‘Adapt or die’ is an old saying, but we’ve never measured company life expectancy in days. Those who do not go hell-bent into the new world won’t see a slow death. They will just cease to be, another casualty of the virus.
Covid-19 is not just setting fire to loose ends at companies, it is burning the fat we were “gonna get round to trimming” just to keep the lights on.
The light at the end of the tunnel is there, the torch finally, firmly, in the hands of revolutionaries. The overriding drive is now for transformation, for adaptation, for survival and maybe, just maybe, for capitalization.
Welcome to the real digital age, where no-one ever leaves the house.
Businesses must go online as consumers stay at home during the pandemic. A ray of hope, though, is that radical change does seem to work.
Rebranding to rise again
In 2013, Reader’s Digest Association was going through its second bankruptcy because of failing to adapt to technological advances. A year later, it boldly transformed the business into a digital-first, multi-platform media company. Its print and digital platforms have enjoyed a collective reach of 60 million people every month for the past five years and that in an industry that has seen more than usual suffering at the hands of the internet.
Transforming businesses for long-term benefit is essential when tech keeps moving forward. Initiatives like shifting to e-commerce platforms or changing product lines to meet current demand are the top priority. Communicating those changes effectively to customers – even more important.
The adoption of new designs or technology is the main objective of rebranding. Big companies like Google, Netflix and even sports teams constantly change how they look and sound to stay relevant with a shifting market in the digital era and their own bewildering pace of innovation. That effort marks them out as industry leaders and suggests they will be around for a long time.
Now the stakes are so high, rebranding demands a calculated effort to accelerate sales by getting customers to engage online.
Sustaining long-term engagement means relying heavily on digital media. Efficient use of social media demographics, for instance, also gives companies better insight into a disrupted market. Fashion retailer Next’s web presence was focused on its childrenswear, homewear and activewear lines and since the lockdown those have outsold all its other clothing combined.
No tool is too weird for our Brave New World. Youtube, Instagram, podcasts and influencers have been well used by some brands. Many, though, have shied away from the familiarity they promote, sticking with rigid corporate imagery with as few concessions to those media when they do appear on it. Usually, a barely concealed press release regurgitation or promotion disguised as a discussion – the audience sees right through it.
Companies may have gotten away with this in the past when engagement online was complementary to their traditional tools, but no more. Whenever lockdown is finally lifted, the lessons of working from home and isolation are not going anywhere. Preferences will have changed permanently, companies will see they need less office space and everybody will be more glued than ever to their phones and laptops. How you look, feel and sound online is not just ‘everything’. Now, it is EVERYTHING.
Digital media, including branding assets, will define our future as much as it currently does our everyday lives. Being an old stick-in-the-mud, post-Covid, is downright dangerous. Companies will be entirely evaluated on a playing field many have neglected for years. They are right to look into the abyss and wonder if there is a way out.