From the Messy Communications team
Business is never without its curveballs. Employee changes, team restructures, financial difficulties, new technologies, changing work methods. The list goes on. Because, like life, there are never any certainties. And during times of crisis and change, the unknown causes unease. As a result, our instincts will tell us to batten down the hatches, stop all unnecessary activity and stockpile our resources. Businesses often try to brace themselves for what’s to come, even without knowing what that might be.
However, freezing like possums in headlights is not always the best approach in the face of adversity. In fact, it’s businesses that are quick to adapt that are most likely to survive and prosper. The last ten years, which have been defined by disruption, are proof of this. And we can apply the lessons learned from other sources of disruption to navigate any challenges you face now or in the future.
Lesson 1: Repurpose your business assets
If one part of your business is no longer working, consider the assets and attributes you have that may be of use in the current environment. This could be anything from skills that exist within your workforce to physical assets such as refrigeration units, transport infrastructure or manufacturing equipment. There are some great examples of this as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, from H&M manufacturing medical gowns to local breweries making hand sanitiser.
But this is nothing new. Fujifilm famously diversified its business in the face of digital photography by recognising that their ability to suspend or encase active ingredients in a thin film to prevent oxidation could be applied to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics as well. It was this agility that enabled it to survive, where its main competitor Kodak, who doubled down on manufacturing and promoting their original product, did not.
Not only does repurposing your attributes provide new revenue streams but it also fuels innovation within your business. It also makes for great PR stories and in challenging times, these positive initiatives can create a lot of goodwill towards your business.
Lesson 2: Consider new ways of keeping your brand relevant
When a crisis occurs that affects your business, it’s not uncommon for it to impact the way people see your brand. Therefore, rather than switching off, think about how you can adapt your brand proposition to better suit the times.
That’s because a good brand provides a business with a north star to follow, ensuring constancy and familiarity to its target market. However, it should not limit the business, particularly if change is happening at a rapid pace.
Therefore, consider how your brand can be reinterpreted to meet the changing needs of your business and your customer while remaining “on-brand”.
An excellent example of this is how Omo/Persil reinterpreted their iconic “dirt is good” tagline to address a modern issue. Real, outdoor play was being replaced with structured afterschool activities and increased screentime. Rather than continue to communicate a reality that was no longer happening – an idealist world of outdoor play – the brand instead released a hard-hitting film set in a high-security prison to highlight an alarming statistic: high-security prisoners got more outdoor time than modern kids. Thus, their age-old brand idea “dirt is good” became “dirt is necessary” and went on to create an online program to encourage more parents to let their kids play freely outside – keeping their brand fresh and highly relevant.
Lesson 3: Adapt to your customers
When your customers’ lifestyle is severely impacted, how does your business adapt to their new needs? The answer is simple – put the customer needs first. But this is far from being a new approach, with many businesses throughout history having to continually rethink their entire model to meet the ever-changing expectations of customers fuelled by technology.
In the early 2000s, Domino’s Pizza was largely known for its inferior product and was losing market share. To combat this, they not only improved their product but invested in eCommerce. They worked to deeply understand the changing customer expectations and created a whole range of digital tools such as their “Pizza Tracker” to improve their service delivery. They then used this to differentiate their brand.
While some lifestyle changes brought about by crisis or disruption may be temporary, your customers will still want to be able to access your services. By adapting the way you deliver them, you can reach them and demonstrate your deep understanding of their needs. Beyond that, it could also expose your business to new customers and markets.
This could be as simple as modifying your brand communications to recognise the reality of your customers or adapting your operations to better meet their needs. Either way, it’s important to remember that businesses that keep moving and are willing to adapt when faced with a crisis are the ones most likely to survive and thrive.