COVID-19: Strategy and brand

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Shifting focus to strategy to look beyond the crisis

Strategies are often set during the best of times, but they’re truly tested when uncertainty abounds.The COVID-19 pandemic is requiring leaders to review their strategies and quickly adjust for new market conditions. Those strategies will be tested further as the economy gradually reopens and people return to work. It’s important to prepare now for what might come next.

Several big strategic challenges have emerged: rapidly changing demand patterns, major expenses in the face of falling revenue and massive challenges as businesses incorporate virtual ways of working. How business leaders respond during this time of great uncertainty will have long-term implications for the brand when the economy and  people begin to recover.

In the PwC CFO survey, nearly 71% of business leaders from companies with more than $1 billion in revenue said they view this crisis as an opportunity to emerge stronger — particularly related to product and service innovations.

 

COVID-19: Strategy and brand: PwC

What to look at now

Get up to speed on how leaders are responding

Companies with direct exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic are taking a number of actions, including:

  • Detecting demand patterns early and asking questions: Where is demand spiking? Where is it cratering? How is it different from geography to geography? Companies that can dynamically adjust their strategies based on these rapidly changing demand patterns will likely have an advantage.
  • Enabling teams to adjust their strategy — particularly on the supply side of the business — to meet demand, and even help shape it through the use of promotion and customer engagement strategies.
  • Making the health and safety of workers a top priority and quickly shifting to digitally enabled teams that can work from home.
  • Reassessing strategy to anticipate what areas may go back to previous ways of working and what new tools can be adopted on a go-forward basis, creating the next “new normal.”
  • Taking a strategic approach to expense management  —  protecting the core, investing in the future, reducing or eliminating low-value spend  —  to safeguard against potential competitive threats, position for whatever comes next and ultimately help strengthen the brand.
  • Balancing social responsibility and shareholder value by making early moves that will positively impact the brand. Companies that are able to show empathy in their response to the crisis will likely see a more positive response from stakeholders and be able to build brand equity with customers, especially those in vulnerable situations.

While the ways some companies make money in the market are holding up, the ways of working are being fundamentally challenged. Under these new conditions, companies are focusing on reevaluating their strategies and communicating with stakeholders as things change in real-time.

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Assess mid-term implications

As teams adjust to news ways of working and information gaps begin to fill, companies will begin to shift their focus back to growth. This will likely include the following:

  • Protecting growth and profitability through actions such as scenario planning, more frequent financial modeling exercises to improve resiliency and dynamic models that incorporate economic impacts of past pandemics.
  • Accelerating digital transformations as the shift to remote working reveals potential gaps in IT infrastructure, workforce planning and digital upskilling. Use this as an opportunity to get closer to both customers and employees by showing empathy and a united front.
  • Quantifying the virus’ impact relative to each part of the business — both today and longer term — to determine hot spots to assess operational risk and business criticality.
  • Identifying areas to triage, specifically in growth and profitable business units, to limit brand dilution or erosion.
  • Articulating to employees and customers how the business has adapted to the crisis, and communicating how the brand is aligned with the company’s strategy and how it’s helping employees embrace what has changed.

View more

What to look at now

Get up to speed on how leaders are responding

Companies with direct exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic are taking a number of actions, including:

  • Detecting demand patterns early and asking questions: Where is demand spiking? Where is it cratering? How is it different from geography to geography? Companies that can dynamically adjust their strategies based on these rapidly changing demand patterns will likely have an advantage.
  • Enabling teams to adjust their strategy — particularly on the supply side of the business — to meet demand, and even help shape it through the use of promotion and customer engagement strategies.
  • Making the health and safety of workers a top priority and quickly shifting to digitally enabled teams that can work from home.
  • Reassessing strategy to anticipate what areas may go back to previous ways of working and what new tools can be adopted on a go-forward basis, creating the next “new normal.”
  • Taking a strategic approach to expense management  —  protecting the core, investing in the future, reducing or eliminating low-value spend  —  to safeguard against potential competitive threats, position for whatever comes next and ultimately help strengthen the brand.
  • Balancing social responsibility and shareholder value by making early moves that will positively impact the brand. Companies that are able to show empathy in their response to the crisis will likely see a more positive response from stakeholders and be able to build brand equity with customers, especially those in vulnerable situations.

While the ways some companies make money in the market are holding up, the ways of working are being fundamentally challenged. Under these new conditions, companies are focusing on reevaluating their strategies and communicating with stakeholders as things change in real-time.

Assess mid-term implications

As teams adjust to news ways of working and information gaps begin to fill, companies will begin to shift their focus back to growth. This will likely include the following:

  • Protecting growth and profitability through actions such as scenario planning, more frequent financial modeling exercises to improve resiliency and dynamic models that incorporate economic impacts of past pandemics.
  • Accelerating digital transformations as the shift to remote working reveals potential gaps in IT infrastructure, workforce planning and digital upskilling. Use this as an opportunity to get closer to both customers and employees by showing empathy and a united front.
  • Quantifying the virus’ impact relative to each part of the business — both today and longer term — to determine hot spots to assess operational risk and business criticality.
  • Identifying areas to triage, specifically in growth and profitable business units, to limit brand dilution or erosion.
  • Articulating to employees and customers how the business has adapted to the crisis, and communicating how the brand is aligned with the company’s strategy and how it’s helping employees embrace what has changed.

It’s critical to evolve company culture to accept the new normal.

Where to focus next

New ways of working
In addition to accelerating digital transformations, it’s critical to evolve company culture to accept the new normal. This requires different behaviors and an understanding that becoming a more virtually enabled organization is a successful way to deliver customer value. This cultural shift will require not just communication from the top-down, but also a reconsideration of a company’s overall operating model to enable it to remain flexible and agile.

Market positioning
What we see today may be dramatically different in six months. In the long term, it will be essential to take a pulse of your customers to determine the need to make fundamental changes to core markets or business models. This is also a time to reassess your brand relative to competitors to understand your differentiating capabilities and where your company could win market share.

Dynamic and resilient strategies
It’s key to build a strategy that is dynamic enough to receive market feedback and has the flexibility to evolve. Having a shorter strategic time horizon will help enable you to make agile decisions and tune your company’s strategy in response to market dynamics. Businesses should be able to adapt by dynamically sensing and responding to changing demand patterns. Companies that build early warning systems that adapt to the market will be able to make better brand-defining decisions.

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