05 We are banning the D word!

By Alex Blyth, Editorial Director

Disruption has been the word of 2017. We’ve had clients working for disruptive brands. We’ve had clients wanting to work for disruptive brands. We’ve had clients disrupting the agency market. We’ve had agencies aiming to disrupt the disruptors. At one point even the restaurant downstairs from our office had the word “disrupt” emblazoned across a wall.

In 2017 if you weren’t disrupting what were you doing?

So, it was fitting that the final Glug London event of the year tackled the topic. It tried to find a new way through this now well-trodden path, posing the question of how to stay disruptive once, you the original disruptor, have succeeded, seized sizable market share, and become the one everyone’s trying to emulate.

And giffgaff – that icon of disruption – had a good go at answering the question. Tom Rainsford, Brand Director & Co-Founder, took us on a dizzying, brilliant journey through the early days of the firm, and its growth from just 14 people at launch in 2009 to 260 today.

It was inspiring stuff. Then his colleague tried to show us how the firm is maintaining its disruptive market position. It’s doing it by focusing on its people. They’re its most valuable asset, and they make sure they hire team players rather than glory seekers, they set out the giffgaff way, they empower their people, their discover people’s strengths and play to them, they actively seek feedback and act on the findings, and they have fun team awaydays. This year they did some guerrilla gardening.

All great stuff. All solid HR practice. But not really disruptive. I’m pretty sure it’s the sort of thing the HR function of any well-run FTSE100 firm would do.

But at least they tried. The three other speakers just showed us how disruptive they are. Bompas & Parr passed round some jellies, told us about armpit speed-dating (you match based on smell), giving drugs to visitors to Kew Gardens, and drinking whisky off naked bodies. All undeniably disruptive.

Ugly Drinks told us about how it recovered from the discovery soon after launch that all 40,000 bottles of its launch stock had gone off (over a weekend it outsourced the entire six-person company to another firm and did that for six months until it got back on its feet) to the point it’s now launching in the US. A carbonated drink born in deepest Shoreditch taking on the might of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and their sugary, aspartamy friends on their own home turf. Awe-inspiring disruption.

And finally Uncommon Studio told us a brilliantly funny and clever tale of life liberated from the mundanity of Grey London. “The ‘stop ad’ button is our Armada!” he implored. “This is it! The woods are burning.” For Uncommon Studio the creatively brave choice is no longer disruption; it is conformity. And its mission is to stop creatives trying to be brave.

The logic might have been getting knotty, but he quoted Arthur Miller, the delivery was stand-up comic good, the audience was loving it, and slide after slide showed us examples of disruptive brands that have made it big.

Disruption works. Disruption sells. Disruption is bloody, bloody brilliant.

Except it’s done. We’re a long way past peak disruption, and it’s time for a fresher perspective. As we hurtle towards end of the year of disruption, and into the season of Victorian ritual and never-changing tradition, it’s time for the worlds of creativity marketing and business to renew itself.

At Red Setter we’re banning the D word. We’ll challenge, provoke and hopefully inspire our clients to say something more interesting, something more urgent, something more dis……

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