“Gobble Up Savings” changed to “Shop Holiday Sales” in the space of one small and magical second this year—sometime around midnight November 25, 2010. Marketing and advertising elves worked hard to deliver a double-whammy of creative collateral and even harder to seamlessly switch them out. But that might not be what really matters. In this deluge of holiday shopping campaigns, gracefully fitting into each shift and swap of the season isn’t what’s getting noticed. And that’s why this year, I’m making every effort to be truly and deeply disruptive.

People are not only creatures of habit; they are also creatures of expectation. And right now, everyone is expecting the usual seasonal suspects—snowflakes, reindeer, giving, joy, etc. So why not add a little bit of creative disruption to the secret holiday sauce? Spicing up seasonal themes with disruptive word changes, plays, and puns stands out and grabs consumers’ attentions across many different mediums. It’s working, too, especially for these leading brands who have long been wise to this trend:

  • The Gap – They might have totally tanked on that whole logo thing, but they’re back and on point with, “what do you want this holiday?
  • Crate & Barrel – Late gifts spoil the mood, and with a clever little, “in the St. Nick of time,” you trust yours will get there promptly and possibly with reindeer in tow.
  • The North Face – This high-performance outdoor sports’ label is hard at work to “Spread the Holiday Gear” to all your family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Banana Republic – With all life’s modern distractions, make sure you take time to “LOVE the PRESENT” this year.
  • Kenneth Cole – The reigning king of disruptive messaging serves up a provocative warning to “Be Careful What You Wish For.

Messing with words has a unique way of changing the context and expectation of what is being communicated. It’s in that tiny flicker of disruption where the chance of real, sticky communication exists. In the past few years, this disruptive style of marketing has broken new ground by using texting language as a form of commercial speak. Chase led the pack on this with their “TXT MSGS MAKE BNKG EZ” campaign, which launched in the distant past of 2007. This TXT SPK naturally resonated with the younger and young-at-heart demographics, because it was attitudinally way cooler, and it’s been going strong ever since. Some of my other non-holiday and non-txt favorites include, Koolaid’s “Delivering more smiles per gallon” and Lifetime’s “The Fairy JobMother.” Both have a knack at driving straight through to real-life emotional value, which clearly speaks to everyone. The hippest, most disruptive part of all is that this kind of breakthrough doesn’t involve million dollar commercial shoots, just some old-fashioned wordsmithing.

Disruptive marketing is key in our 140-character worldview, and word play is the quickest and most effective way to disrupt. Consumers are on marcom overload, sifting through a flotsam of creative messaging, monotonously and robotically, until…something breaks through. Changing common idiomatic phrases and expressions into something playful and unexpected gives consumers a reason to stop and ponder. This really registers in the mind, as one mulls over the disruption, tinkering with it until it feels smooth and familiar or interjecting other words for greater effect. Disruptive messaging promotes a share of voice while commanding attention. It naturally stands out and means you, as a brand, can do a whole lot less yelling.

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