What I would change: George Gottl

The co-founder and CCO of Uxus highlights the ways in which retail brands need to consider how the pandemic has impacted their consumers and what they can do to engage with them.
8 July, 2022
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George Gottl is co-founder and CCO of Uxus, a global creative brand and design agency that has worked with an array of familiar brands including Selfridges, Sephora, Nike, Dover Street Market and many more.

With retail at the forefront of the sectors impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Gottl has been looking at how luxury brands need to alter the way things are done in line with a consumer base that has been fundamentally changed. Here he talks about the ways in which brands, particularly in the luxury sector, need to change not only the way they speak to consumers but also consider how to stay relevant to them.

Adjusting to working remotely I'm incredibly proud of our team. Throughout the pandemic, we have been executing at the same level that we have always executed at, andin some ways maybe even at a higher level. However, there have been certain challengesas with most businesses.

The most challenging aspect of lockdown has probably been the separation from our team. The work that we do as a company is very collaborative and we find that often inthe office we tend to inspire each other. The fact that we are working remotely from different locations makes sharing creative ideas in real time quite difficult. Brainstorming sessions using remote working tools can also be difficult owing to the capabilities of the software that is available.

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How the agency has adapted Uxus has always worked on an international scale so it hasn't affected our business a great deal since we have always been accustomed to working with clients remotely. It has however levelled the playing field in a lot of ways. Previously, when we pitched for new projects, local agencies had a bit of an advantage as they were able to meet prospective clients in person, but now all new pitches are happening remotely so in some ways it has been to our advantage.

One of the things that we are looking to do going forward, which has in someways been accelerated by the pandemic, is to provide a more holistic offer to our clients. A space can serve as a tremendous ambassador for a brand but it's not the only factor anymore so we are looking at the entire journey to purchase. This means looking beyond just the physical space and to offer our clients creative solutions for the digital or virtual aspects of their brands.

The current situation in retail The adjustment for retail brands I think what sums up quite well is that brands no longer speak to, but rather, through their audience. What this means is that there has been a big shift in the consumer-brand relationship. Now, it's the peer-to-peer conversation and validation that makes a brand successful.

In the past there was this blind frenzy of production and purchase where quality did not really take precedence but now due to the economic downturn and healthcare concerns, people have been re-evaluating their lives and the idea of purpose. I think this has really transformed the marketplace in terms of what products and brands are creating.

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What consumers need right now Today's consumers are less interested in purchasing objects but would rather purchase experiences, buy into communities that brands attract and align themselves with specific brand values. I think this is the seismic change that we are seeing, and what is going to become important is how brands and consumers interact moving forward.

In the brand-consumer relationship, the consumer now has the power and if they organize themselves, they can a wield a lot of power. Social media has allowed consumers up to brands who they feel are not aligned to their values and to demand more, to stand particularly in the case of big social issues like Black Lives Matter and the environment.

Everything is going to be about the consumer and brands are going to need to pay close attention to how they connect with their audience.

What retail has been getting right I think within retail, the beauty industry really stands out as being able to understand and relate to consumers. The sector as a whole has been able to get to grips with this new mentality of adaptability and fluidity and the brands know how to engage and talk to their audience. Due to its high-paced and competitive nature, beauty brands are forced to listen and to connect to their customers and they know how to create communities that rally behind brands, which is incredibly powerful.

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What retail could do differently I feel the sector as a whole can do a lot differently. I don't think brands can continue to function as they have done in recent years. The The luxury sector and brands need to understand the values and aspirations of the new, fluid consumer. Be more adaptable and pay attention to how they connect to consumers.

Balenciaga is a fantastic example of adaptability. A couturier from the 1950s, it has given up the tailoring heritage that it was known for and has become one of the hottest luxury streetwear brands in the market that really captures the zeitgeist.

That idea of conversation is very important. It's not about dictating to consumers anymore. There are many in the sector still out there who haven't quite understood that what was previously considered a luxury does not resonate with today's audience.

Instead, younger consumers want to be a part of the creation. They want to co-create and blur themselves and their identity with the brand. They want to associate with a brand and purchase items not because of the object but the values that the brand represents.

Brands like Nike are addressing these issues particularly well. They are a value driven company that perfectly aligns with their consumer base and in turn, this target base is incredibly loyal so the company continues to remain successful even during difficult times. Nike are not only accessible but also exclusive. Through their collaboration with luxury brands like Dior, they have been able to elevate their brand, and at the same time, they have their heritage shoes that are incredibly accessible in terms of price point. The fact that they can balance the high-low is remarkable.

An embracing of the digital Another critical change we are seeing is the rise and rise of digital. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, consumers have become much more accustomed to digital. The fluidity between the real and virtual world will become even more seamless as we move forward and brands need to address that. The experiences they provide have to be as impactful and powerful in the virtual world as they are in the physical world.

Purchases can happen anywhere. Anyone with a mobile device can make a purchase at any time in any place, so the store is everywhere. Brands need to understand what the motivation is for purchase and what role bricks and mortar play as part of that motivation. I think this is the big question that brands are looking to understand and redefine.

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An opportunity to transform I am actually very excited about the future. I think there is a tremendous amount of opportunity out there for brands to transform the world of retail. There has been a really big shift away from the old ways of quantifying success. The new generation has shown us that success can be defined in many differentways and individuals can be defined in many different ways, which means that their connection to brands and the items they purchase is incredibly different to previous generations.

Memories and experiences now hold a much higher value than the things that you own. There's a real shift andheightened awareness of purpose and value and it's exciting to see what the future holds.

Retail needs to transform itself so it is more aligned with contemporary values. The consumer is the one with the power now, not the brand. There is an abundance of brands and they have become disposable so I think in the future, brands need to listen very closely to what consumers are looking for and to adapt themselves to those needs as well as to anticipate future needs. If brands don't align to the new values of consumers, they will become irrelevant.

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What the pandemic has amplified I think relevancy is probably the main threat coronavirus has shone a light on. With extreme circumstances such as the pandemic, the companies and people that bring value to society stand out and tend to move forward, while those that don't tend to disappear. That's exactly what we've seen here: coronavirus has been a cleanser for the market.

This article was written by Rebecca Fulleylove, and first appeared on Creative Review:

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