Digital Branding

Rethinking the Road to Recovery

Written by
Sebastian Jespersen
Rethinking the Road to Recovery

Thriving in the Next Normal

Eight months into the pandemic, early signs of reopening the economy are moving slowly. What is the best way for your brand to survive and prosper at this strange time?

Hardly anyone is going to the malls. Only 10% of New York’s office workers have returned to the city. Uncertainty rules the day. After a parade of failed predictions about the virus disappearing, people yearn for a return to normalcy. But there is no going back. We can only try to demystify what is coming next.

Most folks believe that after the pandemic runs its course a “new normal” will take over. That is not quite right. It will look more like the next step in a digital revolution that’s been underway for decades. Before the coronavirus ever reached our shores, digital technology was demolishing our earlier way of life.

People were spending more than half their time online. Retailers were struggling to survive the surge of e-commerce, newspapers were shutting down at an expeditious rate, and smart digital startups and technology companies were disrupting industry after industry.

We were already growing addicted to the Internet. Then, in just a few months' time, our dependence on living online intensified at an astounding rate. Cyberspace became a place where those confined to being at home turned to gaming, shopping, fun, news, schooling, fitness training, working remotely, reliance on telemedicine and just about everything else.

As a result of the pandemic, the next phase of the digital revolution arrived five to ten years ahead of schedule. All those hours stranded indoors transformed human behavior at warp speed. The public became comfortable living with a digital economy in ways only imagined in the past.

Way before the pandemic struck, digital games had grown into a sizable business sector. When the virus-imposed shutdown took hold, gaming online experienced explosive growth. Revenue that stood at $20 billion a year in 2010 zoomed to $160 billion in 2020. Folks with lots of time on their hands discovered the pull of high-tech gaming - and loved it.

The sluggish Covid-19 economy crushed an alarming number of businesses. But it was the best of times for the titans of the Internet. Record stock prices were seen for, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon.

“Technology-driven lesser companies are also posting eye-popping gains. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated trends that were building for years by forcing large swaths of the population to work from home and shop online, ”
wrote Matt Phillips in the NY Times.

Peloton, a high-tech video company selling physical fitness, turned the virus quarantine into months of spectacular growth. The demand for its seamless mix of a cycling machine and video classes became a magnet for people trapped at home. In the first quarter of 2020, Peloton achieved a 94% year over year increase in the number of subscribers.

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We see three primary factors driving the brand’s surge in sales.

  • First, Be in the Right Place at the Right Time. Gyms and fitness centers closed down in response to the pandemic. Peloton had the combination of an initial hardware cost and a recurring software expense that became a terrific substitute for workouts at a fitness center.
  • Second, Develop a Fantastic Operating System. Peloton provides unlimited access to thousands of fitness classes. More than a million members experience the energy of a studio without leaving home.
  • Third, Support One-with-One Membership. Peloton connects the brand online with “belongers.” It’s not just a membership. It’s a community. High fives with other members and shout outs by world-class instructors add excitement and strengthen motivation.

The key to success in the next phase of the digital revolution is the ability to develop a meaningful online operating model. When the Covid-19 disaster winds down, the digital revolution will continue to evolve.

Rethinking the road to recovery begins with focusing on those companies that raced ahead in 2020 and are set up to prosper in 2021. It amounts to a small number of tech-driven innovators. Each operates in a whole new way. They offer a model of how to thrive in the next normal of the ongoing digital revolution.

Near the top of the list, you’ll find Warby Parker. In a single decade this startup totally changed what it’s like to buy eyeglasses, sunglasses or contacts online and offline. Based on investor funding during the pandemic, the company has reached a valuation of $3 billion dollars. Not bad for only 10 years in business.

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Due to Covid-19, Warby Parker radically revamped many aspects of its business. The Buy A Pair, Give A Due to Covid-19, Warby Parker radically revamped many aspects of its business. The Buy A Pair, Give A Pair program which brought low-cost vision services to third world counties closed down. Instead, a Warby Parker purchase now fights the spread of Covid-19 in those same countries. The brand’s fans remain committed to helping the entire world become a better place.

The company closed its 120 stores in March of 2020 when the pandemic escalated. With the economy in disarray, management thought about what shopping at a Warby Parker store should look like. Then, on May 14, they began reopening. The co-founders structured some of the safest and most rewarding experiences found anywhere during the coronavirus crisis.

Despite some success by others, nothing matches the Warby Parker one.

What has not changed is the operating system on which Warby Parker pioneered selling classy prescription glasses online for under $100.

Trying on five frames for free at home remains a phenomenal offer. With so many people now dependent on the Internet, it is perfectly suited to the way of life dictated by the digital revolution

The brand’s iPhone app provides a virtual view of how the person looks wearing various types of eyeglass frames. It takes into account how facial features interact with choosing the right glasses. The iPhone rendition is so lifelike you’ll think you are actually wearing what’s in the photo.

The co-founders of Warby Parker never give up injecting fun into the website’s interaction. Of course, there is the inevitable, predominantly offlinecompetition, butit is the combination of operating system both online and offline that sets Warby Parker apart.

What is the next normal?

We don’t know exactly what it will look like. What we do know is when it is likely to take hold.

It’s likely there will be a virus vaccine by the end of 2020. There will also be an enormous logistical challenge to solve before equitable distribution is possible. At the best, the next normal without fear of the dreaded Covid-19 virus is at least a year away. What are you supposed to do until then?      

You can start to rebuild your brand now for the next phase of the digital revolution. For inspiration there is the performance that works so well for Peloton, Warby Parker and the Fab5 titans of the Internet (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.)

Come what may, they will go rolling merrily along, setting record after record. They do it by weaving their products and services deeply into the fabric of the customer’s online life at home and at work.

Zero degrees of separation between the interests of brand and consumer is the one trait the internet dynamos hold in common. It’s what we at Vertic describe as achieving Share of Life™ with users. Think of it as the depth of a brand’s presence in each person’s day-to-day activity in cyberspace.

James McQuivey, Principal Analyst at Forrester, says “
The Share-of-Life™ metric developed at Vertic goes far beyond a share-of-wallet or even the share-of-mind metric. Share-of-Life™ proposes that the most powerful brands of the future will measure what percent of the minutes of your day – awake or asleep – they can meaningfully support.”

Fortunately, companies of every size, whether B-to-C or B-to-B marketers, can learn from how the activity of the internet giants reflect the tenets of the Share-of-Life™ doctrine.

You know you are on the road to recovery when your brand becomes entangled in your customer’s 24-hour day. It’s when people can’t imagine life without your product or service. Each interaction enriches and strengthens the customer connection.

The Share of Life™ C.R.E.E.D. is a simple framework for helping your brand gain a greater Share-of-Life™ with customers. It’s a simple five-part process.

The C.R.E.E.D. framework looks to:

  1. Secure Ongoing Commitment
  2. Provide Nonstop Reinforcement
  3. Create Digital Empowerment
  4. Renew Original Excitement
  5. Ongoing Deployment

At the Vertic website, you’ll find a full explanation of how each of the Share-of-Life™ tenets helps build a winning digital strategy. We have developed a scoring system that will show how your brand rates against the competition. Nearly everyone on the planet now uses electronic devices to fulfill needs and wants. How well your brand expands its online Share-of-Life with customers is the foundation of a prosperous future.          

Tommy Kok Annfeldt at Biogen puts it this way:
“The five tenets of the Share-of-Life ™ C.R.E.E.D. will enable business to help, support and develop their customers into the best version of themselves, almost like a great coach, rather than just selling to them.“

You can count on the digital revolution continuing to gain momentum. The clearly marked road to recovery from the tragic pandemic is waiting.

Are you going to be leading the parade once the virus is gone or will your brand be among those left behind? This is a make or break moment for just about every business.

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