I recently caught up with Director of the Center for Brand & Product Management Mike Judge from the comfort of his basement (I wasn’t there but he was streaming from what looked to be a tastefully furnished family room) to get an update from the soft-spoken, cerebral leader of the CBPM. I kicked off our summit by asking him about his thoughts on what brands and businesses need to do to market in the current economy- and social climate- to remain relevant. “I think you have brands and companies that are adjusting what they’re doing and adjusting their products and services, and translating their missions a little bit even. [For example] Mattel created a kind of digital platform playroom where kids could go to occupy their time with some of the Mattel properties and give them ideas for play… you had companies like Krispy Kreme who initially were giving free glazed donuts to health care and essential workers.”
Mike did mention that while many businesses have managed to strike the right chord with consumers and some have even found that their businesses have boomed during the pandemic, even those choice fortunate ones should be mindful of what follows: “Given the situation, Nordic Track, Peloton… their issue is going to be when things return to normal, can they hang onto all their growth? Instead of going back to the gym, will people want to stay in that virtual workout community?” He reiterated that businesses may have to readjust more than their marketing strategy to adapt to their market post-COVID.
While he is not nearly as critical a person as your author, Mike did draw a contrast between two competitors in how they handled the last year and the outcome: “Nike shut down their stores worldwide and [had] their COVID messaging be a ‘Stay Inside, Save the World’ sort of idea, whereas Adidas really didn’t close their stores and come out with too much. I also don’t think they had as good a response [in the wake of the protests for social justice]. They came out with statements but they got a lot of backlash for not following through with it; their actions didn’t meet their words, as they didn’t have a lot of Black leaders in their senior management.”
My final request for Mike was to share his thoughts on the newest class of the Center for Brand and Product Management, the Class of 2022. His voice cracked with emotion as he said, “It’s our biggest class in a while. I think it’s nicely diverse, in terms of representation and background and work experience- it’s made up of a lot of great individuals and I’m looking forward to working with them. I think it’s a really great class.”