the media sell to third parties who want to use those media to reach audiences. Time is what advertisers are basically paying for when they buy media for their message.

Yet, time isn't the sole quotient in this model.

In 1922, WEAF had a large listening audience because it covered a one-hundred-square-mile radius in a metro area with close to 5.6 million people. Because WEAF owned the technology and could rent that time to third parties that wanted to reach their audiences, we entered an era known as "pay to reach." This was later amplified by television and the Internet, and more recently social media platforms like Facebook. For the remainder of the twentieth century, marketers essentially paid for two things when they bought media on third-party platforms: space and time.

All of those models of space and time in the form of billboards, newspaper and magazine ads, radio and television spots, digital online banner ads, Facebook ads, promoted tweets, and pre-roll video (the annoying thirty-second video spots you see on YouTube, the ones with the "Skip This Ad" buttons that I know you hurriedly tap) are now seen as distractions and clutter.


We have become accustomed to tuning out the advertising and marketing messages because we don't like interruptions in our hab-it-formed lives. And we're skeptical of the messages ads bring us. In fact, most of us feel ads don't bring much value to our lives, just more distraction.

There's another reason we tune out ads. Frank Rose, author of The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stones, explained this to me in a Skype chat. Frank spent many years as a writer at Wired magazine. Many of his pieces were on the intersections of media, technology, and human behavior. There is no better person to talk to about this than Frank.

On why ads don't matter as much anymore, Frank said, "The main reason is people are so much more media savvy than they used to be and it's not hard to figure out that advertisers are simply trying to advertise." Frank Rose noted how the power that technology gives to users reshapes their behavior. We can see it in our day-to-day lives. How many of you reading this book watch live television anymore? Do you own a DVR that gives you the capability to fast-forward through the ads? Do you even pay cable companies to access their content from a cable converter box, or are you a cord cutter? How many of you click on the banner ads, search ads, Facebook ads, or any other ad on your mobile device?

Rose is right: the world we live in is focused on how we personalize our experiences, which inevitably leads to rapid withdrawal from the interruptive advertising format. As he put it,

If you look back at the history of marketing, which came about in the mid-century in the 1950s with the rise of mass media, people were not very sophisticated. The whole 1960s approach to marketing is obsolete. ... People are so much more sophisticated largely because of the Internet. The Internet has called into question the whole thirty-second spot. People had to watch those because they had no choice back in the day. You only had three channels and limited options. People don't want clutter. The whole point of marketing now is moving toward creating messages that people want to share with others.

Nevertheless, Rose said, organizations aren't systemically ready for disruptive marketing. No matter how many articles you read about digital, social, or mobile marketing in Advertising Age, Adweek, Digiday, or some marketing blog, conventional marketing is the norm. And the data backs it up.

In a study, the market research firm eMarketer reports that most big brands still put heavy emphasis on creating thirty-and sixty-second television spots, even though there are many other options that would get more traction. According to that same study, TV ad spending is forecast to be in the $75 billion range by 2017. According to Rose,

Interruption is something people will try to avoid at all costs and it's not effective for the advertiser. It's a completely different scenario but for some reason many people in business haven't acknowledged this. These are the same people [who] said the Internet [was] a fad during the dotcom era of the early 2000s [and they] still hold power in business. There's that mindset that is prevalent in the residue of the marketing community. To me that is a recipe for failure, but what do you do instead?

What you do instead is exactly what Rose was trying to answer in a program he runs at Columbia University's School of the Arts digital storytelling lab. Rose was quick to point out a trend he identified years ago:

One thing that is interesting to me is that "storytelling" was not even on many people's lips when I wrote [my] book. If you think about it, journalists are storytellers. ... When I worked at Wired magazine I wrote about anything and everything [at] ... the intersection of media and technology. I did a few pieces which led me to realize there are all sorts of people who worked in TV who went to video game companies [and] then went to work in web video. This cross-pollination ... [among] all three of these industries is what [created] a whole new [way] we interact with others through stories.

Rose's program is at the cutting edge of the new norm, which isn't storytelling, but what he has dubbed the "enchanted state."


Frank Rose pointed to Brian Boyd, author of On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction. Boyd notes something that many in physics would admire. When the world is noisy, the way to cancel out the noise is actually through additional noise. Not noise at a higher decibel level, but noise at the same level as the original noise, only on a different wavelength. Boyd dubs this technique "the conspiratorial whisper," and he notes, "When everyone is shouting, the way to get people's attention is to whisper."

Frank Rose added,

The current taste for immersion is largely a by-product of the digital age. Video games and the Internet have taught people to be active participants rather than passive observers; just looking is no longer enough. People expect to dive in, and companies as disparate as Disney, Facebook, and Burberry have been scrambling to oblige them. But although digital technology seems to encourage it, immersion can be triggered by almost any form of media, starting with books and theater. People have been immersing themselves in stories for centuries.

This new normal has not been kind to conventional marketers. Many still trust customer journeys, rational decision-making purchase models, inbound marketing tactics (email, search, social), and noisy ads as the biggest drivers for their campaigns. David Zweig notes in his book Invisibles that this "noisy world" may originate from the current work ethic, which is rooted in using our brashness to draw attention to ourselves. "We've been taught that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, that to not just get ahead, but to matter, to exist even, we must make ourselves seen and heard."

Rose, too, felt this is the wrong way to approach marketing. He mentioned the radical swing of companies that aren't employing attention-grabbing techniques or tactics. There is a bubbling trend just beginning to make headway in marketing circles. "Some companies let their customers create or string their own stories together," he said. "It makes people feel like they have ownership."


Excerpted from Disruptive Marketing by Geoffrey Colon. Copyright © 2016 Geoffrey Colon. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Gemma Craven, Senior Vice President, Director of Social And Mobile, Mccann Erickson xiii

Preface xv

Introduction: What If? 1

Part I A World Without Rules

1 The Disruptive Mindset: Create, Engage, Adapt 21

2 The Disruptive Continuum: Perpetual Change 35

3 Creative Disruption in the Anti Organization Age 47

4 Stop Hiring Mbas: Your Business Needs Hybrids to Succeed 65

Part II The New Personality of Marketing Success 65

5 The Disruptive Marketer's Mindset: Punk Rocker, New Parent, Soccer Player 83

6 The Genius of Tinkerers and "Temporary" Marketers 101

Part III The Building Blocks of Disruptive Marketing

7 Content Is King-But Distribution is Queen 123

8 Social by Design and the Advent of the Post-Digital Age 141

Part IV Four Skills for the Disruptive Marketer

9 Skill #1: Always Be Listening 153

10 Skill #2: Don't Be Lured by Bright, Shiny Objects 167

11 Skill #3: Give Back: Ethics as the New Marketing 177

12 Skill #4: Learn, Unlearn, Relearn 185

Epilogue: Feelings Rule 193

Afterword 197

Acknowledgments 199


Tools by Category 205

Endnotes 211

Additional Reading 223

Interviewees 225

About the Author 227

Index 229

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