We’re all ready to put 2020 behind us. Let’s hope 2021 will be a better year. None of us expected a year like 2020, and no one knows what the future will bring. But when you’re running a business you can’t let past disruptions or future uncertainty get in your way. And on this much anticipated New Year’s Eve, after a robust celebration, it’s time to start planning for the new year. This past year’s roller-coaster ride, aside from its tangible impacts, might also provide us with excuses for not planning. What’s the point, we might think, when so many circumstances are beyond our control?
We can’t give into fatalism just because we got thrown a curveball. If anything we need to be all the more diligent to undergird our businesses with planning, especially our marketing plans. And given how disruptive this year has been, you might be contemplating a complete rebrand as part of your marketing plan.
Is it Time to Pivot Your Brand?
The economic disruption of the past year has had far-reaching, and disproportionate impacts on so many businesses. If your creative practice had anything to do with ecommerce or delivery, you probably had a banner year. But if your client base was connected to travel, hospitality, or entertainment, this year may have been catastrophic. If you are a creative generalist, it could be anywhere in between.
One of the questions I’m often asked by clients when they are working on their PinPoint Positioning is what happens if they pick a niche that suffers massive fallout—such as what happened this year to so many sectors. With all of your eggs in one basket, aren’t you all the more vulnerable to such a turn of events?
There are risks and trade-offs involved in PinPoint Positioning. I fully believe that, all things considered, the risks of not positioning are far greater than the potential downsides. But let’s assume that the worst happens, as it has this year for so many. Then what?
Should You Stick it Out?
If the bottom falls out of your chosen industry, you have to ask yourself whether you’re facing a temporary contraction, a contraction but not an elimination, or whether your industry is facing complete obsolescence. If your primary clients made floppy disks or camera film, you had to know when to fold ‘em. But if your industry is facing a temporarily hit, there can be a huge upside to just waiting it out. Once things start to turn around, massive pent up demand will need to be met. And if you’re the “last man standing” you could find yourself in a perfect situation.
Or, if your industry is contracting, and it’s not likely to turn around, yet it’s not likely to be altogether eliminated, there may still be benefits to staying in. After all, you’ll have fewer competitors, and so long as there are still viable clients, you can become all the more embedded in that space, and prosper.
The Worst-Case Scenario
But let’s take the worst case. Let’s suppose your specialization was in an industry that is simply going to end—it’s going to go the way of the Linotype. What do you do then?
Positioning Yourself to be Antifragile
As Nassim Nicholas Taleb so effectively writes about in Antifragile, you never know what might put pressure on your business, but you can make yourself prepared to face pressures. One of the benefits of PinPoint Positioning is that it enables you to control your marketing and thus benefit from higher prices all the while building efficiencies that lead to strong profit margins. Well-positioned firms are almost universally more profitable than generalist firms. And so if you are tightly positioned, and end up needing to change your niche, you will have the financial wherewithal to make that pivot. As a profitable firm, you’ll have several months of savings, which can give you the runway you need to rebrand.
Where to Pivot To
When you’re facing a necessary rebrand, consider first whether there’s a similar area to move into. A parallel move is easier than a wholesale change. A creative that’s worked with law firms should be able to pivot to accountants more readily than something completely different, like retail.
One temptation to avoid when facing the rebrand question is to simply tack on a new focus area to the old one. Don’t fall into the “… and more” trap. Branding and positioning require focus, and adding more specializations only serves to water things down. You would be better off creating two separate brands than to try to blend two focuses into one.
Maybe You’ve Never Positioned Your Brand in the First Place?
Of course, you might be facing this new year still as a generalist, and so your options for a well-positioned rebrand are wide open. In some ways, this is easier because you have a clean slate. On the other hand, it can be a real challenge to identify which direction to go.
If you’re facing the rebrand choice, we’d love to help you navigate that process, and accelerate your efforts.