In a couple of days, on January 20, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president. On that same day exactly one year prior, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the United States. What a terrible anniversary. Hundreds of thousands of Americans, gone. Thousands of businesses, shuttered. Tens of millions of jobs, lost. The economy in shambles. And, right now, the plague as bad as it’s ever been. So even though, in the next couple of months, we’re likely to get a better national plan for testing and contact tracing, and even though vaccine distribution and actual inoculations should ramp up, and even though there’s likely to be another, bigger economic rescue coming, right now we’re still very much in the tunnel. But there is a tiny pin prick of light at the end of it. If all goes well, we should start to begin emerging from the worst of the emergency by summer. If your business is still hanging on, you’ll soon have an opportunity to show you’ve not only survived, you’ve thrived.
Most businesses completed their plans for the new year by the end of the old one. Given how disruptive 2020 turned out to be, business leaders are in dire need of a respite. They’re hoping that a new administration and widespread accessibility to COVID vaccines will calm things down a little bit. It will be good to get back to business as usual, if we can. But, even if the outlook does get better, the knock-on effects of last year will be with us for a while yet. And the new year is bound to surface its own set of challenging circumstances, just like in any “normal” year. So, whatever unique objectives your business is setting out to achieve in 2021, be sure to add these two planks to your platform.
Back in April, when we were still trying to figure out how to respond to the pandemic, I wrote that it was going to push more businesses further and further online. I didn’t realize then how complete the transformation would be. I wrote about how more transactions would happen online. But I was talking about retail transactions. I guess everyone could have predicted that. What I didn’t fully grasp is just how much internal business would be conducted online. I didn’t predict how many businesses would turn to Microsoft Teams or Google Suite. I didn’t know we’d witness the emergence of Zoom fatigue. And I didn’t recognize just how much business would change forever.
We can all see disruptive change on the horizon. 5G is just around the corner and that will change everything. It will hasten another big change, the Internet of Things. These two, together, will change business as we know it – probably the rest of life too. That will all happen in the next 15 years. But other changes are happening too: artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain and nanotechnology, just to name a few. As each of these new technologies advances and is affected by the other, the business landscape will transform in profound ways. The changes will affect different market sectors at different rates of speed. So it will seem as if the rules of business will be uneven, possibly even unfair. People will feel anxious and uneasy and unsure of what comes next. (Kind of like now, during the pandemic.) Business leaders will not be immune. They will grapple with how to guide their brands, how to position for the next change. All the more reason to take the time now to establish and codify the business’s values.
In this hyper-entrepreneurial world, all sorts of businesses are being formed every day. Mostly, we hear about the tech companies. But plenty of service businesses are also being created. New manufacturers are popping up too although, nowadays, those are also likely rely on proprietary, advanced technology. And every entrepreneur, every driving force behind these new enterprises, grapples with the same question: At what point should I invest in branding this new thing? The companion question is, of course: And how much should I invest? My default answer is: Invest as soon as possible because a strong brand will attract investors as well as customers and staff. But that doesn’t mean you should run out and hire a logo designer. The branding process starts long before you get around to designing a logo. It starts way before you should be thinking of a name for your new business or product. Branding starts with knowing your customer. You have to know your customer well enough to understand what purpose they have for your new offering. What role will your widget play in their lives? What do they need you to be for them?
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Best Branding Reads
Week of January 18, 2021
GM unveils new logo, plans new website in shift to electric vehicles
There’s something symbolic, I think, about going from upper case to lower case, from steely blue to sky blue.
Why Your Innovations Aren’t Working
Something to think about at the start of the new year.
How Strong Brands Embrace Emotional Insight to Drive Growth
Again, we make decisions with our lizard brain so that’s where brands need to make their appeal.
Aligning Brands With Shifting Demographics
COVID-19 is altering society more dramatically than we realize.
What 2021 requires from leaders
Denise Yohn shares thoughtful insights in this short video
Increasing Brand Awareness with AR
Only the biggest budgets can handle this now. But it will soon become more accessible.
How Purpose Is Driving Financial Performance
An excellent recipe for how a brand should align with the right social purpose.