With all of the rapid fire, hustle and bustle of modern brand activation it is no wonder that people talk about pivoting a lot. The pressure to deliver growth on shorter and shorter timescales combined with the captivating but ultimately distracting communication options is causing many to lose track of what they are doing and pivot way too much and in the wrong way.
Let’s confirm what is is to pivot and then we’ll move onto when it’s helpful and when it really isn’t.
Pivoting, just to be clear, in this case relates to rapidly changing direction with what you are doing with your brand hoping that it will have the dramatic effect you are aiming for. It kind of assumes that all of your thinking to that point was totally wrong or at least that some external force / event has now rendered it so. In the end it’s just a modern, buzz word for changing your mind and doing something else that is different from your original plan.
The wrong time to pivot
A key factor in success is knowing when to pivot, to rethink your plan, while still maintaining the mission.Camille Sweeney & Josh Gosfield
So, when is the wrong time to pivot? At times pivoting can and does make sense but it depends on the context. There is definitely a wrong time to do it however.
You might manage your brand in twelve month steps, aligning it with wider business planning but generally, and hopefully you have a longer vision for your brand backed up by a continual process of gathering and applying evidence about what your customers are thinking. Brand management is by nature a multi-year, sometimes a multi-decade process. It takes time to build the mental associations you aspire to in the minds of your customers. Holding them there for as long as you can is a real skill in an ever changing world but is the key job of a brand manager.
Now you can answer the question yourself. When is the right time to pivot? Does it sound like rapid changes in direction will support long term association building and reinforcement over years and decades? Will suddenly swapping out (multiple-times?) what you are doing help customers think of you in the buying situation amidst the clamour for their precious thoughts? I guess you’ve realised where the strategy you build to manage your brand over a prolonged period of time is concerned, pivoting might not be the best idea.
The caveat here is if you don’t have a brand strategy and then you realise how helpful they are and develop one. Then you might need to pivot to set yourself on the right course and start building the brand you’ve always been aiming for!
The right time to pivot
Pivoting can help, but it’s still something you need to analyse and choose with a clear head, when tactically executing your brand strategy and it delivers a clear advantage over and above your original plan.
Your brand strategy, when you’ve put the effort in, will give you solid guidance on what marketing tactics make sense and you’ll plan them out over the same 12 month period that your strategy relates to. Great. Then you can start implementing, confident that you have the right strategy and the tactics are in place that will deliver that strategy. Now it’s down to quality of execution.
Hold your strategic direction. Pivot only tactically when it delivers a better result than your original plan.Gavin Birchall
However, let’s say something really unexpected happens. You might recruit a new, young and super fit team member who just happens to be bright and bubbly and can talk ever so easily on camera. You might not have anticipated this but here is an opportunity. It wasn’t in your tactical plan to promote a weight management service or include any video in your marketing content but it might make sense to pivot and use the opportunity that has arisen.
If the pivot aligns with your brand positioning e.g. health, proactivity, fitness, then the pivot will support your positioning and strengthen associations long term. You’ll also need to consider whether the pivot will deliver a better return on your investment than what you had planned originally – assuming you have a finite budget.
Don’t get distracted!
It’s as if the options we have to communicate with others are deliberately set up to be distracting. Well, it’s because they are. The people selling them are trying their hardest to catch your attention so that you might buy their product. Don’t get distracted. Keep your mind on your strategy and assess every new opportunity for what it is in context with your tactical plan. Stay focussed and your brand will grow in value.