Although the 2020 Expo Experience happens in cyberspace (and not Denver – are we ever missing the hatch chili sauce on our breakfast burritos this year), the show has some familiar elements: notably, the opening keynotes. After a rollout of the latest CEDIAStrong initiative, the “CEDIAStrong Fund” (find more info here), keynote speaker Linzi Boyd began her first of two presentations, “Building Brands to Shift Industries: Today, Tomorrow, The Future.”
The Changing Business Model
Boyd’s fundamental question is as complex as it is brief: “What if we could build a brand that shifts the world?”
Boyd – who sold her fashion sneaker brand at the age of 24 to embark on her current career – notes something incredible has happened with the dawn of the digital age: Everyone could be seen at a moment’s notice. The old mode of selling something has now morphed to match the instantaneous, saturated nature of the internet. Margins for goods are squeezed as price comparisons become a quick search.
“Want to grow your business?” asks Boyd. “The fastest growth can be found when you shift from sales- led to a brand-led to ultimately a ‘purpose-led’ business.”
As Boyd notes, any economic downturn carries with it three phases: “Shock, Recovery, Rebuild. We saw some companies lose 90% of their revenue in the ‘shock’ phase, the first three months. And those companies that used that time to engage with people as humans, as people – not customers, but people who needed connection during a terrible upheaval – those companies are roaring back.”
“You can change from a business leader to becoming a world leader,” says Boyd. “Ask yourself, ‘What do you want to be known for? How do you want to leave people feeling?’”
Cleaning Up the 20th Century
Boyd’s second keynote was a conversation with her business partner Darren Shirlaw in a presentation entitled Economic, Societal, and Consumer Trends for a 21st Century Mindset.
Shirlaw – a former fund management exec – saw this recession coming, pandemic or not. “Look back through history,” he notes, “and you’ll see a pattern of 14 years of flat economic activity, followed by 18 years of growth.
“You can trace it back to Egyptian grain prices from 3000 years ago,” he adds. What’s even more fascinating is that those 18-year cycles are often abruptly interrupted by corrections, even when they’re not triggered by a sudden viral disruption. What Shirlaw sees is an “L-shaped” recession; the drop we’ve all experienced and then a period of pain. The good news? The arch turns northward in September 2021, and Shirlaw is predicting no less than ten years of economic growth.
So how do you prepare for that upturn?
“The 20th century was all about making money. If you could load up food with chemicals to preserve it or bring higher yields, if we generated tons of cheap plastic – if we could make money at it, we did.”
“The 21st century will be about cleaning all of that up.”
And in that cleaning up, the companies that connect with that concept as a purpose will likely thrive.
The best way to illustrate commitment to that purpose? Human connection. “B2P,” as Boyd calls it, not the antiquated notions of B2B or B2C. “You can present yourself in so many channels at once now – so many that the concepts of B2B and B2C are dying.”
Boyd likes to ask businesses who sign up for her “BoB (Business of Branding)” school: “Do you Google people?” Hands go up.
Then she asks, “Are people Googling you?”
The answer is, “Of course,” no matter how many of those business owners are unwilling to admit it. “People don’t go looking for your company brand – your website – they look for you.”
“This is especially helpful for a small business,” notes Shirlaw. “It’s so much easier for your team to establish those human connections in a place where everyone is working toward a singular purpose.”