What Ran Ban, Pabst And Amazon Can Teach Us About Reinvention

Luxottica Chief Executive Andrea Guerra Holding A Pair Of Ray Bans (Giuseppe Aresu/Bloomberg News)

Luxottica Chief Executive Andrea Guerra Holding A Pair Of Ray Bans (Giuseppe Aresu/Bloomberg News)

In this increasingly competitive business environment, it is no longer an option to stand still while your competition changes with the times.   We can give countless examples of companies that failed to adapt to a changing marketplace and had to close their doors.

Reinvention is the only way for companies to stay relevant in this ever-changing, fast-paced global economy. 

Let’s take a look at some companies who reinvented themselves successfully. There are many out there but these are three of my favorites:

1. Ray Ban: Ray Ban was originally made by Bausch + Lomb for the US Army and have been worn by everyone from JFK to Tom Cruise.  But the brand suffered in the 90s because the company was mismanaged, with poor quality and increased competition from Oakley and other rivals.  It was eventually sold to the Italian eyewear company Luxottica in 1999 for $640 million.

The subsequent reinvention was beautiful.  Luxottica stopped selling Ray Bans for a year to reinvigorate the brand.  In 1999 you could buy a pair of Wayfarers for $29 at a drug store or a gas station.  Now those same sunglasses can cost as much as $150 or more.  Good luck finding them at your local convenience store.

The Lesson: Sometimes you need to take a step back to move forward.

2. Pabst:  Just a few years ago, Pabst was just another generic beer sitting on the shelves.  A beer that was once extremely popular in the 70s, it lost popularity in the 80s and 90s, eventually leading to the closing of their flagship brewery, located in Milwaukee.  Then something happened around 2009 that defied logic:  It became the beer of choice for hipsters everywhere.  According to The Huffington Post, sales jumped 20.3% in 2009 and continued to rise steadily over the next few years.  By 2013 Americans drank more than 90 million gallons of PBR, according to Euromonitor, which is nearly 200 percent more than they did in 2004.

So, how did they do it? 

First, they got lucky.  Millennials were attracted to Pabst’s history, their blue-collar image and their low price point.  But Pabst also had a focused marketing strategy:  Taking a more organic approach to advertising.  Instead of spending millions on TV, radio, and billboard advertising, they sponsored cool events such as bike messenger rodeos and DJ sets. Millennials grew wary of traditional sales tactics by the liquor industry and Pabst “advertising” resonated with their audience.

The Lesson: To reinvent your brand to become “hip” you need to take a non-traditional approach to your marketing strategy.  Luck doesn’t hurt either.

3. Amazon: Amazon is a great example of a company that reinvented itself while it was still successful. A company that started as an online bookseller is now the world’s largest retailer and also a web-hosting, content production and distribution company.

So, how did they do it? 

According to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, “I would define Amazon by our big ideas, which are customer centricity, putting the customer at the center of everything we do, invention.  We like to pioneer, we like to explore, we like to go down dark alleys and see what’s on the other side.”

Lesson:  You don’t need to wait for business to take a downturn in order to reinvent your company. It’s best to be constantly evolving. 

So, the message is clear:  Continue to listen to your customers, never stop evolving, and look to the future because change is inevitable in any business. 

Remember, you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.