Staying Relevant In 2019 and Beyond

Where Are They Now?
Trends move faster than ever today. It’s hard to know how to stay relevant and easy to get sidetracked by a passing fad. Businesses spring up and die off by the day, and we can all think of a company that was everywhere when we were kids but now, we look back and think, whatever happened to them? We’ve seen some big brands go under recently, whether through a competitive buyout, a disastrous fall from grace, or simply fading into obscurity. Losing relevance is dangerous because it isn’t always obvious. It’s like a tire with a slow leak- you might not notice it at all, or notice and fail to take action. The problem worsens until one day it’s completely flat and you’re stuck where you are. What could have been fixed might be ruined, and even if it’s not, you’re going to have a significant delay.

We’re going to look at some ways you can keep your business strong and avoid complacency. We’ll also look at some examples: a brand that went under, one with a tough road ahead, and one that is working hard to better itself.

Going, Going, Gone
After filing for bankruptcy for the second time in two years, Payless ShoeSource is closing all of its two-thousand-plus stores in the United States. Liquidation sales have already begun, and online sales ended weeks ago. What happened? One reason is that fast-fashion brands put up stiff competition with trendy styles and mini-shops in-store. Another is that Payless didn’t update its website often enough. The storefronts looked the same for years on end, with staid brands and unremarkable styles. Compared to a trendier shop like Aldo that treats shoes like art, showcasing them with plenty of space and bright lighting, a Payless store is downright ugly. The final nail in the coffin is the prices- they were too low. Payless tried to counteract its cheap prices by using cheaper materials, but that did not go over well, and Payless learned too late that customers want value even more than they want low prices. The company expects to end all operations by May this year.

Dulling the Sparkle
With its dazzling gems, iconic blue boxes, and appearances in film, Tiffany’s has been a fixture of the jewelry industry since 1837. In recent years they’ve found themselves stagnating, and for good reason- younger generations aren’t as interested in fine jewelry as their forebears, and the gem industry is under scrutiny for its sourcing ethics.

This has not gone unnoticed by Tiffany’s. They are realizing their weak points and exploring their options. Most of their profits still come from visitors to their brick-and-mortar stores, but rather than cite that as proof that that will continue to be the case, they recognize that the young like to buy online and are shifting attention to e-commerce, looking into new designers and styles, and engaging in fair-trade sourcing. A new home accessories line is in the works. Will the emporium of high-dollar bling have a resurgence, or will its castle crumble? We’ll have to wait and see.

Can’t Stop the Cool
Levi’s is an excellent example of a business that has stayed relevant over many years without losing its appeal. Begun in 1853 as a dry goods store that carried cloth, by the 1870s they were making sturdy pants and overalls, but sometimes these would still rip at stress points. Inspiration struck, and they began putting copper rivets in vulnerable spots, something no one else was doing. This made their clothing even more durable, and in another wise move, they patented the design. In the years since, Levi’s has paid attention to trends but has consistently put quality first. They still focus on what people wanted from Levi’s in the first place: tough, long-lasting clothing that fits effortlessly into people’s lives. Today, they are making it clear that Levi’s is for everyone, everywhere, stressing diversity and unity, with a message that it’s not the jeans that make you cool, it’s you making the jeans cool. What a perfect representation of all-American spirit, resilience, and chic.

What About Me?
What should you take away from this? What has Coke done right that Blockbuster missed? Follow these tips on staying aware and relevant, and don’t go the way of the BlackBerry.

* Interact with your client base they way they interact with each other.

* Don’t be too attached to your budget plan. Don’t be like Payless and focus on savings so hard. It’s more important to target your spending carefully, but also to be willing to shift gears when the experts advise you to.

* Make your brand as user-friendly as possible. One of the best ways to do this now is to develop an app. Make sure your website has a well-done mobile version. Few things look worse in business than visiting a website on your phone and finding it to be the same as the desktop version, with the script and icons far too tiny for the mobile screen.

* Pay attention to your competition. We’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating. Don’t let a competitor leave you behind. Take note of what they do well, what they’re not so good at, and what their clients say about them.

* Make your brand sticky. All digital all the time isn’t the answer for a well-rounded marketing plan. Think beyond the branded magnet or notepad and give your clients something tailor-made to their habits, like our branded pint glasses. Everyone- we mean it, everyone- loves a tall, frosty glass of their favorite quencher.

* Welcome employee feedback and critical thinking. No one is too good at their job or too high on the company ladder to listen to an idea.

* Be aware of trends in other industries. Never isolate your brand from outside data. Being attentive on multiple fronts can give you insights your competitors won’t get, and get you contacts that lead to other contacts that lead to sales.