From disrupted to disruptor: How top brands are reinventing their business


From disrupted to disruptor: How top brands are reinventing their business

To help businesses build a foundation for success, we highlight a few brands that embraced technology and data to pivot in remarkable ways. Here’s how to do it well.

In partnership with Freshworks

30 September 2021 | 5-min read


Even before the pandemic, businesses and brands were focused on reinvention to stay ahead of competitors and market changes. John Chambers, former Cisco CEO, offered this advice: “Companies need to reinvent themselves every three to four years. Doing the same thing, even if it’s the right thing, is dangerous.” 

The advice still resonates, but in a post-Covid landscape, businesses need to pivot faster than ever before. In the age of uncertainty, it’s the one thing you can count on. Deborah Wahl, global CMO, General Motors, summed up the current state best: “Agility is the new standard. It cannot be taken for granted; companies that learn to pivot in real time to address consumers’ needs will have a competitive advantage.” I couldn’t agree more. 

Quotation mark

“Agility is the new standard. It cannot be taken for granted; companies that learn to pivot in real time to address consumers’ needs will have a competitive advantage.”

Deborah Wahl

CMO, General Motors

With more business pivots on the horizon, the central question and challenge is: How do you build the foundation to constantly reinvent? And what new capabilities are needed to see market and consumer trend changes before your competitors to make faster decisions with confidence? 

To help brands build a foundation for enduring success, we wanted to highlight a few brands that embraced technology and data to pivot in remarkable ways. Here’s how to do it well.  

Wahl provides a business agility blueprint for success  

Who would have thought that a 100-year-old personal grooming company would have a watershed moment in the middle of a social and economic crisis? For Wahl Clipper, which invented the hair clipper in 1919, the drive to pivot and adapt to customer needs got very real in 2020.

That’s when men and women, deprived of barbers and stylists, took haircuts into their own hands and snapped up Wahl Clipper’s well-established personal grooming tools. The company, already avid users of Momentive market research solutions, sent out pulse surveys in over 150 countries to better understand the pandemic’s impact on consumers. 

What they discovered put them ahead of a trend towards home haircutting and also identified a surge in new and potential customers. In fact, Wahl Clipper’s consumer base expanded by approximately 6 million customers early in the pandemic.

The company wanted to stay ahead of the growth and understand how the overall business was being affected across global markets. Using Momentive solutions, the company tested new packaging and product concepts with each target market. 

This data-first approach helped Wahl Clipper remain nimble and flexible. The company’s global consumer teams collaborated throughout 2020 and were able to adjust to trends and consumer needs on the fly. For example, when men began growing beards and facial hair at the beginning of the pandemic, Wahl Clipper was able to tap into their need for manicuring and grooming tools.

Their research uncovered an even more important trend: around 30% of people who started cutting their own hair during the pandemic said they are not going back to a barber. The insights gleaned from Momentive uncovered a big opportunity for the consumer division and provide important data for future business decisions.

Apartment List reinvents the rental experience with deeper insights

For Apartment List, helping people find a place to live is only part of the mission. Visit the website, and even if you’re not looking for an apartment, you may find yourself engrossed in their in-depth reporting on finding a city, home and lifestyle that works for you. From roundup articles on top cities to tips on budgeting and how to get organised, the company offers enlightening and current content, which is often based on their own research, for both renters and property owners.

That’s why the company changed course on their offerings in 2020, recognising the rental market was undergoing a huge transformation. In anticipation of the pressures of pandemic-led disruption, the company shifted their focus to providing resources for a dazed and displaced nation.

Although housing data is available through government agencies, it typically lags behind the current market by about a year. At a time when housing and job data was changing on a weekly, if not daily, basis, Apartment List saw the opportunity to fill a void for current research.

The company began running studies of over 4,000 people each month to understand how societal and economic impacts of the virus were impacting on people’s ability to pay rent. Using the Momentive platform and services, Apartment List’s research team crafted targeted surveys that provided insights into where people were moving, the effects of remote work and the impacts on minority and underserved groups. 

One project uncovered that 32% of Americans entered August 2020 with unpaid housing bills, while a different study indicated that property owners were almost equally as behind in their payments. Another report covered the racial and economic divide of remote work. 

After over a year of thoughtful research and accurate reporting, Apartment List is still keeping renters and property owners ahead of the trends. Their site is loaded with current research on topics such as super-commuting, Millennial homeownership trends and reports on rents in popular cities; helping their audience adapt and realise the possibilities of a post-pandemic world.

Pivoting with data-driven boldness is the new normal

In the post-pandemic world of never-ending change, businesses are trying to stay ahead of the curve and determine what’s next. With a focus on speed and boldness, leaders aren’t just bracing for ongoing pandemic impacts, but also other societal, political and environmental disruptions. 

Building the foundation and capabilities to track what’s new and what’s next for your company will be essential to thrive in this new landscape and beyond. Jeff Hamerning, chief executive officer at General Mills, offered this astute assessment of the current landscape when he said, “We are ending one period of significant consumer disruptions only to start another.” It will always be “disrupt or be disrupted”, but now there is technology to help you reinvent with agility and confidence, which will place you well ahead of your competitors.

Pri Carr is general manager, Momentive, market research & insights business


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