How 5 companies used Covid to pivot to success

Paul Whitney

Hallidays MD

I’ve no doubt that “Pivoting” is going to be the business buzzword of 2021. Business as usual is certainly not going to be an option, and neither is waiting to see how things pan out.

Business survival

We can’t change the world, but if we change ourselves, we can change our world. Those of us who will survive and thrive next year will be those who take control of their own fate. As Mahatma Ghandi once opined, “You must be the change you want to see in the world”.

And many companies are doing just that. Applying brave, lateral thinking at a time when others were just implementing survival strategies. And they can be an inspiration to us all. So I’ve gathered together a few examples of companies who’ve been taking Covid by the horns. Some are big brands – some tiny, so you can see that innovation doesn’t necessarily demand Hollywood budgets. I hope they might give you some ideas…

About Yoello

Yoello is a startup payment platform aimed at the hospitality industry whose growth has been turbocharged by COVID-19. Yoello uses the open banking legislation (PSD2) to give pubs and restaurants app-less online ordering solutions, But this year they’ve set up a very helpful website offering a risk assessment guide and are working with businesses to help them prepare for reopening with ready-made able ordering, click and collect and delivery services, giving them a plug-and-play way to operate within the guidelines for social distancing. This is a great way to increase your relevance in an exploding market – don’t just offer your services; make it as easy as possible for your customers to take them up.

Product demand during lockdown

Unilever has seen rocketing demand for packaged food, surface cleaners and personal hygiene product brands while demand for other products, such as skin care, has plummeted. The company responded by prioritising manufacture of the more popular brands while putting the others into manufacturing stasis. It’s hard to tell which changes might become permanent, since we don’t yet know whether the trend towards remote working will stick – but if it does the pivots they’ve put in place will lead to a very different Unilever in the next few years, with a bit of portfolio shedding and repositioning of food and personal care brands. Smaller manufacturers should be thinking now about how they react to this shift in the market.

About Hadean

Hadean is a supercomputing company used by Microsoft, Amazon and gaming companies. Founded in 2015 it was set up “to democratise supercomputing resources and empower developers, data scientists and decision-makers to solve the world’s most critical issues – issues that cannot be solved using a 40-year old technology stack”. This year, however, it’s applied what it’s learnt from those clients to the life sciences and healthcare sectors, aiding governments and research organisations in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. So out of gaming, they’re growing solutions to some of the most terrifying medical challenges of our time.

How Spotify has coped with the Covid crisis

You’d think Spotify, as the global leader in music streaming, would be sitting pretty in the lockdown economy: Customers stuck at home and seeking an escape offer an endlessly-streaming income stream.

However, the Swedish music giants struggled to come up with a pivot that would to overcome a basic problem: Unlike Apple Music, Spotify relies heavily on free users who are a captive audience for adverts. Before lockdown, they assumed that advertising revenue would grow faster than the free user database, boosting the bottom line. However, when the pandemic hit, advertisers cut their budgets and they were found with their trousers down. So Spotify responded with a pivot - they offered original content in the form of podcasts. Artists and users uploaded over 150,000 podcasts in the first month, and Spotify has since signed exclusive podcast deals with celebrities and begun curating playlists. This allows them to lead their customers by the nose, creating their own trends in the way that Netflix has been doing for a while. And more important – as copyright owners, their margins are infinitely more healthy.

About Lockdown Haircut

‪Lockdown Haircut, is a platform launched by barbers Jeroen Sibia and Dan Silvertown to raise money for the NHS while helping those considering cutting their own hair at home. The website will connect them with a professional barber who will talk them (and a scissor-handed friend ) through a step-by-step haircut to avoid DIY disaster. Perhaps restaurants could try a similar approach, by supplying ingredients which customers could prepare at home, with video instructions from the chef?

Of course, a pivot is not just a leap in the dark, or a change for change’s sake, and not all change is good. For a pivot to work, it must fulfil three criteria:

  1. It must link arms with one of the long-term trends generated or magnified by the pandemic - remote work, supply chain disruption, social distancing, consumer behaviour change, increase in technology/comms use.
  2. It must be a natural brand extension - using your existing capabilities, building on your strategic core and enhancing your brand value to your customers. Consumers must be able to nod along with you and be confident in your ability to deliver, rather than think, “What? I’d never have thought they…”
  3. It must be a sustainable, profitable seam that you can continue to mine. It must be a response to the new reality that doesn’t put your business under undue pressure, or give your bottom line a quick sugar rush that’ll leave a bigger downer when it’s gone.

So a pivot is fixing your eye on a new, attainable horizon, that everyone in your company can confidently get behind, and your customers will eagerly accept. Easier said than done, of course, but if you can crack that problem, a brighter future awaits…

How Hallidays can help…

If you’d like any support with any of the content covered or need advice on the best approach for you and your business during these difficult times, email us at or call us on 0161 476 8276.

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