The Not-so-subtle Art of the 2020 Pivot

By Rafael Samano

Oh, 2020. (Insert long, drawn-out sigh.) This year created historic challenges that also sparked some historic solutions. Focused on problem-solving, businesses gravitated toward one game-changing concept: the pivot. Against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, these pivots were difficult to execute but essential for sustainable success. Examples abound of brands that profitably pivoted this year, so it only makes sense to examine what they did and how they did it as a template for what this marketing maneuver can do.

Get online

An online presence can increase exposure and brand awareness, provide opportunities for social selling and augment a business’ ability to market and sell goods online (e-commerce). Plus, an online presence leaves actionable footprints and customizable insights that often translate into growth. Data like interactions and conversion rates, demographic breakdowns and successful consumer touchpoints can be harvested to create profitable marketing strategies that stick. A successful online presence will guide what a businesses’ next steps should be while providing a pandemic-proof storefront where a brand can not only exist but also thrive.

Reexamine Target Customer Types

For a business mid-pivot, reexamining target customer types is key. For instance, Alamo Drafthouse, a restaurant movie theater chain, pivoted to three separate aspects of its business: a curbside restaurant service, a video on-demand venture for classic movies and a theater venue rental company. Classic movies satisfied the theatergoing loyalists, while the restaurant and theater rentals appealed to late-night foodies and small businesses looking for safe venues with in-house catering. None of these services were revolutionary; they were simply a clever reworking of Alamo Drafthouse’s current capabilities to fit the needs of consumers today

Spotify also stands as an excellent example of a pivot based on reexamination. In the early days of the pandemic, Spotify saw an exodus of advertisers, which left the company with rapidly depleting revenue. Spotify had to act quickly and pivot or risk hemorrhaging cash. Data demonstrated an increase in podcast listenership during the early weeks of stay-at-home orders. Spotify reacted by creating an extensive library of original podcast content, and partnered with established creators and celebrities for audio-related projects. With a renewed focus on podcasts, Spotify emerged stronger and better positioned to combat future crises.  

Pivot your Product

In any given challenge (but especially COVID-19), it is important to think about those most deeply impacted and determine if there is an opportunity for your business to help. For Nike, it was clear the company could pivot to meet the nationwide call for personal protective equipment (PPE), which included face masks, face shields and gowns. Nike had the production facilities, materials and distribution network to make the necessary equipment and deliver it to health professionals nationwide. Producing PPE helped Nike stay afloat in the short term and increased brand loyalty from consumers who recognized that the company was pivoting for good. 

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