Thu Jun 24 2021 Michael McQueen

COVID has drastically changed the way we shop. Online shopping, direct to consumer business models, curb-side pick up and e-commerce have all skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic, leaving many businesses scrambling to catch up. With COVID having accelerated the transformation of consumer behaviour, businesses and brands need to move their position in line with the times.

Here are four ways to reposition your business or brand:

1. Develop New Products and Services

Without a doubt, one of the keys to remaining relevant is to keep your product and service offering fresh. To see how critical the development of new products and services is to the longevity and success of a brand, look no further than 160-year-old glass manufacturer, Corning. In 1908, half of Corning’s revenue came from making glass light bulbs. Over time, the Corning brand extended beyond these roots and became known for its high quality cook- and kitchen-ware. Today however, many of Corning’s most lucrative products are ones that didn’t exist 15 years ago. The company now specializes in cathode-ray tubes, fiber optics for high definition TVs, and laser technology that enables mobile phones to be fitted with micro projectors.[1]

Looking to a very different industry, tobacco giants have also embraced new products to retain relevance following widespread public disdain and the declining popularity of their wares. In April 2012 the U.S.’s third largest tobacco company, Lorillard, acquired the infrastructure to make electronic cigarettes.[2] Fast-forward to 2020 and ‘vapes’ represent a 15 billion dollar US industry, with a projected annual expansion of 28.1% in the next 8 years.[3] If you are in need of a new cutting edge, consider the development of a new product.

2. Exploit New Markets

While developing new products and services is a key way to reposition a brand, a second effective strategy centres on identifying new customer groups. As an example of a company that drastically pivoted their marketing to tap into the interests of Gen Z, consider American apple juice maker Martinelli’s. This 153-year brand became a viral TikTok phenomenon in May 2020 amongst Gen Zs when users started posting videos of them biting into the plastic bottles to find out if doing so really did sound like biting into a real apple.

Within a week, the #martinelli hashtag had attracted more than 28 million views on TikTok and sales immediately skyrocketed. The company addressed the fever-pitch fascination on Twitter saying "While we don’t condone biting into plastic, we are happy to see everyone enjoying our products. Have you tried the juice inside? It’s even better than the bottle."[4] For a brand that had outlived their new customers by at least a few generations, this tactic was outstanding in engaging a new and essential market.

3. Adopt New Messaging

Many established brands could learn from Volvo’s successful efforts in recent years to reposition  their brand through new messaging. For decades, the car manufacturer was known for producing solid, sturdy and reliable cars, positioned for professionals who were understated, sensible and pragmatic.[5] However, when Gen Y rose to represent a quarter of the car market, this conservative, sensible image looked like marketing suicide.

In a decisive and bold move to connect with the younger demographic, Volvo set about repositioning its brand through a new message. This culminated with the 2004 release of the Volvo S40 – a model that exuded speed, performance, youthfulness and excitement. In an effort to ensure that this new release hit the mark with younger car buyers, one of Volvo’s television commercials for the S40 was in the style of an Xbox video game. Another advertisement featured rap star LL Cool J promoting the car in music-video style.[6]

What was perhaps most impressive about Volvo’s Re-Positioning was the way their efforts to become sexier never compromised on the 85-year old company’s core DNA of safety, quality and reliability. A new position does not necessarily require a new vision – often all it needs is a fresh message.

4. Embrace New Formats or Approaches

In the age of automation and digitisation, this path to repositioning is potentially the most essential. The retail world was one of the greatest victims of the pandemic, forcing many of its business to innovate new approaches and stay ahead of the times in order to stay afloat.

Amazon epitomised innovative retail with the extensive automation of their brick-and-mortar Amazon Go stores. While initially rolled out as dedicated new-store formats, Amazon announced plans in late 2020 to implement their cashierless technology across the existing network of Whole Foods stores nationwide from mid-2021 onwards.[7]

Similar technologies are being rapidly rolled out by the likes of Circle K in partnership with Mastercard and Accel Robotics.[8]  Sports stadium retail giant Delaware North also began trialling touch-free self-service food and beverage stores in late 2020 to address public health concerns.[9]  Automated checkout technology is advancing at a pace throughout Asia too - most notably the Hema Fresh supermarket chain which was operating 160 high-tech stores in 21 cities. COVID only accelerated these moves – these new approaches have been approaching for years.

In times of change, a cutting edge is essential. Repositioning your brand by pivoting an element of your business is the best way to maintain this cutting edge. Developing new products, exploiting new markets, adopting new messaging or embracing new approaches are all effective in placing your brand in its strongest position. When the times are moving, businesses need to be moving into new positions alongside them – or better still, ahead of them.


Michael McQueen is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.

He features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and is a bestselling author of 9 books. His most recent book The New Now examines the 10 trends that will dominate a post-COVID world and how to prepare for them now. 

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[1] Gettler, L. 2012, ‘Focused on the negatives’, Management Today, April.

[2] Esterl, M. 2012, ‘Got a light-er charger? Big tobacco’s latest buzz’, The Wall Street Journal, 25 April.

[3] Grand View Research, ‘E-cigarette And Vape Market Size & Share Report, 2021-2028’, Grand View Research, May 2021.

[4] Schroeder, A. 2020, ‘Here’s why people are biting into bottles of apple juice on TikTok’, Daily Dot, 1 May.

[5] Drucker, P 1985, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, HarperCollins, New York, p. 80.

[6] Van den Bergh, J & Behrer, M. 2011, How Cool Brands Stay Hot, Kogan, Philadelphia, pp. 131, 132.

[7] Lyles, T. 2020, ‘Amazon Go’s cashierless tech may come to Whole Foods as soon as next year’, The Verge, 24 August.

[8] Kennedy, L. 2020, ‘Next-Gen Convenience Stores’, CB Insights, 10 September.

[9] Deighton, K. 2020, ‘Dunkin’, Stadiums Try Checkout-Free Shopping as Social Distancing Remains a Priority’, The Wall Street Journal, 23 September.