The new normal may not quite feel normal yet, but at this point we’re transitioning from surviving the pandemic to finding ways to thrive in it. In some cases, this can present some brand challenges.
The strategies we built in 2019 aren’t coming back. Instead, we can take a cue from these brands who are hitting a new stride under changing conditions.
Uninvited Change Fuels Innovation
“Finding ways to stay busy and do interesting projects was our priority,” says Holger Kurt Ward, founder and CEO of Gloss Retouching, a sought after post-production company that’s known for their sleek images of products from brands like Beats, Nike and Lexus. “We knew we could execute and be COVID-compliant, which was an opportunity to stay top-of-mind with clients while actually pushing the industry forward by using new technologies.”
Ward says the challenge forced him to look differently at their entire production model. “Where the client used to weigh in on-set during the production process, we knew they wouldn’t be able to physically be present with us during that time. We ended up doing most of the creative design virtually with the client prior to producing anything,” continues Ward. “The result is a deeper client collaboration and a more fine-tuned creative process that actually forced us to know our own process more intimately.”
The company also began relying more heavily on their expertise in CGI and started employing a process called remote viewing as a means to keep their photographers producing at a distance. By leveraging the opportunity to innovate, Gloss has expanded their client profile and developed a representation arm to help photographers navigate new industry challenges. Wilson Hennessy, the newest talent on their roster of award-winning photographers, joins sought-after names like Dejan and Per, Tomek Olszowski and Jonathan Schule.
Ditch Wholesale for Direct-to-Consumer
Melanie Masarin was Head of Retail and Offline Experiences at Glossier before launching the Instagram-friendly, spiritless apéritif Ghia.
“We went through 55 weeks of R&D until we landed on the bright and clean flavor we wanted,” she says. The pandemic struck just before launch, and Masarin had to rethink her opening strategy, deciding on a full pivot to a direct-to-consumer model, instead.
“We thought long and hard about holding the launch and waiting for the pandemic to subside, but instead used the pause to answer tough questions like: Is this a product people would benefit from right now? Is this what I want to be doing with my days, with my life?” she said. “The answer was yes.”
The product and packaging didn’t change, but Masarin had to redo photography and find ways to engage consumers directly. “We originally planned to launch offline in restaurants and at events so when we shifted our model to be completely D2C it was important for us to have a direct line of communication with our customers.” That direct line of communication ended up being a literal text hotline: 707-TXT-GHIA
Find an Opportunity For Brand Purpose
Consider a case study from Harvard Business Review, who worked with Mumbai-based multinational holding company Mahindra on strategies to overcome the reality that “the sheer inertia of business as usual makes it hard to activate purpose where it hasn’t been active before.”
According to the case study, Mahindra “focused on overcoming this inertia by creating and clarifying a brand purpose: to unlock ingenuity within their ranks and beyond — a movement they called ‘Rise.’” This took the form of internal culture, recalibrated with new pandemic-specific performance metrics, and external initiatives like the ‘Rise Prize,’ which offered $1 million to innovators working to come up with India’s next big idea to change the world.
“This points to an opportunity hidden within the current crisis: with widespread business disruption, brand purpose can find an opening.” Looking at things from this angle, the setbacks don’t have to be setbacks.
Offer a Creative Outlet With Original or User-Generated Content
When advertisers balked, ad-reliant Spotify had to think fast. Though they’re first in class amongst music streaming apps worldwide, the Swedish company struggled at first to bring meaningful value to its stuck-at-home listeners, most of whom listen to the free, ad-supported version. Spotify finally struck the right note when they stepped into original content creation, à la the Netflix model, by offering users original podcasts.
This served a dual purpose: it created fresh content, and it gave listeners a creative outlet. Users uploaded over 150,000 podcasts in the first month. Now Spotify is signing some of the best and most famous amongst them, which could have lasting repercussions for their business model.
The pandemic’s disruption doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The worst thing we can do is to wait for things to go back to normal. Assume they never will, and instead look for the opportunity. This could be the reinvention your brand has been waiting for.