What happens when the world is flipped on its head?

Daily living and working patterns shift, priorities change, and the way we think and feel becomes unrecognizable.

Industries that might have boomed in 2019 shrivel with new restrictions, while others find themselves at the center of massive demand.

Well, as we all know by now, adaptation is key – and these 8 brands across different sectors switched up their strategies, seizing opportunities to take their brand to new pastures.

Beauty: Dove’s three-pronged approach

Unilever brands need to have purpose – it’s not just expected, but required.

In fact, CEO Alan Jope explains that going forward: 

“Every Unilever brand will be a brand with purpose. We’ll dispose of brands that don’t stand for something.”

Dove, a beauty brand with a caring messaging, was quick to galvanize support for frontline healthcare workers and its customers by launching, not one, but three campaigns. 

#CareFromDove

In the UK and Ireland, Dove donated £1m worth of care products to health workers, to help them through the challenging times. 

#WashToCare

In an effort to amplify The World Health Organisation’s advice on hand washing, Dove redirected some of their media spend to create ad campaigns reminding people of best practice when washing hands. 

#SelfEsteemAtHome

Lockdown for many has triggered or exacerbated mental health problems.

As the largest provider of self-esteem education, Dove launched a mini series on social media specifically around wellbeing at home and body positivity. 

Auto: Ford swaps vehicles for ventilators

A name that needs no introduction, Ford has been a powerhouse of automotive production since 1903.

It’s used to rolling with the punches having survived two World Wars and two economic meltdowns.

Towards the beginning of March 2020, Ford shut down its production of cars and morphed into a temporary ventilator producer and distributor – whilst also supporting medical companies in scaling up their own production of equipment. 

It’s a shining example of how even the most established, incumbent brands still have the power to change their spots.

Food retail: Aldi’s online awakening

While Ford’s acts were far removed from its day-to-day, for supermarket brands like Aldi, just putting their foot on the gas and rising to demand was exactly what was needed.

With some customers unable to visit the store during the outbreak, Aldi fast-tracked it’s online grocery service to support those most vulnerable. 

The food parcels available could be ordered from the new online portal, each containing 22 essential items like tinned soup, rice and pasta – even antibacterial handwash. 

Aldi’s response was to diversify – while operating well within its niche. Expanding from bricks and mortar into the digital space meant it could offer good value produce to those who rely on it most.

Tech: Match Media sparks new partnership ops

Face-to-face social activity took a hit in 2020 – taking the dating scene down with it.

Singles were living different lives in lockdown, giving way to unseen attitudes and behaviors. These kinds of fundamental audience changes are a scary thought for any brand – let alone one built to initiate in-person interaction.

But while traditional dating suffered, app downloads were through the roof.

Match Media, the brand behind Tinder and Hinge (and more), wanted to harness any advantage it could by getting amongst their consumers and seeing exactly what was changing

By layering their audiences over our coronavirus research, the team picked up on key trends around video dating and online dating activities, and used to pivot to their audience, and spot new advertising partners.

The business was able to transition in tandem with their users – proof that staying close to your consumers in a crisis pays off.

Fashion: H&M helping one stitch at a time

H&M’s production and supply chains are vast. And when the world called for more PPE for health workers, it answered. 

Being non-essential during lockdown, H&M’s stores were unable to operate as normal, meaning the clothing retailer could begin producing essential protective wear, like masks, gloves, and gowns. 

H&M’s head of sustainability Anna Gedda stated, “we see this as a first step in our efforts to support in any way we can. We’re all in this together, and have to approach this as collectively as possible.”

There’s no doubt that brands were feeling pressure to act, but for H&M, the speed and scale of their response showed real compassion. 

B2B Food: City Pantry turns to thought leadership

Office catering business, City Pantry, were smart when the pandemic hit.

Naturally, with workplaces closed, a significant chunk of the business fell quiet. Regardless, the brand still had to drive new connections and keep demand high. 

Commissioning a custom study with GWI, City Pantry investigated employee wellbeing (a hot topic for business owners right now) and it’s links with office perks (like food). 

With the help of the right audience targeting data, the team put themselves in the shoes of their end consumers, meaning they could confidently speak out about their issues and feelings.

And from their new position as thought leaders, they could address topics that matter most to employers.

Adaptation doesn’t have to mean overhauling everything – sometimes a little research and a switch-up of the message is enough to get you back on track.

Media: Disney goes D2C

Disney has a matrix of different revenue streams – from movies to cruises. All well and good when we can actually go to the cinema, and on holiday.

It always had designs on creating a streaming service to rival the likes of Netflix, but when the outbreak happened, things kicked into high gear. 

CEO, Bob Chapek, explains, “given the incredible success of Disney+ and our plans to accelerate our direct-to-consumer business, we are strategically positioning our company to more effectively support our growth strategy.” 

A digital-first pivot of this scale from a company the size and age of Disney is remarkable. And when add the fact it received 60.5m members since it’s release – it’s jaw-dropping.

Sport: F1 Teams answer the call for ventilators

A large portion of F1 teams are based in the UK, and when the nation faced a shortage of ventilators, a collective began working with the UK government to spark production. 

With some of the best engineering brains and equipment to hand, as well as the ability to rapidly prototype new designs, they were well set to support.

The Mercedes-AMG team alone took their design into production in less than 100 hours from the initial meeting and an order of up to 100,000 ventilators was placed by the NHS. 

But it didn’t stop there, Mercedes-AMG made their design and manufacturing specification open source, so companies across the world could produce the ventilator at speed and scale. 

Lesson from 2020: strategy isn’t static, it should keep evolving

2020 has taught us to prioritize.

When many businesses across the world understandably went into self-preservation mode, some doubled down and switched things up. 

While heavily restricted brands used their production lines to create new essential items, others operated within their niche, staying close to their consumers to know how and when to react. 

But whether it’s transforming the output, pushing forward into new areas, spotting new opportunities, or tweaking the messaging, the best strategies always have their consumers at the very center.

Click to access our connecting the dots 2021 report

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