Brands are facing new challenges. The rules have changed and it’s time to pivot.
The great pandemic of 2020 is a wake-up call. From politics to perceptions, it’s touched everyone to varying degrees. We’ve all been personally affected by social distancing, travel restrictions, and business closures. But surprising opportunities have emerged for brands that have made the effort to pivot. What does it take to make a brand pivot?
A brand pivot can be a change in position, pricing, messaging, fulfillment strategy, or product offering that retains some continuity with its previous version— often as a strategy to appeal to a different audience or respond to changing market conditions. It’s essential to understand the two essential elements of a brand pivot: agility & amplification.
On one hand, a pivot is distinguished by agility and quickness. There’s an abrupt change of direction that results from turning on a single point. Unlike evolution which is a gradual response to conditions, a pivot is an active and conscious move.
>Pivoting is fundamental in basketball.
In a pivot, a basketball player must keep one foot still but can move the other around freely. It’s a specialized movement that enables strategic action. There are two fundamental moves in a pivot.
Forward pivot – This is when a player advances and steps forward into their field of vision, while keeping on the other foot in the same spot. It’s an offensive move to gain an advantageous position to score points.
Drop-step pivot – This is when the player retreats, revolving backwards away from an opponent to find an opportunity for an advantage behind the pivot.
Progress forces us to make value judgments.
We judge the rightness, wrongness or usefulness of a new advancement based on a comparison to other things we already understand. These evaluations are often based upon limited information and are made quickly and impulsively. They are not universal. There are different evaluations because we don’t all agree on what is good or bad.
It’s a common misconception that great branding is only about consistency. The truth is that brands are dynamic and adaptable; they must respond naturally to their surrounding conditions. Your logo, tagline and colors might remain consistent, but your brand isn’t limited to your visual identity. Although your core principles never change, how you communicate them evolves depending on context.
Two of the hardest hit categories by the pandemic are theaters and restaurants. But there are examples of brands that have already made the pivot… and they’re surviving.
>Forward Pivoting: Geffen Stayhouse
The Geffen Playhouse rebranded into a ‘Stayhouse’ to keep theater alive in a virtual format. Although live theaters have closed during the pandemic, a few have found ways to entertain — perhaps none more creatively than the Geffen Playhouse, rebranded as a “Stayhouse” for interactive virtual shows designed to bridge the gap among us. It’s not just for patrons in its native Los Angeles, but anyone with an Internet connection.
Geffen’s 2021 season features four performances shown over Zoom to small audiences who receive a box of accoutrements in advance that elevate the online theater experience above expectations.
Their forward pivot into experimental digital theater allows them to maintain revenues, retain talent and secure patronage. It’s an exciting new form of performance that’s just emerging.
>Drop-step Pivot: California Chicken Cafe
Two college friends started California Chicken Cafe in 1991, with a vision for a quick service restaurant with great value and delicious food. Loyal guests, great team members and amazing flavor helped them grow to 9 locations across the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles area.
In response to COVID-19, the company quickly pivoted into an all-pickup or delivery model. They launched an app for easy mobile ordering and converted their sidewalks into curbside pickup.
By pivoting away from the dining room back into pure delivery allows them to keep all locations active, retain team members and delight their customers.
Second element of a pivot is the ability to apply leverage to amplify output. A simple machine is a basic concept in physics for a variety of mechanisms that multiply force. It’s fundamental for moving obstacles, raising structures and facilitating progress. By pivoting across a fulcrum, a lever can generate tremendous force.
Pivoting can generate amplification.
His famous remark, “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth,” expresses his realization that there is no limit to the amount of force that can be achieved by using leverage.
Education and membership organizations have been forced to pivot to survive. By pivoting intelligently, then can actually produce amplified results. Brands that align together can leverage their individual abilities to find ways to thrive, even in a global pandemic. These two brands are clients of our studio, Flux Branding:
>Pivoting to Educate: Caltech Associates
The Caltech Associates is a vibrant support group for the California Institute of Technology. Since its founding 90 years ago, members have played a vital role in the life of the Institute. A combination of COVID restrictions combined with increased national membership made their lecture series, travel programs and campus amenities less incentivizing or impossible.
They pivoted from in-person gatherings and events to live online scientific lectures by leveraging the same campus resources that enabled distance learning for students.
The result was an increase in unrestricted funding from 2019 to 2020, raised from a passionate base of supporters dedicated to maintaining the cause of scientific breakthroughs— especially through a global pandemic.
Pivot To Massive Online: Focusing Philanthropy
Focusing Philanthropy believes extraordinary impact is possible if we focus on root causes, maximize leverage, act on solid information, and pool our efforts. They believe donations should be made with the same level of strategic intent, information, and confidence as other investments.
Since 2009, New York Times columnist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof has written an annual “holiday gift guide” column to bridge a philanthropic gap: readers who wanted to help but didn’t know how, and heroic individuals and organizations who desperately needed resources but were off donors’ radar.
>Making A Brand Pivot
A brand pivot uses agility and amplification, quickness and leverage, to generate market advantages. While the obstacles to achieving success may seem immense, using speed and force to multiply efforts can make the results achievable. Brand pivots hinge on emotional, perceptual and conceptual points, and they require both instrictual and intellectual approaches.
Quickly Assess Obstacles – Pivots occur in dynamic, rapidly changing environments. Moving like an athlete, scan the field for opportunities to serve customers by circumventing barriers.
Form A Fulcrum – Leverage requires a point that can be used to your advantage. Beginning with your core values and unique selling principles, identify your highest value offering. Align with another brand to gain an advantage.
Apply Force – Using agility and amplification, multiply your efforts for increased output. Like a physical lever, there’s a requirement to move a longer distance to achieve the power of moving major obstacles. It might require consistent pressure to accomplish results.
Thinking outside the box is part of a pivot mindset. By taking a nimble stance and being ready to quickly respond the market, you’ve got the flexibility to find ways to leverage your current brand equity to your advantage.
>Your Brand Pivot
If you’re still unsure how to pivot there’s still time to act. While your business expertise is sharpened through your experience of operating it, through coaching you’ll learn how to pivot naturally. Specialized moves aren’t easy to pick up without training. Expect to practice a while to perfect your moves.
Once exclusively the domain of global management consultancies, there are smaller boutique resources that can help. Flux Branding was created to help brands find their way through times of change. It’s why we developed our 4-step process, The IDEA Method. Contact us for an initial assessment.
Regardless of how you pivot, what’s most important is that you’re aware of the changing market dynamics now. The world is evolving in unprecedented ways, so you should too. Now is not the time retreat– it’s the time to make your move.