July 12, 2022

Do evolving brands go extinct?

Do evolving brands go extinct?
Disrupt, or be disrupted.

Watching Prehistoric Planet on TV got me thinking about an alternate reality where T-Rexes were as common as Teslas. But if Jurassic Park has taught us anything, it’s that even if a great asteroid hadn’t already wiped them out, dinosaurs don’t really belong in our modern world.

As John Chambers, Cisco’s outgoing CEO said when stepping down after 20 years, “40% of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years. Either we disrupt or we get disrupted.”

To evolve is to grow

Every generation has its own meteor moment – whether it’s the GFC, Covid-19… or a technology that renders businesses obsolete seemingly overnight (see Blockbuster). So how do brands stay relevant, or at the very least avoid extinction? The answer is simple in theory; they must continually adapt and evolve.

Take Z Energy who are pivoting to transition from petrol to renewable energy. As their website states, “We're moving with the times. As an energy provider, we see Aotearoa moving every day. But we also see the big cultural movements our country is making. That's why we're in the business of getting out of the petrol business.”

There’s also Burger King, who went off-brand through the pandemic, departing from their usual tongue-in-cheek advertising, to focus on feeding kids who could no longer access school lunches, as well as prioritising public safety messages ahead of whoppers.

Then there’s Merrell, who created a hotline for people who were feeling lonely and isolated during COVID. Their “Walk & Talk” initiative encouraged people to get outside (in their Merrell footwear) as this was the most popular antidote to stress. The hotline also offered guided meditations, and even jokes – proof that their brand of well-being goes beyond just what their shoes can do for you.

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Never sit still

From product innovation to enhanced services, or more empathetic marketing, the brands that survive and thrive are the ones that never sit still. Joe Schoendorf, the former CMO of Apple and HP once said “Every year I get my best people to hack my business.” It’s this mindset that not only drives innovation but ensures these brands get the edge in increasingly competitive markets.

The good news is, that with every challenge comes new opportunities. When start-up Odeo realised their podcast platform was about to get disrupted by the launch of iTunes, they gave themselves two weeks to come up with a new product. That product? Twitter.

Asteroids are inevitable. But the brands who anticipate and adjust are the ones who just might get thrown into the next stratosphere.

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