Have you ever wondered why some companies survive long-term time while others fizzle out, never to be seen again? Sometimes, the answer is technological disruption. But most commonly, it’s their ability to adapt to the prevailing culture. Brands like Lego, Cadbury, and Apple are all timeless because of the way they respond effortlessly to the world around them.
In recent times, we’ve seen how culture has shaped corporate attitudes. The Black Lives Matter movement, for instance, resonated strongly in the business world. Thousands of major brands paid homage to the movement in the hope that it would enable them to remain relevant. A lot of big brands even put up banners on their websites showing their support in the hope that it would help them better connect with their audiences.
Staying relevant as the culture changes, though, is a challenge. COVID-19 is a case in point. At the start of 2020, nobody seriously thought that in-person commercial interactions would come to a screeching halt because of a pandemic. But thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, that’s precisely what’s happened. The bug is in practically every major city, making any kind of gathering potentially dangerous.
The way firms have dealt with this new reality is interesting. Some, for instance, are trying to adapt to the new culture of social distancing by talking about how important it is to keep everyone safe. They’re desperate to show how they’re using PPE, virus screens, and cleaning products to prevent the spread of the disease.
Others are taking a more stoical attitude towards the virus. “Life must go on” is their mantra. And they believe in keeping their doors open and pressing ahead with business, even if there is a chance that people will become ill as a consequence.
Which of these approaches proves to be the best remains to be seen. But it highlights just how important it is for businesses to adapt to the times. Every year brings a new challenge.
So what can your business do on a practical level to remain relevant, even as the culture around it changes beyond recognition?
Open A Conversation With Your Audience
Keeping channels of communication with your audience open is the first and most vital step in understanding the culture around you. Importantly, you’re not always looking to go along with the mainstream. Instead, you want ways to connect with the specific audience you serve. Those are the people you want to impress.
To take a crude example, if you serve mainly people on the left of the political spectrum, then you’ll want to emphasize how you’re using masks and PPE to protect people. If you’re more on the right, then pitching yourself as adapting to the challenge and continuing bravely with business as usual is probably the best way to go.
Keeping the conversation with customers open enables you to assess their mood and adjust your messaging accordingly. Sometimes, you’ll gain important insights that allow you to better brand yourself.
Allow Dissent In Your Organisation
In recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of corporate monocultures. Everyone in an organization has to adhere to the same orthodox views, and any deviation from that is usually a fireable offense.
This environment is bad on a couple of fronts. First, it alienates your employees, which isn’t something that any successful business should foster. And secondly, it creates blind spots in your organization. The people who work for you might think that they have the right views, but there’s always room for correction. Without opposing ideas, ideologies go unchallenged and eventually become dogma. And that’s not what you want if your goal is to remain relevant.
In recent years, for instance, we’ve seen the rise of social justice culture in the vast majority of organizations. But that’s not the only paradigm for viewing the world. There are others. Unfortunately, many firms don’t tolerate them, and, therefore, leave themselves blind to the culture around them.
Allowing dissent is the hallmark of a company that is confident about its values. It can accept people who don’t agree because it knows that it is coming from a place of strength.
Create New Merch
Creating new merchandise is one of the most powerful ways your company can stay relevant to the times. The type of goodies that customers want changes.
You can browse online for the latest corporate gifts and look for ideas for your branding. The more relevant and up-to-date you can make them, the better.
Sometimes, you’ll find merchandise that ties in directly with the wider culture. Printed t-shirts, for instance, are a great way to get your message across. USB sticks and other items are also popular in the digital era.
Keep Track Of What Your Competitors Are Doing
Generally, it’s good practice to keep a close eye on what your competitors are doing. Just like you, they’re interested in how culture is shaping demand and influencing customer preferences.
If you notice them changing their advertising strategies, ask yourself why. Usually, it relates to changes in the wider culture. Tactics change over time as values adjust.
Think About The Future
Your company might be relevant to customers today, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way in the future. History is littered with companies that went bankrupt because they didn’t keep pace with the times.
Leaders typically think of technology as the primary driver of market disruption. But, in reality, it is how tech interacts with culture that makes the biggest difference to business models.
For instance, online take-out ordering apps could have been a success ten years ago, but they weren’t. It is only in the last five that people have gotten used to the idea of using third-party delivery services to get their meals. It didn’t happen automatically, just because tech allowed it. The same is true of things like working from home and self-driving cars. The technology to do it is already available, it’s just that people don’t generally choose to use it.
Always keep one eye on the future and try to see which way the wind is blowing. That way, you can prepare for whatever comes down the pike.