Change is rarely equitable in its effects and the pandemic has made no exception in the business world. Once dominant brands like Hertz, J.C. Penney, and Men’s Wearhouse have all declared bankruptcy as the brick-and-mortar retail and travel industries saw huge decreases in demand. A tight labor supply has created challenges for any brand that depends on customer service and human interaction as part of their brand experience. Here are a few examples, both positive and negative for how brands are responding to the challenges they face.
Zoom: It may seem like a no-brainer that a video conferencing software brand would do well in a suddenly remote working environment. And while other similar services have seen growth, Zoom’s performance has been anything but muted and it now holds an estimated 75 percent market share. Zoom’s service is more reliable than many and simple to use. And they are building on their market strength by looking to expand or grow services in corporate phone systems and call center software. Could Zoom be the next Big Tech brand? Maybe not yet, but their future looks bright.
Hershey Foods: The candy-making giant faced a lot of uncertainty about demand for their products in a locked down environment. But they were able to increase their sales and add employees during the pandemic, despite cutbacks on group celebrations of holidays like Easter and Halloween. Hershey focused on catering to an increase in home baking and re-envisioned ways to share candy at Halloween. Online marketing of their products saw substantial growth that more than offset losses from traditional retail outlets. Ultimately, they increased sales from $7.9 billion to $8.1 billion in 2020.
Spirit Airlines: It may not be fair to Spirit to describe them as a brand that is trending down. After all, in 2018, they were already being labeled the worst airline in America by a major consumer watchdog. But Spirit seems to have reached new lows of late with a lengthy failing of their reservation system that left thousands of passengers stranded or re-booked without their consent. Combined with a reputation for long baggage claim lines and costly add-ons, their ultra-low fares may not be enough to make the experience worth the savings to future fliers.
United States Postal Service: 10 years ago, I described the USPS as the Rodney Dangerfield of brands, a competent yet underappreciated organization that performed a critical service for a paltry sum. But while their prices are still ridiculously cheap for standard mail (offer FedEx less than 60 cents to take an envelope across the country, and they’ll laugh in your face), their dependability has gone from acceptable to who-knows-when-it-will-get there. Or even if it will get there. UPS, FedEx, and Amazon have made the USPS look even worse with their seven-day-a-week schedules and the appearance that much of their delivery cost is free because it’s paid by the retailer rather than tacked onto the consumer’s bill. Is there a way out of brand purgatory for the USPS? Perhaps, but proposals to cut service and limit investment in technology sure don’t seem like the solution.