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5 Tips Innovators Can Use to Prepare For the New Normal




IT’S NO SECRET the US economy has hit the pause button — shrinking by 4.8% in the first quarter alone according to the latest issue of The Economist, whose theme is fittingly, “The 90% Economy: Life After Lockdown.” This is the worst decline since the 2008 recession. What does it mean for the food and beverage business, the bread and butter of so many design agencies? A study by The Conference Board reported 60% job losses in food and drink alone.

How does this impact innovation? It may sound counterintuitive, but rather than interpreting this data as a stop sign, it should be considered a green light. Because, as the world around us starts to reopen, we need to be ready with innovative solutions that make it easy for consumers to jump back into a normal rhythm.

Here’s a few tips that may inspire you:

Get creative with your partnerships — and don’t be afraid to move outside your category. Let Tesla, GM and Ford be your guides. These automakers are now in the business of manufacturing ventilators to address the shortage healthcare has experienced during the coronavirus. And that’s not all.

Restaurants delivering food are also doubling as distributors of everyday staples like bread, produce, and milk. Some even offer hand sanitizers and face masks. Even streaming services like Hulu are offering discounts on comfort food (delivered by Uber) so you can enjoy your favorite snack while huddling down and watching their programs at home.

What does this have to do with marketing and design? Empathy is ruling the zeitgeist. In keeping with this mood, brands are adjusting their messaging to show that “we’re all in this together.” If you’re a brand, look for creative partnerships that deliver on a pressing need. If you’re an agency, tap your design thinking process to find new ways to integrate warmth and compassion with your sales message.


Another possibility that could emerge from our current “new normal” could be new players in established categories. Remember what I said about Tesla, GM and Ford making ventilators? Now that they have the manufacturing equipment, supply chains and relationships, you could see spinoff companies in healthcare and medical device. That foretells opportunities and competitors for both brands and agencies.

Speed to market will be critical for responding to the “new normal” post COVID-19. As the economy begins to revive, demand for e-commerce will continue. The stats are telling. AMAZON shares are soaring, and they have responded to the demand for online shopping by adding 175,000 new employees.

People of all generations are ordering online and becoming increasingly comfortable with this channel. According to CNBC, before the pandemic only 3 to 4% of grocery spending in the U.S. was done online. That number has surged to 10% to 15%. Changes like this are likely to stay; think of how 9/11 changed passenger security and check-in procedures.

In addition to pure ecommerce, there are also creative new hybrid forms that are developing. A good example is curbside pick-up. The consumer pays for the products online and chooses a store where they want to pick it up. They avoid the stress of in-store shopping and enjoy a contactless experience. This allows retailers to combine physical and digital and still meet the “I want it now” demand. Names like Target, DSW and grocery chains are already successful with this new model.

What’s the relevance for brands and their design partners? The shift away from traditional brick and mortar retail will mean a greater concentration on how to capture brand loyalty online. And it’s not just packaging design but the use of social media. It’s all about making an impact in the digital world.

Don’t rely on inspiration alone — innovation arises from a disciplined process. The demand for innovation will intensify post COVID as competition among brands heats up. Change will be expected across the board. Remember the early dot coms of the mid 90s? They were trying to be first with the best idea. Most failed.


A disciplined go-to-market process still requires research, prototyping and testing. At WFM, we integrate with client product teams and use an iterative approach from idea to innovation. We break it into three phases: Revolutionary, Evolutionary and Adaptive. The result is, we minimize churn and maximize excitement within agency and client teams and ultimately the consumer.

Case Study: How design thinking works for ecommerce brands.

WFM created the HIJINX pet brand — all elements from the brand identity system across the product portfolio to design of product packaging.

This all-ecommerce line includes dog treats in pouch format, reusable tins with assorted pet treats in separate comportments, superior quality dog food kits with recipes, and a collapsible food container for travel.

HIJINX was the result of WFM’s embrace of design thinking. We took the product concepts through 5 key steps, including research, understanding the consumer mindset, defining the problem, prototyping and testing. By integrating with our client’s ecosystem, we achieved a faster, more effective process.

Now more than ever, establish your social media signature:

During COVID-19, some brands did an outstanding job of gaining traction online. One pizza restaurant offered a roll of toilet paper for every pizza delivery. The story went viral, and the restaurant managed to not only stay open, but gain a flood of new customers. When it comes to innovation, it’s all about making the most out of change.


Learn more about WFM.

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