Marketing for Longevity: Adapt or Perish

By George Farris

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Did you ever invite friends to your house but forget to check with your spouse? Maybe you were going to watch the big game or play some cornhole in the backyard.

“What are you doing for food?” your smarter half asks. You bought the beer and wine and chips. But you didn’t think about the food. Like millions of other last-minute home event planners, you have a “go-to menu” that consists of two of the most crowd-pleasing foods – pizza and wings.

Fortunately for you, Yum! Brands has two of its most popular offerings – Pizza Hut and WingStreet – at the same drive-thru. Being careful to avoid distracted driving on your way home, you use hands-free dialing to call. 

The nice person who answered the phone takes your wing and pizza order, then asks if you want dessert with your order. That surprises you.

“Dessert?” you ask.

“Cinnabon mini rolls,” you’re told.

Suddenly, your mind wanders back to the last time you were in a mall – when was that? 2014 or 2015? You recall the aroma of the Cinnabon store that drew you into it and practically forced you to eat the 880-calorie treat, made perfectly sinful with 58 grams of sugar and 37 grams of fat.

You get back to your Pizza Hut call.  You’re already clogging your friends’ arteries with pizza and wings. You know that adding a Cinnabon pastry could create a cardiac event. You order them anyway.

So why is Cinnabon available in a Pizza Hut? The same reason it’s available in truck stops, college campuses and even hospitals. With malls steadily disappearing and COVID-19 making things worse, Cinnabon knew it had to switch things up if it wanted to survive. It had to adapt or perish.

Adapting meant using a smaller footprint store-within-a-store concept and home delivery. Cinnabon also went all-in on co-branded products – everything from Pinnacle Cinnabon vodka to Cinnabon-flavored protein powder.

Check Your Brand

If your company, or your brand, is more than 10 or 15 years old, you should have already done some adapting. So much has changed in the last two decades that you should take a good look at your brand or have someone do it for you.

Here are some questions to ask:

• Does your brand name still have the same impact it had when you started? Is your logo design current?

• Where are you selling your products? Are your products available only in bricks-and-mortar locations? Or can customers buy from you online? If you are B2B, can they at least inquire online if not order online?

• Where are your advertising and marketing efforts viewed by prospects? Are they still found mostly in traditional media? Or have you expanded into social media?

• Have you adapted to the lifestyles and interests of newer consumers and tried using influencers?

Cinnabon used a unique strategy combining partnerships and “going small” – focusing on one or two products and partnering to place them as part of an offering in another business.  Can you try this with one of your product or service lines?

Test impulse sales with a pop-up store in a high-traffic location. You can do the same thing with a Facebook Live session – perhaps mixing in a public service message or “how-to-use-our product” lesson.

Cinnabon provides a lesson for all of us marketers: Adapt or perish. If you adapt and succeed, you can reward yourself by adding a gooey, delicious Cinnabon to your next order of pizza and wings.

George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing. Email

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.