We are and will continue to journey through sustained uncertainty. It will touch everything we love, from our families and friends to the brands we can’t do without. With events like SXSW getting canceled, the stock market seeing its worst day in over 10 years and brands from travel to tech reporting long-term impact on profits, it’s easy to be alarmed and perhaps even easier to retreat into the trenches hoping it all blows over. Unfortunately, we don’t even have a clear indication of when that might be.
Lucky for us, we have the unstoppable force that is human creativity. And times of forced restraints are times when creativity thrives.
As signature brand moments are disrupted, businesses have both the opportunity and imperative to step back from complacency and rethink their institutions. Let’s not forget that the best businesses today are reinventing themselves in six-month intervals to adapt to the increasing pace of disruption. No longer do they have a locked business strategy; they dive headfirst into change.
Let’s learn from them in this moment, focusing not on what has been lost but on creating your brand’s next signature moment, one that meets the world where it is, not where it’s been. It should feel connected and responsive, positioning you as a lighthouse rising above the fog, illuminating the path forward for the rest. Let the time of uncertainty actually help you better understand what your brand really means.
Assess and be realistic about what’s worth reinventing in the moment and what is worth moving away from for the time being. It requires focus on a single signature to reframe rather than trying to do it all.
Once you’ve prioritized that signature, you must unpack the actual value exchange that’s occurring to understand how you can deliver it in another, perhaps unexpected way. These value exchanges must be more than symbolic. For example, saying, “I travel to SXSW and have a wonderful time enjoying Austin.” Value exchanges must be two-way and focused on real emotional value, so it should instead be: “I go to SXSW to figure out the next chapter of my career while helping others figure out theirs.” Being clear about the value you hold for your audience will help you to find other channels and ways of delivering it to them rather than losing out on it entirely in times of uncertainty.
The next step is a creative one. Essentially, use your brand as inspiration and the real value exchange as a guide to reimagine your signature moment. How can we deliver the same value through a different means that still feels like us, all while keeping in mind two absolutely critical elements: diversification and permission.
Perhaps most important to this exercise, as we are seeing play out real-time, is thinking about the diversity in your value exchange portfolio. As in, are your value exchanges diversified enough to withstand the unpredictability of disruption? Is your business over-indexed anywhere in terms of the type of value you deliver or the channel you deliver it through, especially in light of potential limits on historic channels? For example, you only meaningfully engage through digital interactions or you are so closely associated with a recurring event that your brand simply couldn’t persist if it were never to happen again.
Then you must think about permission, from the obvious to the more imaginative, where you have the ability to play based on the value exchanges you are delivering today. Virgin is a great example of this. Richard Branson has used Virgin as a crucible to build a really different set of businesses based on a relatively singular way that they make you feel and the emotional value they impart, regardless of if you’re looking for healthcare or a trip to space.