The Shapeshifters among us

Why brand adaptation is imperative today

We recently launched The Most Connected Brands Index to help businesses and brands understand how they are connecting with consumers and provide them with ways to improve. Prachi Tiwari, Engagement Director at Landor, helped contribute to the report:

Today’s world isn’t one of absolutes. Change is the order of the day — a reality that’s not about to disappear. These changes are about behaviours, likes and dislikes, and even values. Similarly, brands used to be absolutes — wholesome but stubborn, resistant to the slightest shifts and averse to adaptation. But today, working with change, rather than resisting it, is more important for brands than ever before. Whether the company is a startup or an established player, flexible evolution helps brands expand and ready themselves for the future.

Successfully pivoting a brand — whether executing a 180-degree turn or a slight change in strategy — is all about keeping your eye on what consumers really want, even if it’s different from what the brand originally provided.

Here are three lesser-known brands not yet in the index that have successfully flexed and reenergised their brands through agile, adaptive strategies.

Vuori

In 2008, 40-year-old Joe Kudla started Vuori, yogawear for men. While niche retailers stocked his brand, Kudla quickly faced serious cash burn at a rate even faster than his revenue growth.

Researching his buyers, he realised that customers weren’t using Vuori for just yoga. In fact, yoga was just a supplement to most men’s overall fitness regimens. According to Kudla, this was the brand’s “pivot or die” moment. “While female consumers might want to identify as yogis, men really don’t,” Kudla explained. So, the brand reconfigured its strategy, positioning and retail plan to be more relevant to its target audience.

By revamping the brand’s messaging to focus on a variety of fitness activities undertaken by men, Vuori moved from being a yoga brand to a lifestyle brand for men, allowing its audience to choose
how they used the clothing and where they wore it. From 2015 onward, without changing a single product, the brand became all about activewear designed with a West Coast lifestyle in mind.

Moven

Pained by the unchanging experience of standard banks, Moven was conceived as a digital solution to help consumers shop, buy, live and manage their money better. The brand was targeted at
today’s new breed of digital natives and finding relevancy when most banks were struggling to manage the curveballs of a mobile-first user experience.

From making personal payments by email, text or Facebook to making in-store payments through the National Finance Center (NFC), Moven sought to establish a new paradigm for consumers and banks. However, its product required a sizeable behavioural shift for consumers — a shift the banking landscape wasn’t quite ready for.

It has now evolved into co-branding relationships with large banks across geographies, helping it bring established financial institutions into the digital age. It found a way to speak to millions of
consumers who were wary of depositing their paychecks directly into a neobank, but actually liked the money management solutions Moven offered. Building on its strengths of simplicity and understanding users’ pain points, Moven adapted to find new growth and relevance with consumers.

Western Union

In its heyday, Western Union sent out more than 200 million telegrams per year. The growth of cheap long-distance phone services and the advent of the internet slowed down its business. In 2006, Western Union shut down its telegram business for good, but revived its wire transfer business (which began in 1871), taking its first steps in the world of online money transfer.

It diversified into offering consumer-to-consumer money transfers, business solutions, bill payment services, and stored value options such as prepaid cards. It recently launched a money transfer bot for Facebook Messenger users in the United States to send money to more than 200 countries across 130 currencies.

With more than 550,000 agent locations in 200 countries, Western Union is now the world’s largest money transfer service. Although telegrams are no longer part of it, the company survived disruptive new innovations, by harnessing its power to transform its business model and navigate today’s fast-paced economy.

A checklist for building adaptive brands

A few common themes emerge from these examples, showing how brands can endure by staying relevant and competitive.

Understand the customer’s desires

By relentlessly pursuing information about customers’ mindsets and expectations, brands can keep track of where they are meeting relevant needs and where they aren’t. Gut feel won’t simply be enough.

Go after the right metrics

Tracking the right set of brand, business and competitive metrics is critical to help brands stay ahead of the field. In-depth analysis allows companies to see how, when and where their business can pivot.

Keep a flexible outlook

Sometimes evolving a brand means letting go of long-held offers or moving away from the current core customer. Businesses need to be unafraid and ready to change

Make smart, strong choices

Deciding the future course for a brand requires an objective mindset, bravery and certainty of focus to make the optimum choice. Brands must know their mission and stick to it.

Building flexibility and adaptability into a brand’s strategy is the key to ensuring survival — not just today but tomorrow. By building flexibility into the fibre of their brands, companies can ensure that they endure and thrive for years to come.

Prachi Tiwari, Engagement Director, Landor