Innovative marketing ideas in retail will always have to fight for space beside tried-and-tested traditional seasonal campaigns. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane.

As long as the one who dares to be different does so consistently, they easily gain market share from the more traditional competitors.

Old ways of thinking are never enough to deliver new solutions.

This is a simple saying that is easy to grasp at the mental level, but so often we fail to follow through with it when it comes to implementing it in our day-to-day business activities. We default to the ways of thinking that we have always relied on, decade after decade – more so when the stakes are high.

No one wants to face the fury of the board of directors should the company lose millions from having said yes to a new opportunity that falls outside of the organisation’s traditional comfort zone.

Regardless of how determined we are to change how we think and what we do, when it comes to crunch time, the mind is quick to resort to the old-habit patterns of behaving it is more comfortable with.

Look at retail, for example – every year it is exactly the same marketing campaigns during the festive season and other big sales periods on the calendar. If one retailer dares to try something different, and that works well, only then will the rest follow suit the following year.

As long as the one who dares to be different does so consistently, they easily gain market share from the more traditional competitors.

During my time in apparel retail, I sat in the boardrooms where decision-making was taking place for the big marketing campaigns for the calendar year for a retail group making tens of billions of turnover each year. Given the predictable financial impact of the traditional campaigns, there was always significant pushback on anything that was outside the norm or had not been tested. We would have to go through season-after-season testing before we actually launched it across the group.

What this meant is that while we were sticking to the old ways, conservatively testing out the new ways, someone else was out there, trying something new and gaining market share.

This is the reason Airbnb and Uber keep gaining traction. The traditional players spend forever being averse to anything that would disrupt them technologically. As established players in their industries, they perceived themselves to be indestructible.

Before Airbnb and Uber went international, they operated in selected cities in the US. I was living in the US at the time, and, back then, the Uber drivers I met were not even professional drivers but, rather, individuals who were looking to make extra cash while commuting to and from work.

During that time, had the industry incumbents done their research properly on what were early-stage disruptors in their industries, they would have caught wind of these innovations long before they dominated the global market. Now these disruptors have worldwide dominance in their industries, and the incumbents are still puzzled as to what to do.

To this day, the resistance to change and innovation remains strong – hence the high levels of violence we see across different countries towards Uber drivers. People would rather continue to fight and resist than find a way to work with the new solutions, which are not going to go anywhere any time soon.

This is a challenge for large organisations as well as smaller businesses. The founding teams are consumed day in and day out with keeping the lights on and getting the basic operations right.

But by the time you finally feel like you are comfortable with the industry you play in, someone else would have disrupted it without you noticing because your head was deeply buried in day-to-day activities.

It is essential to get the basics right, however long that takes. It also makes sense to consistently remain relevant in the changing landscape of your industry.

The reality is that the world is revolutionising at a pace faster than anyone could have imagined possible.

Instead of resisting and hoping your space will not be disrupted, how about becoming the champion of finding and building on disruptions in your own industry?

That might be just what helps you to survive on a sustainable basis.

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Brooke Rabe

Marketing and Communications Manager

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