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2020: A Year For Rewriting the Rulebook and Going Beyond the Brand

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

2020 has been a banner year in more ways than one. Covid-19 has shaken the world to its core. For retail, the pandemic has caused the high-street to close and many leaders to make tough job cuts.

As consumers, our attention has shifted onto health, wellbeing and the home and as brands, our focus has shifted onto social responsibility and accelerating digital.

Widespread political movements have also caused companies to look inwardly at improving their inclusivity and diversity.

We would normally write yearly reviews, however, we are living in extraordinary times and the first six months of 2020 have more to unpack than the whole of 2019!

In this article, we take a look at how the Beauty, Fashion, Luxury and Lifestyle industries have changed in 2020 and how leaders must adapt to be successful in the future.

Rewriting the Rulebook

There have already been substantial changes made to tradition this year. Among them:

  • Gucci has gone seasonless, with the label’s creative director, Alessandro Michele announcing they will be cutting shows from five to two a year.

  • During the outbreak of Covid-19, many cosmetics companies switched their manufacturing to produce much needed hand sanitizers and cleaning agents.

  • The British Fashion Council announced that for the next twelve months, London Fashion Week will be present in a new digital format, available to everyone.

  • Companies have had to be flexible, with many brands including Zara sending products to the homes of models and influencers to continue showcasing new collections.

Most brands have had to adapt their business model in some way and find new ways to deliver value.

Innovation and staying relevant have been at the forefront of leadership strategies. Especially for heritage brands whose legacy is no longer a guarantee for their success.

We spoke with Riccardo Sciutto, CEO of Sergio Rossi about how he’s united heritage and digital.

“It is crucial to think innovatively and passionately about the future, be audacious and without fear of taking risks to guide a brand with as rich a history as Sergio Rossi into the modern era. And this requires investing and believing in digital.”

From Communication to Conversation

In these past few months, with everything that has been going on in the world, brands have shifted to create a more meaningful dialogue with their consumers.

They have also worked to deliver more personalised experiences and propositions that fit our digitally-infused lifestyles.

During the coronavirus crisis and #BLM movement, brands have needed to take a step back and explain their brand identity and values.

What was considered ‘normal’ or ‘important’ before this, such as product launches and live events have now been questioned.

During a recent HVO Search Live conversation ‘Brand Storytelling in the NEW Digital Age

We spoke about how the spirit of community has come to the forefront of communications and the better we understand the emotional needs of our audience, the better we can communicate with them.

Lucy Yeomans, Founder and Creator of Drest, who was on our panel, also spoke about how people remember the ways brands act right now and why being transparent is key:

“It’s not about campaigns, it’s about actions from the heart. The winners are the brands who are in tune with the hearts and minds of their audiences.”

Adapting your communications, as well as your products, services and experiences to fit changing needs has been crucial during these times.

Consumer’s have asked for a more authentic, socially conscious and unfiltered communications and younger audiences especially want discovery and conversation.

The brands who deliver this and continue to focus on their identity, their expression and their community will be successful.

Beyond the Brand

To be successful in the current climate, brands need to think beyond their products and services and address wider issues not only in their communications, but in their actions.

Sustainability has been a concern for many years now and the brands who do not endeavour to reduce their carbon footprint are suffering.

According to Fashion Revolution, the global fashion business was producing 150bn items of clothing each year, far in excess of the needs of a global population of 7.9 billion.

The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. (United Nations Environment Programme.)

Boohoo and Missgiuded have made headlines in recent weeks, as two of the least sustainable fashion brands in the UK. And many have turned to social media to condemn the fast fashion brands and their environmental impact. There have also been recommendations to the Government for policies that would create a more transparent and sustainable fashion system.

Consumers are also becoming more aware that they are to partly to blame. In a very turbulent political and economic time, people and brands have become more aware of their social responsibilities, leading both to turn to more sustainable choices.

One of the many sustainable clothing brands excelling right now are Organic Basics, whose focus on ethical production and sustainable materials have garnered legions of loyal customers.

They are also paving the way for more environmentally-friendly e-commerce decisions with their low impact website that reduces carbon emissions by up to 70%.

Going ALL In

2020 has been a tumultuous year and has not only brought new uncertainties but has shone a light onto existing problems.

Issues surrounding inclusivity and diversity have been raised, forcing brands to look internally and find ways to build more inclusive teams and cater to wider audiences.

Leaders have been forced to think about successfully broadening their appeal and diversity and creating a culture of inclusivity. This won’t happen overnight but is not an issue that is going to go away anytime soon either.

If you’d like to read more on this, we explored how brands can build more inclusive leadership teams.

What Next?

A sentence I used earlier in this article was ‘what was once normal has now been questioned’. This statement encapsulates the world of Fashion, beauty, Luxury and Lifestyle right now.

We’ve seen the words ‘adapt’, ‘pivot’, ‘shift’ and ‘respond’ perhaps more now than ever before.

Customers are changing. What they need and want when it comes to buying, consuming and communicating are dramatically different now than this time last year. And if brands are to be successful, they must pivot to a new business model in response.

This includes:

  • Investing in digital to create seamless convenience for consumers

  • Using their platform to address wider issues and adapting the way they communicate

  • More actions from the heart

The economic magnitude of the Covid-19 pandemic will be great, but as with all uncertainty, there is opportunity. And the first half of 2020 has provided opportunities for leaders to make the world a better place.

Those who take these steps will generate and maintain loyal customers and will stand a better chance at bouncing back in the months to come.

If you need help hiring visionary and innovative leaders, get in touch.

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