Ah yes, Bob Dylan lyrics from the ‘60s . . . and appropriate for today. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen more organizations, of all sizes, openly acknowledge that they are facing a new set of challenges. We at Kinetics are engaged in two strategic planning projects, and we are experiencing this rethinking firsthand. As we go through our discovery processes and reach out to these clients’ stakeholders, they too say they are reconsidering their planning strategies.
Some of this can be attributed to the Pandemic. More than 8 billion people had to dramatically change the way they lived, loved, and learned, changing the world in the process. And it’s not just the result of rapid adoption of technology – from telemedicine, to remote working to online shopping. It also includes a reevaluation by employees on how they want to work, and by employers on how they want their employees to work for them. The traditional 9-to-5 model is no longer applicable and appropriate for all industries and organizations – Huzzah to that.
But there is more: It’s the ascendency of Gen Xers and Millennials as the major drivers of today’s economy, and the waning influence of the more consumerist Baby Boom generation. We’re looking at a ton of new research that shows how Gen Xers and Millennials have different priorities than Boomers – they are more into experiences vs. possessions; more inclined to consume brands that reflect their views on social justice and the environment; and put more trust in what peers say vs. institutions. For example, we recently came across a study by 5WPR, in which 73 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 35 and 54 said: “It’s important to me that companies I buy from align with my values.”
All this is against a backdrop of the evolution of social media. While there are many positive attributes to social media, its widespread use has fostered a new type of conversation that up to now was frowned upon. Social media has normalized the outrageous. It has tapped into our psyche, and it triggers a dopamine buzz that very few of us can quit. (And, if you are under the age of 30, there is a good chance you have at some point tried to figure out how to get a million views and a thousand likes.) It makes it very challenging for a brand to push out messaging in a media that resembles the Tower of Babel.
This all may seem depressing at first, but I don’t think we are in a “doom or gloom” scenario. In fact, now is a great time for an organization to make significant changes to their product and service offerings, brand image, and service delivery. A mentor said to me once, “you can’t make money in stagnant market.” Well, if you ascribe to that theory, then it’s surely worth taking advantage of these turbulent times. If everything is changing, then you can make changes as well. You can leapfrog the competition, or enter new markets, and appeal to a different set of audiences.
I certainly don’t think that going back to a pre-pandemic model makes good business sense. As Dylan wrote at the end of the song:
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.