Strategic Insights – Opportunities in the Post Corona World

Strategic insights M-Brain post corona

What will the world be like when the COVID-19 pandemic is over? Which trends have become stronger? What opportunities can be found? M-Brain’s VP Business Development, Nora Kärkkäinen, advises companies in strategy work by providing market understanding and strategic insights on the operating environment. She wrote a book review on Scott Galloway’s highly influential book Post Corona – From Crisis to Opportunity.

What We Did in Good Times

“Bad things happen because of what we did in good times – good things happen because of what we did in bad times.” Roberto Goizueta’s (CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, 1980-1997) adage is something to consider now. What have you been doing during the COVID-19 pandemic? What are you looking to get done post-Corona?

March 2021 has marked, especially for the Western world, a tipping point and one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the 11th of March 2020, WHO declared a global pandemic. While we are still in the middle of turmoil prompted by the pandemic, looking and imagining what’s next is needed.

Professor of Marketing at NYU and serial entrepreneur Scott Galloway’s latest book Post Corona (2020) does that. Even better, Galloway does it with an optimistic twist. This opportunity-seeking approach is very much needed, as we need to turn new, or at least improved, pages in business and in life (instead of longing “back to normal”).

 

The Great Accelerator and Finding Opportunities

Galloway’s book is built on two premises:

  1. COVID-19 is seen as an accelerator of trends and dynamics already present prior to the pandemic
  2. Opportunities can always be found in any crisis

COVID-19 has proved that decades can happen in just a few weeks

Most, if not all, trends have been fast-forwarded since March 2020, both negative and positive. Negative trends, e.g. inequality, accelerate at a greater rate. Yet in business, the strong are getting stronger: it is about domination and monopolization of a handful of players. By now, it is ever clearer that tech eats the world – like Galloway’s “The Four”, the big tech companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google) are showing.

While the COVID-19 virus has been killing thousands of people per day, market indexes have climbed, driven by a few big players. As Galloway puts it: “If your firm had a weak balance sheet, it’s now untenable. If you’re in essential retail, your goods are more essential than ever. If you’re in discretionary retail, you are more discretionary than ever. In your personal life, if you were fighting with your partner, your rows are worse. Good relationships now have another ten years of history and goodwill.”

Crisis opens doors for disruptions and progress

Especially in the US market, where healthcare and education sectors have been functioning far from optimal, pandemic has forced the sectors to modernize their offering and processes. Galloway sees the healthcare system as “broken” and higher education as a bloated “Ivy-covered caste-system”. Higher education is a poster-child of disruptability: “Consider university lecture. Whether you are 19 or 90, you likely picture the same thing. An auditorium, an older person at the front, a group of young people in the seats, lecture, notes, teaching assistants. Almost nothing has changed in forty years, or even eighty. But there has been one dramatic change – the price. College tuition price has increased 1,400% in the past 40 years.”

 

New Ideas & Insights?

The book is not short of thought provokers. For me, the key insights evoked by Galloway’s text are related to disruption.

The author argues that the Brand Age is over, and we are witnessing the rise of the Product Age. This turns upside down the traditional marketing, as it does not have an impact on customers. Linked to this is Galloway’s concept of Disruptability Index – to recognise players ripe for disruption. Among these vulnerable, to-be-disrupted players are the ones with reliance on brand equity, without a clear and genuine connection to the quality of the product/service, or its distribution. These are mass-produced, mediocre products sold at a premium price due to heavy brand building. Another factor helping to recognise disruptability: unearned margin. Think about those players who have been able to implement dramatic price increases with no accompanying increase in value or innovation.

With all the talk about disruption, Galloway argues that it is not being driven by big tech innovation. We are actually moving from innovation economy to exploitation economy. Big tech is not motivated to innovate, exploitation is a more profitable path for them. And with all the talk about start-ups, in the US, startups were booming in the 1970s and early 1980s, twice at the rate of 2020s. When combining this decline in innovation and entrepreneurial activity with the dominant tech companies pushing out products that use algorithms “to leverage our weaknesses as species”, and these same companies being considered “too big to fail”, we are heading to dystopia.

 

Critique & Questions? 

The book is focusing on the US market and society, also noted by the author. The key question as a reader is, how comparable the thoughts are to the rest of the world?

Galloway’s emphasis is on the technology sector, and many examples are taken from tech sector B2C players. How much the key concepts and ideas presented in the book are visible and true across other industries, e.g. B2B raw materials or manufacturing?

 

Resonating quote from Galloway’s Post Corona? 

The book is full of brainy one-liners and terminology created by Galloway (see e.g. yogababble, rundle). Though the book has a very opportunity-driven, positive tone – as the most resonating quote, I would take Galloway’s darker thoughts about “the dirty secret of this pandemic, which we aren’t supposed to say out loud — the top 10% are living their best lives.”

 

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