Embracing “Constructive Disruption” in Marketing and Beyond

Pioneered by startups and tech companies seeking innovation by reshaping systemic processes and industry landscapes, the goal of creating disruptive change has trickled down through nearly every aspect of today’s business environment. In fact, the term is so ever-present that its value risks becoming diluted.

However, recent remarks from the Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing conference might prompt us to see disruption in a new light. Speaking to a crowd of attendees, Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Mark Pritchard praised what he calls “constructive disruption” in marketing practices. What does that look like in practice? Pritchard’s answer provides a road map for the ways in which brands can best reach consumers in the future.

Disruption to Create Value

Disruption may sound chaotic, but Pritchard emphasizes that “Constructive is a carefully chosen word. It’s one thing to disrupt and destroy value, but our job is to disrupt in a way that drives growth and creates value.” Constructive disruption, then, blends the spirit of innovation and the questioning of the status quo in order to add value for both brands and their audience members. How can marketers embrace constructive disruption to create stronger bonds?


Companies that remain locked in conventional “broadcast” messaging methods are falling behind the brands that seek active engagement with customers. An ongoing conversation between brands and their audience, which is what today’s consumers need to make a connection, requires a greater level of transparency and honesty. “Authentic companies, including those that admit their mistakes, will be heavily rewarded, as will companies that make social responsibility a main part of their culture,” Chief Marketer notes in a discussion on disruptive marketing.

As we explored earlier this year, one brand that has gone above and beyond in consumer transparency is Patagonia, which wears its core values proudly and has also led the charge on sharing sourcing and supply chain information with consumers. Transparency provides the jumping-off point for a productive conversation between a company and its loyal fans, and Patagonia’s transparency has helped it attract supporters who invest in its products and its causes.

Data-Driven Insights

Data, like disruption, is another favorite in innovation circles. As marketing efforts focus more and more on digital platforms and social media, consumer data should both inform a brand’s approach and also provide feedback on its progress. A survey by McKinsey reveals that “most marketers acknowledge that data and analytics are the key to addressing a more complex landscape,” but almost half of companies haven’t invested in data analytics.

At Procter & Gamble, Pritchard says, marketing teams are “reinventing media” by “moving from ‘mass blasting’ with a lot of waste to ‘mass reach with one-to-one precision’ through data, analytics and digital technology.” The key disruption here is the switch from “big data”-driven insights about large demographic groups or consumer subsets to a more precise approach that enhances one-to-one connectivity through data-enabled personalization.


At the forefront of constructive disruption is the emerging capability to reach unique, micro-targeted consumers on their own terms. As digital marketing guru Lilach Bullock writes, brands that invest in personalized marketing understand that “serving the right message to the right customer (at the correct time, on the best platform) makes your message resonate that much more.” 

Companies like Netflix and Amazon embraced personalization early – and with their baked-in access to data, they’ve conditioned consumers to expect personalized recommendations. Now other major brands are embracing personalized marketing, as Nike has done with its “innovative SNKRS personalized shopping experience” and “product personalization app NikeID.” Whether through an app, a web quiz, or a well-placed prompt on social media, consumers are willing to share themselves with brands they trust and eager to have a more personal experience.

Constructive Disruption

Disruption has always emphasized the ability to connect with consumers while spending less, and Pritchard notes that constructive disruption has helped P&G effectively trim waste and refocus spending priorities. “We’re disrupting the definition of the ‘world’s largest advertiser’,” he says, “It’s not who spends the most, it’s who reaches the most people efficiently and effectively to drive growth.”

Constructive disruption creates growth but also value. When done well and paired with transparency, data-driven insights, and consumer personalization, it strengthens the bonds between a brand and its target audience by eliminating the obstacles that outdated marketing techniques place between them.


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