By Ujaya Shakya , Original content published in

I was invited to speak to B-school students recently. I wondered, what should be the topic for discussion as students these days they are quite smart and updated. Thus, I decided to approach them with a question instead – “What is the most overused word in brand marketing today?”

I am sure this got you thinking too. The students immediately reacted with a lot of buzz words like Digital, Disruption, Data, Content, Transformation, and Ideas. I am not surprise as many of these words are repeatedly discussed in the key marketing forums today. But then, one word in particular, “Disruption” has always fascinated me so let’s understand the role of disruption in the world of brand marketing today.

If you really look around your lifestyle today, technology has disrupted everything. From the product and services, we use, to the way we shop or travel. Hence it is no more about regular competition among the brands in the same category where we can differentiate and position our brands in the minds of the consumer by the traditional process of marketing. There are more and more new categories that have broken the old business models with asymmetrical competition.

With asymmetric competition, you are not just competing with your own product category but many times there are many new players with entrepreneur spirits who have broken your business models with technology & digital revolution. For example, Toyota today is not just competing with Volkswagen or Ford but also with Tesla which is a production revolution in itself or at the same time, even with Uber or Grab as they have provided options to commute within the city in the comfort of the car without parking or other hassles of owning a car. Even in Kathmandu city, we have now Tootle or Pathao apps, which helps you to compute within city via motorcycle riders.

There are many analogous models around the world in all business sectors now. Another big example is the hospitality industry, which has been disrupted entirely by “Airbnb” across the world by the idea that if you have a spare room in your home even for few days you can list it as an inventory with them for tourists, who are looking out to stay for few nights. So, rooms in Marriott or IHG hotels are not just competing with each other but also a room listed with Airbnb in some posh locality of the city. In these parts of the world, we have apps like OYO Rooms, which have an arrangement with many hotel rooms around the region and has disrupted the hotel industry. Even Walmart now has to compete with Amazon, which provides solutions of shopping sitting in the comfort of your home or office through your smartphone. In the rest of South Asia, we have Daraz which is gaining popularity every day.

For that matter, many large telecom companies now have to compete with Viber, WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messengers, which provides free calling and messaging with file, photo and video transfer mechanism easier than the traditional method of voice calls. This is forcing traditional telecom operators to focus more on data business even in Nepal.

I am surprised to see how these new communication mechanisms have gained popularity not only among youngsters or business communities but also among older generations and rural populations with high internet penetration. This has bought a revolution in terms of their communication with their families and friends residing or working outside the country.

Going through all these examples both globally and even within Nepal, I feel, we as brand marketers, need to think truly out-of-box and acknowledge the importance of “disruption” in the marketing communication industry. The new brandsutra is to stay relevant by becoming “disruptor” before we are disrupted by somebody else. Whether we are an old reputed brand or a new emerging one, the need for shifting the industry focus from being in the business of just making advertisements to being in the business of driving business growth for our clients have never been more relevant than today. But at the same time, we should not get carried away with the charm of breaking the status-quo or radical thinking which might excite us at the outset.

Instead, we have to be more careful to see its relevance in context to both consumer and brand insights while we propose such thought process to our clients because I strongly feel that every brand is the force and it’s time to be bold enough to take that risk and unleash its true potential.

Ujaya Shakya is the managing director of Outreach Nepal and the author of ‘Brandsutra’

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