As the world around your business changes, so will your brand. Oil companies, banks, tobacco companies and airlines used to be perceived far differently than they are today. Kodak once owned the photography industry, but didn’t respond well to the change from film to digital, and this once powerhouse brand is now a case study in businesses that fail to respond to changes in the environment. As tastes change and new trends emerge, entrepreneurs must predict how their customers will change and find new ways to respond to those needs.
Companies that recognize social changes can take advantage of new trends and become market leaders. Apple was once a relatively small PC manufacturer, but when Apple prognosticators realized that portable technology would play an increasingly important role they developed music players and cell phones that transformed the marketplace. Amazon realized that as new people joined the World Wide Web they would soon become online consumers. Entrepreneurs that pay attention to changes in the environment can do a much better job of building a strong, long-lasting brand.
This dynamic holds true for businesses of every size. When gluten becomes a focus for a large number of people, a restaurant has to decide whether or not to offer gluten-free options. When a photo developer notices that customers are buying lots of digital cameras, she has to decide if she wants to sell ink, photo paper and desktop printers. Companies that want to succeed over the long term must recognize how their customers and their communities are changing and decide how to respond to those changes.
Tina worked as a travel agent for more than 15 years before people began booking vacations online. She slowly began to see her customer base eroding as websites began offering flights and hotels from large national providers. These sites worked well for many customers — those whose needs were simple enough to be met by a program. But having worked in the industry for many years, she knew that customers would only be able to do so much for themselves; no website would ever provide the kind of customized service she could offer.
Tina began rebranding her company into a concierge travel service. She created relationships with a wide variety of experts in many fields — event planning, translation, fine cuisine, health and fitness — and was able to offer highly customized travel experiences. Her customers could travel anywhere in the world and do things that could never be found on the more common tourist agendas. She utilized her connections to hire personal tour guides and organize extreme adventures, access spots not open to the public and open doors to invitation-only events. By altering her offering — developing services that could not be duplicated by a computer — she was able to better serve a particular audience and keep ahead of changes to the marketplace.