April 3, 2020

How Brands Are Staying Agile and Relevant Right Now


A Business Agency

Pivoting business mindset and strategy quickly is not a simple task. Even the most nimble and responsive organizations are not fully equipped to deal with this situation. However, those who manage well through this slump stand to be the best poised to succeed longer term. As we discussed in our first article, share of wallet may be a better metric than revenue growth for the time being — or rather, staying in business may be the goal. To do so, for nearly all companies, a pivot of strategic positioning is necessary. This is anything but a business-as-usual environment. Two major themes emerge as directionally advisable at this time.


Those companies that are doing the best are doing right by the World Health Organization (WHO). Specifically, there are six pillars on which WHO is advising the world for public health and safety: Wash your hands often, avoid close contact/stay six feet apart, stay home if you’re sick, cover coughs and sneezes, wear a facemask if you are sick, and clean and disinfect often.

To illustrate the second pillar “Avoid close contact,” Germany’s Volkswagen created a video which separated the V and W logo, with a caption that read: “Thanks for keeping your social distance.” Audi likewise separated its four connected rings to emphasize the same point. This is a clear pivot from their normal ad positioning, and in direct support of humanitarian efforts. While professional sporting events have gone on hiatus, and some taken to their digital likenesses, Nike launched a campaign urging people to keep their distance, and to “play inside”:

Source: Nike

The Nike message speaks clearly to their “just do it” clientele in a way that still captures their aspirational athletes’ imaginations, yet directs them to a safe solution instead of “just going out to play anyway,” or “just doing my normal group sports.” It’s not only a great way to advocate for staying at home, but also to pivot the mindset of customers toward safety and social good.


Beyond providing social good, there is a unique opportunity to connect to humanity in a way most of us have not experienced in our lifetime. Emotions are high, and rightfully so. Folks are feeling the range: scared, alone, bored, uncertain. Connecting to customers emotional needs and aspirations has always been a hallmark of great brands throughout history. In a sense, today is not different in this regard. It is simply that the customer mindset and emotional state has shifted and continues to do so. Brands need to practice a deeper level of empathy and be nimble enough to adjust to change in real time. Here are a few of the newly prominent psychological drivers that brands can pivot toward:

  • Need for connection: Chipotle has created virtual lunches with celebrities. Instagram has launched a new feature for sharing content while on video chat.
  • Need for productivity: Pinterest has unveiled a new “Today,” tab, with information from the WHO and CDC such as proper handwashing techniques or learning how to manage work and life at home. The platform has its highest engagement numbers to date, with searches around indoor activities for kids, freezer meals, self-care checklists, and home workouts.
  • Need for learning: A number of companies are offering free access to online resources, from BrainPOP’s animated, K-12 curricular content, to Fender offering guitar lessons for 3 months, to Coursera offering courses from Ivy League and art schools, to Rosetta Stone offering 3 months of lessons to students, and many more.
  • Need for entertainment: People are engaging with streaming content more than ever, with usage on services like Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu and others at an all-time high, while companies are getting creative to meet people where they are, such as iHeartRadio’s Living Room Concert for America, featuring a number of celebrities performing from their homes, benefiting Feeding America. Even the Backstreet Boys sang a living room version of “I Want It That Way,” a great way to lift spirits during this time.
  • Need for home cooking solutions: Companies like Instant Pot are posting daily recipes, while celebrity chefs, from Ina Garten to Gordon Ramsay to Rachael Ray, are taking to social media to share tips for making the most of cooking at home. Chef Jose Andres does a daily Instagram video customized to cooking quick easy meals for the family.
  • Need for at-home fitness: Peloton is offering new users a 90-day trial of its subscription workout app, while gyms like Orangetheory and Planet Fitness are posting daily workouts. ClassPass, the popular subscription service that lets users attend different boutique facilities, has made over 2,000 workouts free. Even high-end NYC studio The Class is offering free classes online.
  • Need for home improvement: People stuck at home are finally finding time to tackle their endless “honey-do” lists. The “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” Netflix series has rejoined conversations as people look for ways to be productive in their homes, while Lowe’s Home Improvement is increasing curbside pickup support and contact-free deliveries, in addition to committing $100M to fight the virus.
  • Need for modified convenience: Grocery delivery, food delivery and curbside pickup are being utilized at unprecedented rates, including through InstaCart, GrubHub, Uber Eats and many more. Some delivery companies such as DoorDash have created a “leave at door” option to accommodate the current demand for sanitary non-interaction. And in select locations, medical clinics are conducting drive-through COVID-19 testing.
  • Need for emotional stability: Headspace and other meditation apps have always been there to encourage peaceful thinking but have become more prominent at this time, as people have expressed difficulty in processing all the emotions during this time.

For agile brands who can pivot, these new need states and aspirations may be inspirational direction. But the palate of new needs arising in this unfamiliar territory is vast…brands should stay attuned to what needs and emotions complement their values and mission, and find the relevant area where they can play in this new conversation.

Relevance is everything. The opportunities for brands to provide for unmet needs in this climate is also vast, as is the ability to be there for people when they need brands to provide more than just products or services, when they need them to be more.

Kara Buckley

Managing Director & Business Lead