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Why modern brands must be able to reposition themselves

01 June 2023

This article first appeared in The Drum written by, Alex Beazley-Long, Senior Strategist at Imagination New York.

A teetering global economy, shifting markets, the rise of artificial intelligence: the world is changing rapidly. The brands that thrive in the future will be the ones that are the most flexible and adaptable.

On May 5, The World Health Organization ended the global emergency status for Covid-19 - more than three years after its original declaration. While we may be formally out of an emergency, the implications of the pandemic are still being felt worldwide. These are most apparent in economic metrics and consumer behavior, as Western countries continue to grapple with the long-term structural consequences of fluctuating inflation rates, disrupted supply chains and distressed healthcare systems.

At the same time, businesses are grappling with the uncertainties and opportunities of a changing marketplace. We're experiencing huge shifts in markets across the board – including the move away from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, the rise of AI and the disruption in retail as transactions shift online and the high street stores find opportunities in experiential retail.

And many consumers are cutting back on spending as if the global economy were already in a recession. That's unsurprising, considering the rise in inflation is far outstripping the pace of economic growth. In the US last year, inflation reached 9% – a 40-year high – impacting businesses and consumers across the board.

One can see, therefore, why many brands are looking to capture new market segments, launch new products and services and reposition for growth. But many of those brands have been stymied in pursuit of those goals — in which case a new vision or strategy will be required to bridge the gap from the past to the future and to ensure adaptability in the face of rapid change.

According to a survey of 365 marketing executives conducted by Imagination, 74% are looking to reposition their brands in 2023. And rightly so: There is a plethora of opportunities in the emergence of new behaviors and contexts that have surfaced over the past decade.

Take Spotify, for instance. A business model relying on ad revenue is not one that's positioned to thrive when ad budgets are being cut overnight. But with agile thinking and advances in AI, the brand managed to reposition itself to a profitable model. Boosting its focus on original content (like podcasts and Spotify Originals), putting effort into customer experience and curating personalized playlists, Spotify has become a brand that's known for being far more than just a music streaming service. And the brand is thriving.

Asos provides another illustrative example. The fashion retailer's recently announced partnership with rental marketplace Hirestreet marks a brand repositioning effort that adds real value to its customers, with all their ever-changing behaviors and needs. Pretty Little Thing, Shein and Zara have also all launched resale platforms, aiming to tap into the circular economy.

Brands can also consider repositioning into the experiential realm. This strategy closely aligns with the desire among many consumers to continue to engage with the real world following the lockdown period. In-person experiences also give brands the opportunity to demonstrate change - rather than just talking about it – offering a deeper level of engagement to audiences.

For example, Visa’s recent sponsorship of the Fifa World Cup gave the brand a chance to reposition itself on a global stage and demonstrate to the world that, much more than being just a credit card company, it’s a world-leading money transfer network. We worked with Visa on the campaign - which we called the Masters of Movement experience - bringing it to life through a fusion of football, art and technology. The experience tied the concept of Visa’s seamless movement of money across the world with the best football players moving on the pitch.

This activation became one of the must-see attractions in Doha – over 100,000 people visited the pop-up arena.

The bottom line is this: despite a changing global marketplace and rapid advances in disruptive technologies, brands still have the ability to reposition themselves in order to thrive in the future. With the right forward-thinking strategies, brands can successfully navigate uncharted waters and seize opportunities for growth.

alex beazley headshot black and white

Alex Beazley-Long

Creative Strategist, Imagination New York

Alex is a Creative Strategist who has been at Imagination since 2014. During this time he has worked across a number of Imagination’s key clients such as Ford and Shell, along with securing new business from IKEA and Major League Baseball.

A Philosophy graduate, Alex is passionate about understanding how things work and problem solving.