Sanjeev Kotnala: Only Sustained Disruption Can Work

04 Dec,2019

By Sanjeev Kotnala

Disruption In Disruptive World. 

Disruption has been best used to describe dramatic events and thoughts. Something unusual and mostly bad. Something that is contrary to the pattern your mind is accustomed to. Jean-Marie Dru used disruption to define an unexpected but strategically sound strategy and gave it a positive spin. Since then, the operative meaning of the word has been repeatedly bastardised just like consumer insight. People use it for even a minor tangentially thought. But, how do you disrupt a disruptive world? How do you keep enhancing and leveraging disruption, when disruption is a hygiene factor? Maybe the duration of the disruption could be the differential to create impact and desired results.

Living Life in an Auto-pilot SOP mode.

Saw the Gentleman clip from ‘The Man Company’. Here Ayushmann Khurrana, the actor with a Midas touch, talks about who is a Gentleman and what makes a man a gentleman? Sounds somewhat near to what Gillette statement of toxic masculinity, but it is okay.  They call it disruptive now days. Questioning anything is disruptive!

Sometime back, Divya Butta delivered a sensitive poetry on gender inequality. Everyone appreciated it. Some opened the cupboards of #MeToo. There was a high voltage buzz supporting it. People took to streets, lit torches and candles during Nirbhaya case. An OTT platform even made a heart-wrenching film on it. And then the movement was left to fend for itself.

More recently, watched a clip where they used a man instead of a woman to demonstrate how to detect breasts cancer. Then there was the clip on mensuration, the visual had a woman with bleeding from mouth. It tried raising a simple question ‘if it was the blood coming from the mouth, you would do something about it’ and refocused on our reaction to period hygiene.

Disruptive Communication, Not Disrupting Enough.

Were they disruptive enough? Did they really made you think? Well some of them did. Disruptions make you temporarily step out of your self-induced auto-pilot mode in Life. The lethargic organ – your mind tends to find new pattern by connecting dots ina differential way. Leading to a new algorithm of understanding an reaction being re-written in your mind-space.

Unfortunately, all the above examples and many more remained at the level of being appreciated. Yes, we enjoyed. Forwarded it in groups and maybe commented on them. I hope that was not the real objective.

‘Touch the Pickle’ and ‘Share the load’ or ‘Toxic masculinity’ or ‘Jaago re’ were a lot better, because they were properly amplified, discussed and debated. They even in operation for a longer period.


However, even with these superb creative, we the audience went back to awake-sleeping mode. A state in which we are awake but are as good as sleeping. We are touched by the communication, we pledge and say the politically nice words that  everyone wants to hear. And then, the messages slip out of our consciousness. We get back to our inactive inert mode. Just like the way we do with the many workshops and seminars; appreciate them and in the absence of any repeated reminder, forget to implement the learning

At the end of it, the newly acquired understanding is pushed under the tons of real-life issues, templates and the SOPs we are required to follow. That is the reality. That is the reason we don’t see changes in people approach to Life.

Why Disruption Failed to Succeed?

Our mind is the most lethargic organ. Its love for patterns is well documented. It has its own algorithm of seeing and experiencing thing. And then creating its own rules by generalising, distorting and deleting part of the information and associated emotions.

In fact, our mind appreciates status quo. It loves templates, and it hates surprises. Any information or experience not falling in the expected pattern creates dissonance. It irritates and frustrates our mind, forcing it to address the disruption differently. Which means it gets busy realigning the existing algorithm. A temporary code is written for future re-evaluation.

In case the disruption continues to present itself across thought points and local surroundings, it hardens the algorithm. Otherwise, the autopilot ( earlier practised algorithm) takes charge of the code.

Disruption In Marketing and advertising is no different.

In marketing and advertising, a one-off unsustained disruption rarely succeed in changing the attitude and approach or the viewpoint of the target group. In spite of the buzz value and dominance across earned/shared media space, disruption needs sustained push to make an impact. Otherwise, the ‘Ooh, Aha and Wah’ remain suspended in social media and timeline.

Disruption Needs Engaged Follower

Disruption works best with observant people. People who are willing to accept and admit other viewpoints may exist. We call such tribes by different names from prosumers to influential to early starters and many more. Sometimes, all you need is to plant the disruptive thought with them. They will then own it and get you the movement to over-ride the existing behavioural / reaction auto-pilot algorithm.

How Do You Identify such a Follower? 

However, you have no way of identifying the followers you need for your disruption. Digital with their differential KYC (know your consumer) based on their behaviour, choices and reactions can help identify this crowd. Unfortunately, you can’t really be sure while buying aggregated data. But, at least you have something to start with. You can further use demonstrated behaviour to filter-out the mass and reach the real core set of real followers.

Now, if you can create some re-marketing programme addressing the core curious followers, you are maybe able to create a self-fuelled communication programme. It is then, a sustained effort may help building the desired brand momentum and ultimately a positive brand involvement.

The Disruption Followers. 

This initial set of consumer who is curious, observant, engaged, self-charged and willing to experiment are your assets. You need to just focus on engaging and interesting them. Don’t worry about another set still working on an auto pilot. They are risk-averse, they are not looking forward to new experiences and information. They want someone else to experience and validate before they would react, experiment and adapt something in Life. To get them to act, you need them to question their Life. You need a disruption like an earthquake of greater than 7 on richter scales.

Disruption Must Overcome Selective Observation.

There is too much information that the brain is interacting with. With every day, the quantum of information the brain has to address is increasing. You are keeping it more engaged than ever before. It is trying desperately to rework and model its work cycle and algorithms. the situation a worsening by the day. The information is being served to you as per your desire and algorithm created by deep understanding of you. The aperture of curiosity, intelligent debating, inferring and decision making is being dulled by every day.

Your brain finds that too many things are outside its circle of control and influence. It is no longer interested in observing and understanding. The mind is least interested in reacting to things it can’t do anything about. It hates when it is on the mercy of happenings it has no say in.

The brain then orders the closure of senses, logic, rationale and emotional gates to un-necessary information, curiosity and experiences. We just watch, push and forward our comments where we are expected to react. Still, we don’t observe, don’t evaluate, don’t re-act beyond what our internal SOP demands. We have a shield around us all the time.

One needs a sustained series of acts, expressing maybe the same thing in many different point-of-views to make us act. As the consumer’s tribes and societies, we have different locks and different levers to open. None of the research can exactly pinpoint what will work. And hence we need to work harder, more creatively.

Consumer sects are like religion. Different paths lead to the same destination. Hence, you need different expressions to define and search the levers. In fact, many acts are required to build the desired brand momentum.

Meanwhile, with the advent of social media and information, inferences overload, the consumers have declined to take an active interest. They are outsourcing their decision making to influencers. They are selective. They come back to the people they trust when they face a dilemma. They have a separate subset of people to trust for a differential problem, issues and opportunities. They are willing to make a less informed decision if the push comes from a more authentic source.

Disruption Is A Way Of Life A Skill?

Disruption requires a clear understanding of current ground realities. And that is the easy part of the job. It involves knowing the product, usages, insights, misuse, expectations, pain-points, love bubbles, talk –points etc. One can invest and pick the right details to want.

The tough part comes in knowing which of these levers when disrupted will create a high tide and which will lead to the tsunami of impact and impressions.

It needs critical accessing of every possible learning and observation. One of them is to arrive on to a collective well-informed conclusion, which will help to take the initiative forward. Hopefully, these initiatives are potent enough to break through the shield of selective hearing, watching and learning.

Hygiene factors in the path of disruption.

Know Your Subject. No matter what you’re trying to disrupt, you’re going to do it most effectively when you know your subject. What you know is the foundation. It is essential to know how the TG interacts with the product/brand/service/solution.

Slow Down – Look Outwards. Don’t rush. Don’t be stressed to deliver. Train yourself to devote time, efforts and energies into breaking every probortunity into smaller, manageable details.

Believe a disruptive solution exists. Try Something New. Be observant. Raise the bar of expectation. Use yourself as the Guiana pig for the experiment. Think how will you cut out the distractions that may lead to dilution of impact. Minimise distraction and amplify focus.

Test Your Disruption. Prototype disruption. Do a small test run. Review, tweak and redesign necessary changes. Be willing to revise the disruption and expectations.

Keep a record. Be brutally honest at the test stage. Be collectively naked among the team members. Do not let emotions and biases creep in. It is advised to observe and write every detail. Do not trust your memory. Go beyond mere watching and feelings. Probe on a deeper level.

Think Again and again. Post observation, you need to be able to think through the observations, maybe revisit your understanding of the subject and new observations. Question, reason and analyse your observations. They have the power of making or breaking the solutions.

Follow the OODA Loop. Observe as much as you can, Orient yourself to analyse the collective learning and use it to update your current reality. Which is any way your perception adulterated with reality. Decide the course of action and then ACT; follow your decision.

Once you have done the first cycle of disruption, adapt PaRAM. Pause for a bit, while you collect everything that will help you understand impact, facilitation and barriers. Reflect on the process, expectations and result, Absorb your learning and then Move-on to refine the results.

Build the flexibility to be able to swiftly course correct. In this way, it will be easy to disturb and out-manoeuvre the competition.

In the real market situation, you are always in the OODA loop, even within the PaRAM process. Because thinking is not linear. There are crosswinds of expectation, results and changes operating all the time.

You Are Not The Lone Disruptor

If you are trying disruption, acknowledge that you are not the only one in-universe thinking of disruption. Be willing to face disruptions even in the process. Be prepared to give consistency and sufficient time before evaluating results. Disruption demands a quick orientation to a new, evolved understanding of the subject. It needs a willingness to tweaks solutions for continuous improvement.

Disruption is about being proactive, but taking a conscious open-eyed decision and willingness to learn on the go. Be willing to fail. Be willing to redefine.

Unfortunately, being human means, there are blinkers ate every stage. There is complacency generated from success and lethargy from failure. At every step blinkers close in, auto-pilot and naysayers voices get louder. To succeed, you will need to overpower auto-pilot and just keep driving towards the objective.



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