How brands can reimagine themselves during the pandemic: Bhavya Suri

Guest Column: Bhavya Suri, Head- PR & Corporate Affairs, Pearson India & MENA, writes how brands can strike a balance between uncertainty and opportunity in the current environment

e4m by Bhavya Suri
Updated: Dec 4, 2020 4:52 PM
bhavya suri

The present is truly an unprecedented time of concern and uncertainty. More than six months into the pandemic, and the world is still grappling with the toll that Covid-19 has been having on people’s health and wellbeing. Naturally, this is a critical time for brands, who too find themselves operating in an uncharted territory and now need to change their priorities from being able to just survive in the pandemic to positioning themselves for the new normal. While fear for corporate survival surely plays a role, some of my recent conversations with global leaders suggest that stronger motivations for companies are directed towards establishing a clear sense of corporate identity, a need to be there for the customers and a desire to differentiate themselves in the market.

Right now, the impact of the economic slowdown is visible in the current organizational spends and what we can see is that the crisis has led to a dramatic uptick in the usage of digital technologies by businesses which in turn, has resulted in a chronic wave of digital transformation. Emergence of new roles, responsibilities and virtual/remote ways of working is on the rise and the pandemic is being seen as an opportunity by various sectors where companies are identifying skill gaps and building up people capabilities to upskill their talent pipeline and help employees adapt to the new normal. Naturally, this is then the time for brands to start thinking fresh and start re-imagining business from a quality, experience and outcomes perspective.

Continuous learning and un-learning

The current business scenario and changing economic landscape has led to a need for companies to invest in a continuous learning and unlearning process where building critical skills & capabilities of the employees is no longer just a recommendation, but an imperative. What’s good is that over the last few months, several Fortune 500 companies and other brands have already invested in upskilling and made use of online employee education programmes and trainings to help their workforce build new skills.

However, it is equally important for brands to understand the need of unlearning old methods and practices which may or may not hamper their journey towards the road to recovery. Shifting from a traditional hierarchy, for example, to a high degree of autonomy for people in the organization, especially the ones who work directly with the stakeholders (customers, partners, and communities) is beneficial for faster decision making and agility in the system. Furthermore, the growing availability and capability of technology and digital platforms has made skills such as Virtual Collaboration, Virtual communication, Management of remote teams, analyzing of data, etc. necessary for workers to have, regardless of what kind of a role they perform, as revealed by the recent Pearson Global Learner Survey.

Focus on Creativity and Innovation

At present, we are witnessing a significant change in consumer habits – from the sharp increase in consumption of online news to shift towards remote learning and high consumption of online streaming services. This is the perfect time to pause and consider one’s brand positioning going forward, to create a fresh vision of the future.

While customer journeys have changed drastically, one needs to realize that every touch point throughout the journey still remains an opportunity to engage with the customer and brands need a healthy dose of innovation and creativity to respond to these rapidly changing customer demands. Being a communications professional, we have seen in the last few months how virtual events, social media, influencer engagements etc. have become increasingly mainstream in order to capture the interest of audience and what businesses essentially need is to think about how they can work on a solution that fits the customer’s needs and preferences rather than worrying about an ideal product in this uncertain market. The opportunity then lies, not in differentiating oneself from its competitors but differentiating oneself for the customers, by thinking creatively, innovatively and taking a fresh and broader approach to find the competitive footing.

Power to the people

At a time when unemployment rates are surging, it is more than important for brands to recognize the significance of retaining their talent’s potential and the sustainable advantage that people bring with themselves to work through their passion, skills, capabilities, judgement and creativity. Operating in an uncertain environment, getting the right people in the right roles and building a culture of trust and empathy in the workplace is fundamental to every strategic choice and business decision you’re making right now.

In a recent discussion that I had with some of the leading HR professionals in Middle East, employee well-being, engagement & experience are some of the most critical priorities for top leaders at the moment, even more important than cost optimization or upskilling. The reason is simple. Forward-looking companies understand that in order to set the stage for recovery, it is vital for them to step up now, connect meaningfully with their people and lead with empathy & compassion, which in turn, unlocks a new level of innovation and productivity.

Final Thought

Every crisis creates a new opportunity, which then opens the door to new, innovative solutions. Given the kind of impact that the Covid-19 crisis has created on the Education sector, disrupting the learning of almost 70% of the student population worldwide, we at Pearson, are very proud of our focus on employability and the commitment towards ensuring an effective delivery of education to support learners. The work our colleagues have done over the last few months to ensure the continuity of learning by providing access to innovative & digital learning solutions, has helped us push through a necessary digital transformation, reinvent ourselves and tap the opportunity to create impact at large.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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