Adapt or die! 10 tips for brands today.

“May you live in interesting times” is an old Chinese curse. And so it is for brands today – in this post-COVID, data-driven, social media era – with extreme change as the only constant.

Like immigrants into a new time, there are no signposts pointing the way forward. There is no how-to instruction manual. There is a lack of precedent, as yesterday’s lessons and experiences count for little in a brand new, very different world.

Here is my Top 10 List of the new realities facing brands today:

  1. The place and ROLE of brands in society – with companies now expected to make a meaningful contribution, not just a dollar.
  2. The SUSTAINABILITY imperative – with companies expected to do business in a way that leaves a positive and lasting footprint.
  3. The nature of WORK and the talent economy – working from home and people demanding fulfilment from their work, not just a pay cheque at the end of the month.
  4. The death of TRUST – with people’s trust in business, business leaders, and other institutions [the media, politicians, the church] declining dramatically.
  5. The things that businesses DO, because talk is cheap – with increasing consumer and shareholder demands for authenticity and honesty.
  6. The need to INNOVATE and keep up – because if you’re not getting better quicker than your competition is getting better, you’re getting worse.
  7. The way brands communicate and build customer LOYALTY – non-traditional, non-linear, and heavily reliant on word-of-mouth.
  8. The way people SHOP and buy – online, less loyal, more fickle, with higher service expectations.
  9. The glut of DATA – information that was once scarce is now in overload, as companies struggle to manage it, interpret it, and use it to their advantage to tailor brands and brand messages.
  10. The DIGITAL empowerment of consumers – with the ‘consumer’ of your brand messages now becoming the ‘producer’ of your brand message.

Many brands aren’t keeping up

Businesses and brands need to successfully navigate these and many other such unchartered waters, and it seems most aren’t keeping up. Accenture reported (in 2018) that 87% of companies think they will be disrupted in the next 5 years, and yet only 7% percent have a plan.

And this is what happens if you don’t have a plan. Blockbuster was the largest provider of home movie and video game rental services in the world, with 84,000 employees and more than 9,100 stores. “Never be without a movie” was their tagline. And while Netflix prepared itself for the streaming trend in home video viewing, Blockbuster was chasing additional revenue streams by selling candy and popcorn in its stores. As a business and a brand, Blockbuster totally failed to transform itself – even declining the opportunity to purchase Netflix for $50 million in 2000.

In 2006, Blockbuster was ranked 366 on the Fortune 500. In 2010 it filed for bankruptcy and closed its final stores in 2013. In fact, 429 of the original Fortune 500 companies (1955) are no longer in business today – what an unbelievable fact.

Adapt or fucking die!

Richard Sauerman
Richard Sauerman
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