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Things change quickly in today’s hyperconnected, hyperspeed world. Industries morph and evolve, and companies predict and adapt to keep up. A lot of times, an acquisition — or a series of acquisitions — is a great move for businesses who want to stay ahead of the curve. But that actually can lead to something of an identity crisis. More often than you might think, in fact.
Businesses often sustain a slew of acquisitions over time without stepping back to evaluate their total, true impact. Products and services are tacked on without much big-picture evaluation. But these additions can bring about an evolution that pushes a business beyond the confines of its category. A company’s initial business can even become a fraction of its current business.
It’s happening more and more. And that trend doesn’t seem like it’s going to change.
Whether it’s a full merger, an acquisition, or simply the addition new products or services, the aftermath of big change can be confusing for employees and stakeholders. Who are we now? How do we explain ourselves? Can we tie this up with a neat little bow? Or is it far more complex than that?

The Puzzle of Identity Amidst Evolution

Is your business trapped in a box that doesn’t feel quite “right” anymore? Do the boundaries of an industry or categorical mold just suffocate or lop off real aspects of your business, value props that you’d be remiss not to emphasize?
Maybe it’s time to think outside the box. Literally.
Maybe you’ve outgrown the box.
Maybe it’s time to invent a category all your own.
One of the greatest joys in marketing is getting to be inventive. Sometimes that means giving a product or brand a style, story, or name. And sometimes that means giving a category a name. It’s a discovery and a proclamation, all in one fell swoop. Your business may already live there. You just need to realize it, give it structure, and raise up your flag.
Redefining your space to fit your reinvented business could be the answer. If you can easily discern the variables that make your business different, the unique positioning that you’re poised to inhabit….there may be grounds to create a new category.
Deciding whether this is your business’s best option can be a complex process. But if (after some thorough internal and external research and critical thinking on the matter) you know this is the path to choose, go forward with these insights in mind:

Capitalize on what’s possible NOW

What is possible as a result of your company’s evolution? Are there previously disconnected aspects of business or life that you’ve brought together? Is something easier, more streamlined, more powerful, or perhaps even achievable for the very first time because of your diversified offering? If so, lead with that!

Level-up your descriptor

Look at all the various outcomes your business contributes to or creates. Seek a common thread. Can you manage to move away from the specifics and still express what your company does overall? Articulating your offering with an overarching idea makes it easier for audiences to digest and understand. Which dovetails nicely into the next point….

Drop the jargon

You might be able to reach new audiences now that your business is taking a different form. But you probably won’t be able to speak to them in the same way as your original audience. Don’t expect them to know what you’re talking about if your lingo is too caught up in buzzwords and industry-speak. Use common language as much as possible.

Remember the “WHY”

Don’t just focus on what you do. To be compelling and memorable, you have to demonstrate WHY you do it. Your “WHY” creates a center of gravity that gives deeper meaning to what you do. This is nothing new to the marketing world (Simon Sinek’s 2009 TEDTalk on the subject is among the most-watched of all time). However, this perspective is especially important when you’re redefining your category. The “WHY” helps to anchor your business amidst change, creating a concrete sense of meaning to orient the business, both internally and externally.

Consider your expanded audience

It’s possible that your expanded offering means an expanded audience, too. Think about the audiences that may be interested in what you’ve got to offer and where they spend their time. What’s important to them? How can you grab their attention in the midst of a pain point you know they experience… and step in to offer your solution?

Launch with a splash

People won’t know who or what you are until you tell them. You can’t wait around to be discovered. But remember the cardinal rule of any external launch: Get your house in order first! Then, once your team is aligned and understands the meaning around your new messaging, you are ready to activate in thoughtful, innovative ways. It stands repeating: Thoughtful. Innovative. A new category requires innovation, and MUST be thoughtful to succeed. Your launch strategy needs to match. Grab attention in a clever way that shows your insight and capitalizes on foresight.

By Gary Kopervas

Gary is a self-proclaimed “creative misfit” in that he doesn’t fit neatly into any one compartment or department. He’s an insight spotter, brand strategist, writer, content creator, creative facilitator, product innovator and a nationally syndicated cartoonist.

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