A brand-new, monthly briefing to help you navigate this wild New Normal. We’ll be covering the trends no brand can afford to ignore...but that’s not all. Every issue includes exercises and prompts to get your team innovating: Making shifts & making sh*t happen!
It's time to change course.
In response to unprecedented change, some brands are going beyond minor tweaks to make BOLD PIVOTS. They’re completely redesigning their business models, creating entirely new products and services, or finding other ways to redefine ‘business as usual’ for their organizations.
Setting the Scene
Major brands pivoted to address COVID-19 – and harness the opportunities within – on a grand scale, seeing as...
90% of consumers globally want brands to partner with relief efforts or government agencies to combat the pandemic. (Edelman)
But it’s not all about the brand behemoths or scoring PR points. Some are pivoting for purely commercial-driven reasons and some are pivoting out of necessity, especially struggling small businesses.
There are also distinct groups of consumers hit extra-hard by the pandemic. Some organizations are pivoting to help them.
One example? Laundry company washbnb created washhero: pivoting from exclusively serving millennials needing sheets in their Airbnbs to serving a range of vulnerable groups, with a pay-what-you-can laundry delivery offering. One such group? The elderly. In countries with an older average age, particularly in Europe, seniors of course have accounted for most COVID casualties. Speaking of disproportionate impacts...
COVID-19 is a gust of wind helping to push other monumental issues forward - a growing focus on sustainability, rising automation, etc. But most notably: the reinvigoration of Black Lives Matter. Meaning brands with any history of discrimination (and that’s many) have to prove they’re making BOLD PIVOTS.
Some context: Although black Americans comprise around 15% of the US population, they make up 23% (!!) of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths. (CNN) A jarring reality that’s bumping up against George Floyd’s murder, sparking outrage – even far beyond the US – in the process.
In response, numerous brands rolled out empty acts of performative wokeness (read: black squares on social)...and only add to the anger. So, cue the call-outs! With brands from Starbucks to Amazon to Refinery 29 facing a reckoning – from their own employees, no less – it’s clear no industry is immune.
Brands seeking to avoid this fate are enacting BOLD PIVOTS to combat all forms of inequality within their own walls. PepsiCo aims to promote 30% more black employees to manager-level roles (by 2025), while 200+ brands have taken part in the #PullUpOrShutUp challenge: they’re disclosing how many of their employees belong to underrepresented groups alongside their plans to boost those numbers.
Much of the above ties back to GLASS BOX BRANDS: a rising expectation that organizations take their internal cultures just as seriously as their external brands, that’s even more prominent today than when we first covered it in 2017.
Pivots in action
While each of these pivots vary in degree – representing different levels of change to the original business – they all struck us TrendWatchers as decisively BOLD pivots. These innovations reflect (and set!) new expectations that consumers are holding for every brand they interact with...including your own.
IBM stops selling facial recognition tools to law enforcement
Following George Floyd's death, IBM announced in June 2020 that it will no longer supply US police departments with facial recognition technology or analysis software. The company explained it did not want police to use facial recognition to racially profile citizens and infringe upon "basic human rights and freedoms." IBM also cited findings that the tool has often been shown to fail when analyzing women or people of color, as well as demonstrate racial bias. Additionally, the corporation will stop selling general purpose facial recognition technology.
Sephora is first to sign the ‘15 Percent Pledge’
In June 2020, Sephora became the first retailer to accept the 15 Percent Pledge challenge, announcing that 15% of the beauty retailer's shelf space would be dedicated to black-owned companies. In social media posts accompanying the pledge, Sephora also vowed to 'understand blind spots and disparities', and publish and execute a roadmap to growing the share of Black-owned businesses. The 15 Percent Pledge was launched by Aurora James, the founder of luxury fashion line Brother Vellies.
Recycled toilet roll line pivots to support COVID-19 appeal
Change Please is a UK-based social enterprise that trains homeless people to work as baristas. In April 2020, the non- profit unveiled Serious Tissues: 100% recycled toilet paper, sold to support NHS frontline workers. The range, which was a year in the making, was initially developed to tackle climate change, with Change Please aiming to plant a tree for every roll sold. But the organization saw an opportunity to support frontline health workers by tapping into the high demand for toilet paper with its product. To address the corona- virus crisis, profits were instead donated to the NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Urgent Appeal. Two varieties were available: Standard, priced at GBP 24, and Premium, costing GBP 28.
Shanghai Fashion Week unveils its first fully digital schedule
March 2020 saw Shanghai Fashion Week team up with Tmall to deliver its seven-day runway show schedule on Taobao Live. Reversing the initial decision to postpone the event due to the coronavirus outbreak, over 150 brands and designers presented their autumn/winter collections via virtual runways using green screens and AR. Viewers could purchase items as they went down the catwalk, hear commentary from models and designers in real time, and ask questions during the livestream. The opening showcases generated more than RMB20 million (USD 2.82 million) in gross merchandise volume. Digital fashion week showcases were also held in London, Paris and Copenhagen.
Nanny service pivots to offer remote babysitting
In March 2020, Nannyfy, a Spain-based app that connects nannies to families, reinvented itself due to the pandemic. Because the app’s nannies could no longer watch children in-person, they began offering ‘remote’ babysitters that teach yoga, guitar, singing, drawing, programming or math classes via video chat. The service aims to provide parents with a moment of peace and keep nannies employed.
Signage producer pivots to become an ‘essential’ business
i.M. Branded, a Michigan-based small business that makes signage for car dealerships, pivoted to creating plexiglass “sneeze guards” as a result of COVID-19. After it was considered non-essential under Michigan law, and was forced to furlough employees, i.M. Branded began producing the partitions – turning the company into an essential business. i.M. Branded is receiving up to 100 orders each day from retailers, offices, mom-and-pop shops and restaurants. Because of the pivot, most of i.M. Branded’s staff was able to return to work in May 2020.
Swimwear brand pivots to fresh food delivery in 48 hours
To survive the economic impact of the pandemic, March 2020 saw South Africa-based Granadilla pivot from producing swimwear to providing fresh produce boxes. Working in partnership with local farms and suppliers and drawing on the founders’ experience selling kombucha, the brand launched Granadilla Eats in 48 hours. Consumers could build their own boxes via the website, with orders available for next-day delivery. Within the first three weeks of launch, Granadilla delivered more than 1,000 boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout Cape Town, with additional produce box options added to the brand’s website.
Over to you!
We’re not kidding when we say we want to get your brand making shifts and making sh*t happen! That’s why we created a handy checklist to kickstart your ideation session around BOLD PIVOTS. So get your team on a call, explore each point and exercise, and check them off when you’re done. Happy innovating!
With these vast changes in the world come changes within your customers themselves. Write down 10-20 shifts in how your customers are thinking, what they’re feeling, or what they’re needing.
What resources are at your disposal to address one of the shifts you’ve just identified?
See how others are taking on the same challenges you’re facing. Big brands: Can you learn from the quick pivots startups are taking? And smaller players: Can you study how corporations are scaling, testing and implementing new initiatives?
HOT TIP: You can explore and get inspired by the 900+ (and counting!) brand responses to the pandemic on COVID Innovations, one of our sister sites.
Dig through your innovation compost pile. Are there any once-rejected ideas you could now reexamine with your COVID, sustainability or social justice hat on?
The importance of having a variety of viewpoints in the room has never been clearer. For example, 81% of consumers believe CEOs should express their commitment to an inclusive hiring process and 60% of con- sumers will buy or boycott a brand based on its response to Black Lives Matter.
Once you’ve brought in some new colleagues, can you harness their unique perspectives as you plan your pivot?
Could a major pivot allow you to become the brand you’ve always wanted to be? A more equitable brand? More diverse? More sustainable?
A side note on sustainability, which presents compelling opportunities now: Due partly to COVID-19, diners worldwide are embracing sustainable vegan meat alternatives, thus avoiding the viruses in factory-farmed meat. And personal health concerns boosted concern for the planet’s health: 55% of consumers globally said they’re now more likely to buy eco- friendly products.
Regardless of whether it involves heightened eco-consciousness, spend 30 minutes outlining the ideal version of your company. Then, devise a plan of attack!
Talk to us
Make→Shift has many hands in it, especially those belonging to designers Zuzanna Loch and Clara Olsen, along with Trend Strategists Lisa Feierstein, Vicki Loomes and Thomas Klaffke. But enough about us; we would love to hear from you! Do share your thoughts with Sophie Caro (or just say hi!) at email@example.com.
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