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The COVID-19 pandemic forced many brands to update their positioning strategies. Here are some key takeaways from four who got it right.
Throughout the pandemic, brands have faced a huge array of challenges — from weighing the pros and cons of updating foundational research at a volatile time, to revamping digital experiences on the fly. Many have also had to make strategic updates to their brand positioning strategy to find a new way forward. In this post, we’ll highlight four brands that pivoted, found new markets, and improved brand reputation.
Spotify enters the world of original content.
As a streaming platform, Spotify was already ideally positioned to appeal to music fans seeking at-home entertainment during lockdowns. But the Swedish company, which has a large free-user base, had to pivot fast when advertising revenue dropped in 2020. Spotify decided to emulate Netflix and offer original content, repositioning itself in the influencer space with exclusive celebrity podcast deals. This strategy paid off, and Spotify saw its ad revenue rise 9% to $185 million in Q3 from a year earlier. In November of 2020, Spotify bought podcast ad and publishing company Megaphone, allowing advertisers to target listeners via Spotify’s original podcasts.
Key takeaway: Times of crisis reinforce the importance of being able to quickly assess whether your product meets current customer needs — and then pivot accordingly.
Staples sets its sights on the home office.
Given the changing nature of the office as a workplace, it’s no surprise a brand with “the office superstore” in its name felt the pressure to reposition. But while corporate headquarters might have emptied out, home offices are of course another story. Most of the work-from-home crowd isn’t ordering printer paper in bulk, however, so Staples repositioned its brand on a digital scale, offering smaller size packages and free shipping. The strategy worked, and the brand climbed seven spots in Gartner’s Digital IQ Index in October 2021. Anticipating the rise of the hybrid office-home schedule, Staples also developed a spring marketing campaign to create stronger bonds with individual consumers.
Key takeaway: The ways consumers use your products and interact with your brand can change in an instant. Companies that can quickly identify changing consumer behaviors and shift their processes accordingly will difficult times.
Airbnb caters to urbanites fleeing crowded cities.
Airbnb was forced to lay off 25% of its staff in May 2020. But the company found a new market by repositioning itself as a rental company for nomadic urbanites fleeing to less crowded areas and adventurers looking to avoid hotels. The brand introduced Airbnb Online Experiences, featuring everything from “Guided Meditation with Sleepy Sheep” to “Tango by Argentinian Experts.” Airbnb posted a profit for the third quarter of 2020: when it went public in December, it was the largest I.P.O of the year and saw its shares more than double.
Key takeaway: When one core market shrinks, quickly evaluate what those consumers need next — and make sure your business is ready to offer it. This nimbleness is a key part of a successful growth strategy.
Louis Vuitton converts its factories to make hand sanitizer.
After a year of lost jobs and social distancing, it’s not surprising that many luxury brands saw profits shrink. Indeed, the market for personal luxury goods contracted for the first time since 2009. But luxury group Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton sprung to action early in the pandemic. The brand converted three of its perfume factories (which usually produce fragrances for Christian Dior, Givenchy, and Guerlain) to make free hand sanitizer for health care workers and charities in France. It was only a temporary repositioning, of course, but consumers remember how brands act during a crisis.
Key takeaway: In a crisis, it’s key to leverage existing assets, even when doing so doesn’t immediately improve the bottom line. Innovate to be useful, however you can — consumers will take notice (especially Gen Z).