The Post-Pandemic Business Era:
Part 3: How Brands Must Reimagine Themselves for the Future

Michael Sauer Customer & Market Insights, Customer Experience, Strategy

Time to Redefine Your Role

Welcome to part three of our three-article series on how brands must evolve and reimagine themselves in this new era of post-pandemic business. Recall, from part one of our series, that since 2000, we’ve experienced three major business disruptions—the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the financial crisis of 2008 and now the COVID-19 global pandemic. Part one of our analysis addressed brand opportunities for a contactless society in response to social distancing safety measures. In part two, we focused on product and service innovation in the midst of an economic collapse. In this third and final installment, we shift our focus to how brands will need to reposition themselves and respond to the elevated expectations of consumers emerging from the pandemic and help define an organization’s societal role in this new era. 

Part 3 – Creating a Strategy for the Social Good

Brand Evolution – From Product, to People, to Public

At Magnani, we help brands evolve their strategy and establish a winning position in the marketplace that connects with ever-changing attitudes, behaviors and motivations of users and consumers. Using the research consultancy Kantar’s era analysis framework, we can see a new era of brand evolution happening right now.

The period immediately following WWII through 1960 was the beginning of an age of consumerism. During this era, brands focused on ‘“the product,” and companies were inventing new products and applying industrial design, while marketing focused on what that product was and what it did. But as products became commoditized and growth tapered off, brands began to focus on “people,” resulting in a user-centered era from the 1960s right up until yesterday. Consumer segments were created, and products became focused on solving problems and unmet needs through new benefits, features and innovations. Today, however, we’re beginning to see brands evolve, take on more responsibility and shift their focus from “people” to “public.”

Get It Right by Doing Good

As witnessed over the previous month, brands are stepping up to co-fight the virus with state and local public health officials in what could be their best marketing strategy ever. As Americans have questioned governmental response to the crisis, brands are taking on a larger role of societal responsibility while transcending today’s sticky political divide to avoid alienating consumers.

We’ve seen Apple donate millions of N95 masks, Dyson design and develop a new ventilator in 15 days, and hospitality brands donate entire hotels and food inventories to first responders and health care workers. For Dollar General and other mission-driven companies focused on their customers and communities, they’ve enacted new services and policies like Senior Store Hours, to give seniors a less busy, safer shopping experience, and product limitations to ensure their customers have access to essential products they need. Many small and large brands and companies are using this time to fast-forward into the future with online ordering and curbside pickup or free delivery, leading to hiring opportunities for recently unemployed gig workers. Cleaning brands like Clorox are providing online resources for understanding coronavirus and helpful infection prevention information, including expert advice for creating your own DIY disinfecting solution, using the bleach you have at home.

For users and consumers in this new era, brands doing more and playing a leadership role in society has become an expectation and deciding factor when making brand choices. Consumers will remember the companies who rose to the occasion to make a difference—those who led, who helped, who provided free services for communities in need and those who invested their cash stockpiles to protect workers’ jobs. 

Brands that sit on the sidelines or put profit over people will be remembered for what they didn’t do. Those who put their workforce in danger, who forced mass layoffs at the behest of stockholders and who asked for a federal bailout after years of stock buybacks while charging consumers exorbitant fees and fines, will all find themselves at a disadvantage when consumers make choices in the year ahead. What’s good for society makes good business sense now and into the future.

Plan Today for Tomorrow

Moving into this new era of social good, everyone in contact with your brand will make a choice. And now is the time for companies to incorporate consumers’ high expectations of societal responsibility in their brand strategy. As brands reassess their strategy and reposition to evolve, they must redesign their brand experience holistically, across all touch points, to reflect their new brand promise and character.

Today is an opportunity for companies to make preparations by taking inventory of who they are and redefining their role within society. From there, brands will need to update their brand experience for users, consumers, employees, and partners and develop new products and services to meet the new functional, emotional and financial needs of consumers as we move into this new, post-pandemic business era.

ABOUT US

Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.

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