Reading Between the Pivots
Pivots in the business world shape the stories that brands tell us, in turn influencing how consumers view the world
Late last year, Disney announced a major reorganization prioritizing its streaming-video services. CEO Bob Chapek said that the move was a recognition of how consumers had changed their consumption habits amid the pandemic, favoring streaming platforms over movie theaters, as well as traditional broadcast and cable channels. Disney reoriented its business by untangling product from distribution, separating decisions over which shows and movies should be produced from decisions over which platforms were best suited to carry them. This reorientation was a change in direction — a pivot.
Pivots in the business world shape the stories that brands tell us. They shape the way consumers see the world. They affect how consumers and organizations cope with the market and, thus, each other. Analogous to the plot twist, pivots are a critical narrative device for good storytelling.
These shifts also shape our consumer experiences more than we realize. Facebook pivoted when it decided to open up its platform to third-party apps in 2007. This move unleashed FarmVille, an iconic social gaming app that lived inside Facebook’s feed, and its legacy continues to live on in the behaviors it primed, now instilled into virtually every service vying for our attention. It pioneered addicting hooks that drew players into feedback loops that were hard to pull away from. The power of a pivot lies in its ability to fundamentally change the value proposition to such an extent that it is impossible to imagine life before it.
A pivot is also a reflection of a change in a customer’s perception of value. For instance, as mask guidelines eased and consumers returned to eating inside restaurants, their tipping behavior changed as well. Last year, amid the coronavirus lockdown, larger gratuities reflected a mix of guilt, generosity, and gratitude for restaurant workers. Then, as the perceived dangers associated with Covid-19 started to fade with the uptick in vaccination rates, tips began decreasing again. What seemed like an inflection point in tipping averages was actually a pivot in how consumers derived value from a restaurant meal.