Why brands need to pivot and transform through innovation to stay relevant
Updated: Oct 24, 2020 1:38 PM
From Kodak to Orkut, power brands that lost favour and disappeared into oblivion over time
While brands like Kodak that were not ready for the future were inhibiting their own success, some brands laid promising foundations for the future.
By Priyan DC
With the pandemic taking the world by storm, businesses are faced by a growing quagmire. There are scores of companies that have been forced to shut shop in recent times while others have taken to cost cutting by layoffs and salary cuts to stay afloat. But then there are others who have chosen to pivot and transform through innovation to stay relevant during the times.
What makes a brand relevant today is how willing it is in making its product relevant to the needs of the consumer in the present time. Keeping track of trends is very important for a business. Let us take a look at some examples of power brands that lost favour and disappeared into oblivion over time. Kodak is one such example which should have been enormously popular today considering the selfie craze and people’s love for cameras. Orkut is another brand that disappeared but was prevalent around the exact same time when Facebook was taking shape.
Despite being the brand to have invented the digital camera in 1975, Kodak was so occupied about what its own invention was going to do to what it had invented almost a hundred years ago. Its unwillingness to see what the future generation wanted allowed its competitors to leverage the technology and make something that people needed and cherished. Kodak thought it was untouchable and was probably right at one point of time. But what it lacked was vision to innovate and adapt with the times. From surpassing $10 billion mark in company sales in 1981 to having filed for bankruptcy in 31 years in 2012, Kodak has proved that regardless of market domination, as a brand if you are not committed to delivering what people want, people will move over to brands that address their needs.
While brands like Kodak that were not ready for the future were inhibiting their own success, some brands laid promising foundations for the future. Between 1994 and 2004, the world was fortunate to be part of a better ecosystem where human interactivity and communication were concerned — owing to companies like Yahoo, Orkut, Gmail, and Facebook that made communication simple, effective, fun, and engaging.
However, not all companies flourished. In 2014, 10 years after it was launched, Orkut shut down. While Orkut had many reasons behind its failure, the straw that broke its back was its constant meddling with its own user interface. With Orkut, their problem was not that they were not willing to give what their users wanted. Their problem was that they tried to overdo their “customer service”. They tried to please every user and in the end the user could not remember and connect with what Orkut once was. By breaching the fine line between being agile and being unstable, Orkut, despite being owned by Google, the world’s biggest search engine, can now only be found in the failed list.
Importance of Vision
Unlike Orkut, Facebook didn’t give in to the pressure of pleasing its audience. While it was agile and provided its users with ample opportunities to be entertained and addicted to its platform, it did not make drastic changes to its interface that its users could not understand or failed to connect with. Facebook, which originally started off as a platform to connect Harvard alumni, quickly went on to connect the world effectively by strengthening its user base through games like Farmville, Mafia Wars, and Pet Society that allowed people to play, compete, and connect with each other. It was not aggressive as Orkut when it came to making changes in its interface and the only changes it made were designed to change the way people communicated with each other.
Although Orkut failed, Google as a company succeeded enormously
What Google could not do with Orkut, it was able to achieve with Gmail. Gmail, with its constantly evolving intuitive integrations, today has 1.8 billion users worldwide — 21% more than the number of users for Yahoo mail today — a colossal feat, considering Gmail was launched 7 years after Yahoo Mail. As for Yahoo, Yahoo would have remained in the top spot, if only it had not missed its chance of acquiring Google for $1 billion in 2002. Just as Zoom has been able to put the focus on the consumer during this pandemic by providing quality features that enhance the video call/conference experience, brands like Skype and Yahoo need to understand that it’s not just about starting multiple verticals and acquiring companies rapidly only to end up offering a mediocre consumer experience along the way.
While there are several more lessons like this in the business world, what brands need to do is to step back and do a reality check if they are stagnating. Especially with the world facing a crisis of such magnitude, it is important for brands to stay relevant and adapt with the times. Like the saying goes, ‘Change is the only Constant’.