You might see it as a buzzword. Or maybe it’s a term that’s flung around the marketing department … not because they know what it is, but because it sounds exciting and innovative.

But whatever you think of the words ‘disruptive marketing’, it is actually a thing and it’s happening right now.

So what exactly is it, how does it work, and can it be used in recruitment?

What is disruptive marketing?

By definition, disruptive marketing is an innovation that creates a new market and, as a result, disrupts an existing one. This process occurs over a number of years, decades even, until the new market completely replaces the old one.

In terms of a product or service, it can also mean improving something through ways that are not expected or conventional. Basically approaching something from an entirely new perspective.

So the term itself is more than a piece of jargon to drop into your 9am marketing meetings. It’s a process that has been happening for a long time and, without it, products would simply stagnate and die.

A better way to explain what disruptive marketing is though, is to show you three great examples of it …

Three great examples of disruptive marketing


1. Revere London

Revere tailored edition vehicles pulled a genius marketing stunt in 2016 to advertise their new product. The product in question was a brand new £90,000 Range Rover Vogue, which had undergone their customisation. They adorned the white vehicle with messages in red paint, proclaiming ‘cheater’ and ‘I hope she was worth it’, then parked the vehicle outside of Harrods in Knightsbridge.

It caused quite a stir and, within an hour, images of the vehicle had gone viral online, as passers by took to social media to show off the ‘vandalism’. What they didn’t realise was this was all a hoax by Revere, and it worked perfectly.


Well in the space of a few days there were thousands of likes, shares and retweets of one of their products all over the internet. The Range Rover itself had the word ‘Revere’ and other brand badging all across it, meaning that they were able to be seen by many more people.

This ingenious move was disruptive in the sense that normally automotive modification brands want to show their products off in pristine condition on glossy magazine covers.

By doing the very opposite of this, Revere achieved a great marketing success.

2. U2 album release

Love them or hate them, U2 have been around for 41 years now. Still the original line up, 14 albums later and record holders for the highest grossing tour of all time, they are always hungry to stay relevant and reinvent themselves.

Having been there and done everything before, on releasing their 13th studio album, Songs of Innocence, they teamed up with computer giants, Apple.

Technically they’ve been associated with Apple for a long time, and a little known fact is that the ‘artist’ logo on your iPods and iPhones is actually Bono’s head. Anyway I digress …

The brand is in the background, but by being in the background it stands out. 

In an incredibly awkward press conference with Tim Cook, the band took to the stage to announce to the world that everyone with an iPhone will receive their new album for FREE.

I’m sure most will recall it caused quite a controversy, as many moaned about an invasion of privacy and violation of their music libraries. So much so in fact, that Apple had to create a way to remove it.

Sounds like a PR disaster right?

Well actually no. You see, U2 received circa $90 million from Apple for their album. It was actually Apple as a company that subsequently gave it away for free. So U2 got paid, and paid very well.

U2 have collaborated with Apple since 2004.

The reason why this was a successful example of disruptive marketing is that the Irish band realised that with illegal music torrents, the collapse of the charts and music streaming revolutions of Spotify, Deezer and even YouTube, getting your new songs heard is rather difficult these days.

By giving the album away for ‘free’, they rewarded loyal fans, but at the same time gained a new, younger generation of fans – ones that may never have given a U2 album a chance.

Pretty clever move, right?

Finding out what makes you unique, then actively using this as a selling point is a strategy nobody else can imitate. Why? Because they’re not YOU.

3. Nike’s ‘Better For It’ campaign

Back in 2015, Nike launched an advertising campaign called ‘Better For It’. They rolled out an eight episode YouTube series that followed the lives of two sisters, Margot vs. Lily. The idea of the campaign was to show how two people can approach fitness and lifestyle very differently.

What is so different and disruptive about this from any other sportswear brand’s approach is how seamless it is. Instead of shoving their products down your throat – ‘buy this, look at this, buy this’ – they have instead created an emotional, relatable narrative that can be accessed more than once on social media.

Consumers quickly got hooked into the whole storyline, prompting them to watch each episode and share them.


What’s it all got to do with Nike?

Well it shows two very different people exercising with different levels of commitment and enthusiasm. But throughout it also subtly references Nike products.

Both sisters might be wearing Nike trainers at some point, or a top. But it’s not massively obvious. It has been done in a way that makes the Nike brand merge effortlessly with daily life. Almost subliminal. The brand is in the background, but by being in the background it stands out.

Brand24 highlight that the campaign does the following things, making it disruptive and effective in the existing market:

  • It doesn’t sell products outright.
  • It tells a story anyone can relate too.
  • It is realistic in the sense that not everyone has to be nuts about staying fit and Nike is not only meant for athletes with high aspirations but for regular people too.

This approach is disruptive within the specified market of sportswear, but isn’t necessarily a groundbreaking theory in advertising.

Geoffrey Colon writes in his book about disruptive marketing that ‘the best way into disruptive marketing is not to tap into more marketing, messaging, advertising, or technology but, rather, to tap into the Zeitgeist of your customers’ emotions.’

So can disruptive marketing be applied to recruitment?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is it’s dependant on a number of factors, often outside of the recruitment industry’s control.

Technology in recruitment has caused waves of change over the years, and social media has changed the way we access (and advertise) job opportunities.

Recruitment as a process is fairly stringent. Trying to change the way it’s done too much could have adverse effects for candidates and clients. Not enough change could cause stagnation and lacklustre results. So somewhere in between is where the magic is. That’s where recruitment agencies need to be if they want to stand out and succeed.

Ok, so how do you stand out as a recruitment agency?

We’ve thrown this stat around a lot, but here, have it again: 4,529 recruitment agencies started up in 2016. There are approximately 27,000 recruitment agencies in the UK currently.

So standing out can be hard.

But guess what?

It’s not impossible. Taking a leaf out of Nike’s book, recruitment agencies could look to add more personality and emotion to their brand in order to stand out. Finding out what makes you unique, then actively using this as a selling point is a strategy nobody else can imitate.

Why? Because they’re not YOU.

There might be things that you don’t even realise make you unique – and that’s where Distinct Digital come in. Yes, that’s us. And yes this is a shameless plug. But I’ll keep the plug to three sentences only …

Through a number of services, from website design, social media and content, we discover who you are as a company. We look at the intricacies, the personalities and the target audience you want to attract. Then we deliver a service that brings all of these things to life for you, making your agency stand out in a way that nobody else can.

So why not find out more about us today, and make your recruitment agency stand out from the rest.


Author Jon

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