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February 4, 2023

Good Timing or Lucky Break?


How is your organization faring several months into COVID-19?  Enough time has passed to get some perspective.  Sometimes it feels like it’s been in our lives forever.  Other times it feels like just yesterday that it was business as usual.  But we can (and should) learn from history and history doesn’t have to be centuries-old.


Some companies and organizations had already been trying to pivot, (for other reasons) but they were ahead of their time.  For example, the concept of virtual doctor’s visits was met with skepticism and distrust.  “How can a doctor possibly diagnose me without physically seeing me?  Is this just a way for them to make quick, easy money?”  Fast forward to now when many medical facilities are ghost towns because most people would rather deal with their minor health concerns than risk acquiring the Coronavirus from a waiting room.  So you experience your first virtual appointment only to realize not only that it was safer, but the doctor was able to assist you just as well, all the while saving you the time and energy of physically visiting the office.  Oh and you AND your doctor saved money!  So now next time you need to “see” the doctor, you may be much more inclined to schedule a Teledoc Health (or another provider) visit.


Other companies that are benefiting from the epidemic short term may find that their windfall is short-lived.  Hopefully, they’re investing well, treating their customers and employees well, and giving back in the meantime.  Examples include warehouse retailers like Costco, Sam’s, and BJ’s as well as grocery stores like Kroger, Whole Foods, and Publix.  Currently, they don’t have to worry about offering the best price (which is why the sales and e-coupons are fewer and further between).  Once this crisis has passed, they are going to have to go back to competing on a price basis with the Walmarts and Targets of the world.

Likewise, manufacturers of staple items like Kimberly Clark, Procter & Gamble, Purell, Campbells, Smuckers, Hormel, and Maruchan Ramen have seen a huge boost in sales, but this too shall end.  Soon people will stop feeling the need to overbuy paper products, shelf-stable foods, and disinfectants. It might be a while before people are looking forward to an instant cup of noodles!


Many manufacturers that have pivoted out of necessity are most likely considering long term implications.  Some auto manufacturers have converted part of their plants to constructing key medical equipment (such as ventilators).  Many alcoholic beverage factories have switched to the production of hand sanitizer. A plethora of textile companies are suddenly producing face masks).  

Although these pivots seem like no-brainers, the efforts to completely retrofit a factory or plant to create an almost entirely different product line required monetary investment, ingenuity, and herculean efforts in a very short span of time. Many of these manufacturers may find it wise to continue manufacturing some of these items as a part of their offerings post-COVID 19 should the profit margin be similar to or in excess of those they were generating for the previous product lines.  


At Optimal Station, the focus had shifted to experiential marketing for a couple of years prior to the coronavirus, simply due to higher demand in that arena.  However, with events and other public gatherings (the primary setting for experiential marketing) shutting down worldwide, Optimal pivoted back to its other division, automated retail.  However, necessity being the mother of all invention, Optimal Station was also driven to create a touchless hybrid option, combining the best of automated retail AND experiential marketing, all possible despite the cessation of events.

Each corporation will have to weigh out the cost-to-benefit ratios. However, it isn’t a matter of whether there will be another contagious and deadly virus, but when, so companies who at least maintain the capabilities to pivot back again quickly will be in a good position.

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