Sometime in the 1980s, President Baking’s Murrays released a new cracker product designed specifically to compete with Nabisco’s Ritz Cracker. Murray’s product looked the same, tasted the same, and was delivered in a red and yellow package that looked like the Ritz Cracker box. Even the name left no question about what their cracker was all about. Not only did it sound like Ritz but it almost rhymed with the original cracker. Murray’s named their new cracker “Hits.” Take a look at the two boxes side-by-side and you’ll see what I mean:
But similarity alone was not enough to compel enough consumers to change their buying habits. According to Deborah St. Thomas, “Nabisco introduced Ritz crackers to the Philadelphia and Baltimore markets November 21, 1934. They were well received from the start with their unique light and buttery flavor and a reasonably low selling price of 19 cents a box. The name was also important because it conjured up images of wealth by alluding to the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York, which elicited the promise of better times to come. This had great appeal to Americans during the Great Depression years. By 1935, Nabisco was selling the cracked nationally and within three years it became the best-selling cracker in the world.
Instead, Murray’s marketing team had to do something to shake cracker consumers out of their habitual lethargy. And so, they created a package design that not only looked like the Ritz package but caused consumers to do a double take.
Take a look at what multiple boxes looked like on the grocery shelf:
Do you see something different, something that might cause you to pay more attention to two Hits’ boxes than you might have done if you only saw one? And if you did see the difference, would that compel you to buy two boxes so you could repeat the trick at home?
Needless to say, the word that showed up when two boxes were placed side-by-side looked coincidental enough that consumers could wonder whether or not the comic combination was intentional. In fact, when my friend Buzz Fleischman showed me the Hits package on his radio and Facebook Live show, he wasn’t convinced the new word the lined-up boxes created wasn’t simply a funny accident.
But you and I are too savvy to be fooled, aren’t we?
After all, when Burger King instructed us to Have It Your Way, we knew they weren’t talking about burgers, right?
And when Nike told us to Just Do It, we knew they weren’t only talking about athletics, didn’t we?
Disruption – defined as a “disturbance or problem that interrupts an event, activity, or process – was a viable marketing technique long before pop-up ads interrupted your web browsing or restaurant suggestions interrupted your directions on Waze.
For years savvy marketers have been looking for ways to interrupt your view, make you question your traditional activity or try something different. And whether you’re trying to sell crackers, direct clients to your investment company, or fill your cruise ships, disruption is still an effective way to reach your potential customers. Because unless you’re the market leader, lulling them to continue doing what they’ve always done is not the way to build your business. Getting their attention is.