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Creative Disruption

Creative disruption: this short article explains creative disruption in a practical way. Next to what it is (definition and origin), this article also highlights its use in marketing and in business, its objectives and the theory of disruptive innovation, as well as tips. Enjoy reading!

Creative disruption: this short article explains creative disruption in a practical way. Next to what it is (definition and origin), this article also highlights its use in marketing and in business, its objectives and the theory of disruptive innovation, as well as tips. Enjoy reading!

What is Creative Disruption?

Creative disruption is a concept introduced in 1992 by Jean-Marie Dru, president of TBWA. It refers to a radical change in a market due to the overturning of existing conventions.


The word disruption was originally used in the English language to describe dramatic events such as earthquakes or highly disturbing news. Therefore, it was used exclusively in a negative sense.

On May 1, 1992, Jean-Marie Dru launched the concept of disruption as a marketing tool by simultaneously placing an ad with the headline ‘Disruption’ in The Wall Street Journal, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, and Le Figaro.

This ad explained the disruptive methodology of BDDP (now TBWA) and Jean-Marie Dru was the first to use the word in the business world.

Importantly, this was also the first time the word was given a positive meaning.

Since then, the word has gradually been adopted by the business community, appearing in numerous articles in publications such as Forbes, Fast Company, and AdAge.

Theory of disruptive innovation

The concept of creative disruption refers to the process of breaking conventions to accelerate movement into the future without cutting off from the past.

It applies to both business and marketing and goes beyond the concept of creative destruction.
Professor Clayton Christensen has defined ‘disruptive innovation’ as the process by which new entrants enter the market at the bottom and then move up the value chain.

Jean-Marie Dru has always promoted a broader definition and practical business applications. For him, disruption, as a practical concept, is aimed at bringing about radical change, rather than incremental, linear change.


Creative disruption is a term that has been used in the marketing world for over a decade to describe the desired break in existing behavioral patterns of the target audience in response to a highly creative message (advertising).

Disruption indicates a deviation from the norm.

Creative disruption helps disrupt the normal flow in how an audience processes a massive amount of marketing messages, allowing them to pause and consider the new message.

Objectives of creative disruption

  1. Developing marketing messages that are remembered and followed up (improving performance/ ROI of marketing spend)
  2. Improving brand perceptions and other market indicators (e.g. awareness, understanding, interest, engagement, etc.)
  3. Disrupting the flow of traditional marketing strategies to make existing business and marketing techniques obsolete
  4. Creating new business innovations leading to new markets and new marketing techniques

In business

Creative disruption is also used as a general business term to introduce challenges (disruptions) within a company to break old business habits.

This disruption is set by the company itself (or its management) and requires the company to adapt and improve its business model in order to better succeed.

Every company continues to adapt to disruptions as competitors respond to a company’s unique offerings.

Creative disruption helps a company gain a competitive advantage by looking for tipping points for improvement before competitors replicate and /or improve the business model.

Although creative disruption is sometimes confused with two other terms such as ‘creative destruction’ and ‘disruptive innovation’, they can be easily distinguished by their goals:

In creative destruction, the goal is to tear down or remove the existing, so that a new base can be built and the economy can grow.

In creative disruption, the goal is to expose weaknesses in the current business model, highlight areas where improvement or change is needed, and inspire business model adjustment for future growth.

Disruptive innovation aims to create an entirely new market, such as the development of the consumer camera in 1888 by Kodak or the use of the Internet for online trading of collectibles by eBay in the 1990s.

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Creative disruption tips and tricks

The articles linked to the tag creative disruption deal with the different methods, techniques and theories used to explain the process of breaking conventions and its application in business. Are you still missing articles on certain topics? Let us know in the comments or fill out the contact form.

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Clayton Christensen (Clayton Magleby Christensen, April 6, 1952 – January 23, 2020) was a well-known American scientist and business consultant. He became best known for his theory of ‘disruptive innovation’. Clayton Christensen co-founded Rose Park Advisors, a venture capital firm,…

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